Unleashing the Creative Potential of the Ring Flash

In our exploration of lighting modifiers throughout this series, we have examined a multitude of options for both photography and video. This time around, we will embark on a captivating journey into the world of the ring flash. 💡 Explore even more lighting equipment and techniques in our comprehensive and FREE Photography Lighting Modifiers Guide.

Although not as commonly utilised in today's photography, the ring flash enjoyed immense popularity in the 80s and 90s, particularly within the realm of fashion photography. Within this blog post, we will delve into what exactly a ring flash is, its unique features, and its diverse applications across different types of photography.

What is a ring flash?

Unlike other modifiers where the light source is placed inside the modifier itself, the ring flash integrates the flash unit within its circular design. This innovative construction leads to a truly distinct lighting effect.

Additionally, the ring flash incorporates a reflector shield to bounce light backwards and prevent direct illumination on the subject.

Black horse photoshoot with Tim Flach

Ring Flashes being used on-camera for forensic work and off camera in an animal portraiture shoot

How is a ring flash used?

The ring flash is mounted onto the front of the camera lens, allowing for shooting through its central aperture. This configuration ensures that the lighting axis aligns parallel with the lens symmetry, resulting in frontal illumination.

However, due to the ring's positioning outside this area, the lighting axis enters at a slight angle, creating mesmerizing shadows and reflections.

Black horse photoshoot with Tim Flach

Black horse photoshoot during our Karl Taylor and Tim Flach workshop in the Guernsey studio.  Photo © Tim Flach

What types of photography would use a ring flash?

Throughout the 80s and 90s, fashion photographers embraced the ring flash for its unique aesthetic appeal. It offered a trendy, bold, and high-contrast lighting effect that captivated audiences during that era. Moreover, forensic photographers extensively employ the ring flash as it can be precisely positioned to cast light from specific directions, aiding in capturing intricate details.

In recent years, the ring flash has emerged as a powerful tool within the realm of fine art animal portraits. Photographers employ it as a fill light, effectively reducing shadow density and producing a softer, more ethereal effect. By positioning the ring flash in close proximity to the camera axis, photographers can manipulate shadows while retaining their presence.

Ring flash lighting compared with bare bulb using lighting modifier tool.

Comparison using our Lighting Modifier Comparison Tool - Bare bulb on left with Ring Flash on the right

How do these modifiers compare?

By utilising a lighting comparison tool, we are able to analyse and compare the ring flash to other modifiers. When compared to a bare bulb studio light, the ring flash yields a similar harsh and high-contrast appearance.

However, it also generates unique highlights and shadows due to its specific placement along the lens axis.


The ring flash presents photographers with an extraordinary lighting effect that can be harnessed across various genres of photography. While its popularity may have diminished over time, it still holds immense value within certain domains.

Whether utilised in fashion photography, forensic photography, or fine art animal portraits, the ring flash provides photographers with a versatile tool for capturing truly captivating images.

For those interested in further exploring lighting techniques and different modifiers, visit our bespoke lighting modifier tool to help enhance your ability to understand and recognise the varying effects of lighting modifiers.


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