5 Ideas for Incorporating Ringlights Into Your Studio with Melanie Anderson


5 Ideas for Incorporating Ringlights Into Your Studio with Melanie Anderson

Many of you know how much I use ringlights daily. I’m obsessed with them. They give off beautiful light that I can use for portraits, sports, commercial and video. A ringlight is a daylight-balanced circular constant light. In this month’s video, you will see me demonstrate how I use this light for an extreme-sports session in which I explain my camera settings. But first, read on for five ideas for incorporating ringlights into your studio, plus three action plans.

  1. Commercial Photography

We photograph hundreds of headshots a year. So many, in fact, that we are known for a particular style in our area, the Ringlight headshot. People actually ask for the pictures with the “cool” or “crazy” eyes. They notice the circular light around the pupil. They don’t always understand why they like them, but what they do notice is the great lighting. Ringlights give off a beautiful flat light. That’s not traditional portrait lighting, and I’m OK with that. Flat light sells. And I’m in the business of selling.

A few years ago, my local chamber of commerce asked why I was not a member. I explained that I wanted to be part of something that was forward-thinking and creative. I opened up their directory and showed them what I meant. The headshots of the board of directors were from several different photographers with a multitude of backgrounds. There was zero consistency or branding. I asked if they would consider allowing me to “brand” their board of directors, to showcase that this chamber of commerce saw the importance of creativity and the value in branding. They agreed. That was four years ago. Now, every August and September, the new board of directors comes to my studio for new headshots.

As you can see in these images, we also use ringlights for product photography and on location. Again, these lights provide the perfect brightness, allowing me to capture awesome detail.

  1. Volume Sports

We photograph a ton of sports teams in our area. I shoot them a bit differently than the competition. I like shooting inside, in a controlled environment where I can control the lighting. For high school sports, we actually do them headshot style. Our high schoolers love this. They use these images for their profile pictures on social media. After we post them to our fan page, we love seeing their profile pics immediately change to the images we took. And most keep them up until we post the new ones for the next season. That’s incredible word of mouth and free advertising.

I photograph athletes in a three-quarter crop because parents prefer to see more of the uniform and their child. I set up three ringlights, surrounding them with light, and then move very quickly. (Check our Anderson Photographs YouTube channel for behind-the-scenes videos of several volume sports leagues.)

  1. Extreme Sports

As I demonstrate in this month’s video, it’s fairly easy to use ringlights to capture an extreme look. The example in the video shows our signature extreme headshot. The additional example was taken in a warehouse, where I captured several images for a 16×24 composite. We sell a ton of these in our studio. Ringlights can be taken on location, where we plug in if we can; otherwise, we use Paul C. Buff Portable Power.

  1. Fashion

I don’t photograph a ton of fashion, but when I do, the ringlights are always a client favorite. As you can see in these images, these truly are “beauty” lights, and, again, flat light sells. They also fill in all the fine lines and wrinkles, keeping post-production time to a minimum.

  1. Video

We have recently incorporated video into our product line for commercial clients. I use ringlights whenever we need to enhance lighting on a person speaking or a product being showcased. (You can view several commercial videos on our Anderson Photographs YouTube Channel.)

Here are my typical equipment and settings* for shooting through the ring:

Nikon D4

24–70mm f/2.8



200 ISO

*When I shoot more than a three-quarter image, I often switch to my 85mm f/1.4 lens and bump my ISO up to 400. This allows more ambient light to come in.

Action Plans

  1. Contact your local chamber of commerce.

Take a look at your chamber of commerce’s website, social media presence and annual directory. Are the images cohesive? If not, do what I did and offer to help brand them. Show them my before-and-after piece if needed.

  1. Offer extreme senior shots.

Offer a new “extreme” product to all your senior clients. Photograph a boy and a girl of high school age. Do as I have instructed in the video. Post to all social media outlets, explaining that you are now booking seniors for extreme sports shoots. If you need inspiration, check out our website and social media platforms for examples of posing, style and processing. If you need further help, just ask.

  1. Build your food/product images.

Contact a local restaurant and offer to take pictures. Explain that you are building your portfolio. Look everywhere for inspiration, and start creating. Begin building your commercial photography business this way, or to add to your existing business. As a bonus, a restaurant might just let you sample some of its cuisine.

I encourage you to experiment with all different kinds of lights. Choose strobes, ringlights, flashlights, chicken lights, etc.—whatever your lighting preference, just try something different. Think outside the box. Choose a light and a style that will help set you apart.

Get the full story

To read the full article, launch the digital version of the August 2015 magazine.

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