Photography Lighting is supported by readers. When you buy with our links, we may earn a commission. Learn more

This post was most recently updated on January 8th, 2023

Ring lights are handy little additions to any photographer’s set of tools. They can be really helpful, allowing you to take pictures, more or less, whenever you want.

They mean that you don’t have to rely on the lighting around you and can try and enhance your chances with a ring light.

However, it’s all well and good having a ring light, but you need to know how to use it. Finding out how to use the ring light correctly and the distance can be tricky.

You search and search, but you can’t find the one answer you need! This is incredibly frustrating and puts you off using your ring light.

After all, what is the point if you aren’t going to do it correctly?

Well, no more! We’ve made a guide for you to help you find your feet and start taking some photos with more controlled lighting. Just keep reading to find out more.

What Lights Do Ring Lights Use?

Ring lights come in many different shapes and sizes. The most common ones are softbox ring lights, which are usually used as fillers when shooting portraits.

These are great because they allow you to control the amount of light coming out of them.

Ring lights use lots and lots of little LED lights in a ring structure or use tubes made out of plastic or glass.

This allows you to create a very specific type of light that is hard to replicate with other types of light.

Ring lights offer a certain amount of control which you may not find in other variations of light products.

The best thing about a ring light is that it doesn’t matter if you’re using it indoors or outdoors, it will always offer an extra bit of stability to your photoshoots.

It also means that you won’t have to worry about moving the camera around too much. You just need to hold it steady and keep it at a fixed distance away from the subject.

How Far Away Do I Place A Ring Light?

You can get mounted ring lights and hand-held ring lights to suit whatever environment you find yourself in at that time.

If you’re holding a ring light, then it’s best to hold it about 2 meters away from the subject.

For example, if you were doing a portrait shoot, you would place the ring light about 3m away from the subject. This way, you’ll be able to see the results of what you’ve done right away.

However, if you’re using a flash unit, then you should aim to put it between 1 meter and 4 meters away from the subject depending on where you’re trying to achieve the effect.

For instance, if you’re going for a natural-looking image, then you’d probably want to go for a closer shot.

On the other hand, if you’re aiming for a more dramatic look, then you might want to move further away from the subject.

When choosing a distance, remember that your subject needs to be completely within the area covered by the ring light. If you’re using a flash, make sure that the subject isn’t outside of this circle.

What Size Ring Light To Choose

What Size Ring Light To Choose

When deciding on a size for your ring light, you need to take into account the amount of natural light that may affect the light from the ring light.

Because of this, they tend to work a bit better indoors where there is less natural light to affect your control of the surroundings.

The standard size for a ring light is around 30cm in diameter. However, if you’re planning on using a flash unit, you’ll need to choose one that has a smaller diameter.

Flash units tend to be smaller than ring lights so you can still use the same sized ring light.

Where To Position My Ring Light Outdoors

If you’re planning on using your ring light for indoor shots, then you’ll want to position it above your subject.

This way, the light will fall directly onto the subject. On the other hand, if your ring light is intended for outdoor shoots, then you’ll want it to be positioned below the subject.

This way the light will bounce off the ground and illuminate your subject.

As mentioned earlier, when you’re using a ring light, you don’t need to worry about moving the subject around as much as you do when using other lighting options.

This makes them perfect for shooting portraits because you can easily focus on getting the most flattering angles without having to worry about moving the subjects around.

It’s always best to slightly position your light to the side of the camera so that you don’t have to worry about the light being an obstacle in front of your camera.

This also ensures that the camera doesn’t become an obstacle for the light and won’t cast any shadows onto the subject in the frame.

Where To Position My Ring Light Indoors

As previously mentioned, positioning your ring light above your subject is probably best when setting up indoors.

However, you can judge and adjust this depending on your settings and surroundings. At the end of the day, these are just guidelines and will probably vary depending on what you’re looking for.

However, lots of YouTubers and Twitch streamers use these lights and will often set their surroundings up in similar ways.

Usually, it’s best to choose a mounted model of ring light so that the device can be allowed to perform its duty consistently.

This means that it won’t move or falter and will look professional when on camera. You usually want to keep them fairly close to you, but just out of the way of the camera.

Final Thoughts

Having a ring light is always a great help to any photographer, however, you need to know about positioning and distances before trying to implement these devices into your photography routine.

Although these devices are a huge help to many photographers, without the right positioning, you won’t have the right sort of effect that you may have liked.

Having overhead lighting can portray a bright light onto your face and enhance the features that make us recognizable to other people.

As previously mentioned, YouTubers and other content creators love using ring lights and other variations of these devices so that they can make their videos look professional!

Keep your light close by and notice the difference it makes!