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This post was most recently updated on June 26th, 2022

Flash photography has come a long way since its inception. From the days of simple flashbulbs to today’s advanced models, flash photography has become much easier and more affordable.

There are so many options out there that it may prove bewildering trying to choose the ideal one for your photography. 

When it comes to flash photography, there are two main types to look out for; ring flashes and speedlights. Both can prove to be useful tools when used in the right way, but they each have their pros and cons.

To find out which type of flash photography is ideal for you, it is easier to decide by finding out how each one works.

One may be ideal for your type of photography while you may barely find an opportunity to use the other one. Here’s a quick guide to help you decide which type of flash is better suited for your needs.

What Is A Ring Flash?

A ring flash is almost exactly what you would expect, a flash that comes in the shape of a ring. That specific shape is crucial as they are supposed to slot around or clip onto your lens.

You can use the screw mount with adapters to fit almost any size of the lens though some models allow you to shoot your photo through them. 

If the ring flash does come with a battery pack then it usually sits in the hot shoe of your camera though some models won’t even connect to your camera and can be used externally from a mains outlet. 

The ring shape helps to evenly distribute light over your subject, though you may see the ring reflected in the eyes of your subject. This more uniform light distribution can help avoid capturing a harsh shadow.

Instead, the effect helps to highlight every aspect of your subject making it ideal for a beautiful shot and portrait photography. 

Having the light effectively wrap around your subject helps you to show several elements in one single scene too which can allow you to get creative with your photography.

The Pros And Cons Of A Ring Flash

If you want a relatively cheap light system that proves easy-to-use then you should opt for a ring flash. They can also take high-quality images while keeping the ISO low which proves exceptionally important for photographers. 

Ring flashes are also increasingly portable though and come with a softer strength than other flashes, including speedlights.

Ring flashes are also useful for macro photography, as long as you can dim the strength of the light. You should still be able to use a fast shutter speed which is ideal for capturing moving subjects in all their glory.

The ability to keep your ISO down is crucial and a ring flash can help.

What Is A Speedlight?

speedlight

Speedlights are small, battery-powered flashes which are also known as hot-shoe flashes due to where they sit on top of your camera. For studio professionals, they are ideal for compact size, lightweight design, and quick setup.

The flash is triggered to be fired along with the camera’s shutter and can usually work in tune with your camera so that the settings align. 

With its batteries, a speedlight will work well while not draining your camera. As it is mounted on top of your camera it is not as direct as the built-in flash which should mean less of a red-eye effect seen on your subjects.

Two types of speedlight offer great versatility; Through-The-Lens (TTL)  and manual. A TTL speedlight is like an automatic flashgun that effectively communicates with your camera to determine the right amount of light that’s required for your scene. 

The manual speedlight is one where you have to set the amount of power which does offer more control though can take time to get used to.

The Pros And Cons Of A Speedlight

While providing a versatile, powerful flash, a speedlight can often come in cheaper than a ring flash. The usual plus point of a speedlight is its formidable power which means it can be used for long distances while still maintaining a narrow aperture. 

A speedlight tends to be adjustable too as you can control the spread of the flash and diffuse it to create a softer light. 

A speedlight should come with a swivel head that means you can bounce the flash off a surface for another variation of diffuse lighting. If you want to use your flash for indoor photography then this is ideal for using a softer light source and interesting angled effects.

You can also use a speedlight with a diffusion dome to spread that light source even further if you do not want to bounce it off a wall. Speedlights are also incredibly portable as they are usually sized smaller than a lens itself so you can easily carry one around. 

While a speedlight can be powerful enough in the right situations, it does use a narrow beam which can produce a displeasing, harsh effect.

You also have to be quite accurate with where you aim and position your speedlight as it can look conspicuous when the light hits the wrong place.

Which One Is Better: A Ring Flash Or A Speedlight

Determining which type of flash photography is better has a lot to do with the situations you intend to use it in. For studio photography, you should use a speedlight due to how versatile and customizable it can be.

You would have to use various settings or pieces of equipment to provide a more evenly distributed spread of light. 

However, that uniform distribution comes as standard with a ring light and means you can show more parts of a scene and provides an easier, more versatile means of being creative which may give it the edge.

Final Thoughts

Both ring flashes and speedlights can be carried with the rest of your photography kit. The crucial element is how you want to administer a flash. If you want sheer power then a speedlight is likely your best option which should give you great illumination, even if your subjects are relatively far away.

A ring flash offers more subtlety as it keeps the ISO low with a softer flash for more stylish, beautiful photos. It can all depend on what sort of photos you want to produce to decide which one is better.