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5 min read

Ring Light vs Softbox: Which is Better to Invest in?

5 min read

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how to use a ring light

Ring light vs. softbox lighting, what is the difference anyway?! If you have been shooting as a photographer for quite some time, you may be considering upgrading your material or investing in some new lighting equipment.

Once you know the differences between ring lights and softbox lighting, it’s easy to make an educated decision based on your needs. So let’s look at the situations each works best in so you can decide on the best lighting equipment for creating natural-looking light in any situation.

Ring Light vs Softbox

There are a few key things to consider when it comes to the ring light vs softbox debate. Both are very different products but serve the same purpose: providing a flattering light that can be controlled.

The main difference is their design. One is usually circular, and the other is rectangular and much bigger, and heavier. Each is designed with a specific purpose for lighting that provides a completely different lighting effect. But they are both useful for photo and video lighting setups. Let’s take a closer look at each.

Ring Lights

A ring light is a circular lighting setup that is typically lined with LED lights. These portable lights are easy to take with you on the go, which is why they are popular with many influencers and vloggers. But recently, they have become popular among the average person for online conferences, video calls, and creating content.

women taking a portrait photo with a ring light.

Because of its circular design, it creates a nice diffused light for your face. Typically, you place your smartphone or small camera inside the middle of the light. If you ever watch YouTube videos, you will notice that many top performers use ring lights to help provide a soft light source on their faces, appearing more like natural light.

The light intensity is managed with a remote, and many times, the color temperature of the light is adjustable to create flattering portraits. A ring light helps to illuminate the subject’s face and create a circular light inside the subject’s eyes.

Ring lights come in many different sizing options and with a variety of accessories. The typical kit includes a tripod, remote, LED light ring, and a versatile case. The setup is simple and fits most camera smartphones.

Using a combination of ring lights and window lights, you can create better quality photos and videos to create anything from makeup tutorials to YouTube videos. The main draw is diffusing deep shadows and providing softer light to make you look better.

ring light being used by a makeup model.

Pros and Cons of a Ring Light

A ring light provides many great options for any photographer, but we must also consider the cons of this affordable lighting setup.

Pros

  • Gives you control over harsh shadows
  • Soft lighting for facial close-ups
  • Lights up your subject’s eyes
  • Lightweight and versatile
  • Not very expensive
  • Simple set up and portable

Cons

  • If you do not like a catch light in your eye, it’s hard to change with a ring light
  • Works only for a small camera or smartphone
  • Staring directly into the light can be uncomfortable or distracting
  • Limited to close-up photography and videos
ring light setup.

Situations to use Ring Lighting

As mentioned above, ring lights are most popular with influencers and online marketers. But this is changing as more of our lives are going online, and we need better lighting setups to look good on camera that is affordable and easy to use.

If you are an amateur, this may be exactly what you are looking for to shoot in different locations. On the other hand, if you are more professional, you may want to have a closer look at softbox lighting.

using a ring light for recording videos.

Softbox Light

Softbox light is mainly what professional studio photographers use. Soft lighting comes in many different shapes and sizes and offers much more control over creating different artistic styles and effects in photos. You can also use multiple softboxes while shooting, along with a professional backdrop.

Typically, you will find a 3 point lighting setup when using a softbox light source. These include the key light, fill light, and backlight. Softbox lighting can fulfill all three of these, meaning you will need multiple light sources instead of one like a ring light.

softbox being used for product photography.

Combining all three will provide the most dramatic light. The key light shines directly on your subject and is usually produced with artificial light such as a softbox. The backlight helps separate your subject from the backdrop and can be a softbox that shines behind the person.

Lastly, the fill light helps tone down harsh shadows that are made by the key light. This light source can be made using window lighting or another softbox.

how to use a softbox.

Pros and Cons of Softbox Light

Like with a ring light, there are many things to consider when using a softbox. Let’s look at some of the good and bad.

Pros

  • Create natural light using artificial lighting
  • Great for product or portrait photography
  • More control over the light difference
  • Makes lighting more professional is exactly what the pros use
  • Works well with other lights

Cons

  • Softbox light takes up a lot of space and is not very easily portable
  • Requires more knowledge and skill to set up properly
  • More investment to buy multiple rectangular softboxes

Situations to use a Softbox Light Source

Portrait photographers often use softboxes to create the main light source on their subject. It is the best lighting setup by far if you have a studio and work with the clients regularly. You may also want to consider softbox lighting for your product photography.

With multiple light sources, you have more control to make your products and other subject matter look great for clients. Consider investing in at least two lights with fluorescent bulbs and a rectangular shape for your next softbox investment. Directional light and a diffusion panel are important when shooting professional portraits.

affordable softbox lights.

It’s important you carefully consider which softbox to invest in because they can be expensive. On the other hand, you will be making a lifetime investment in your business, so the cost is worth the material.

Conclusion

Well, there you have it! Everything you need to know about the ring light vs softbox debate! We hope that you are now better educated to pick the best lighting for your next shoot. Whether you choose a ring light or a softbox, you will now understand the difference between the two. Both light setups have their pros and cons, but you can make the best decision for yourself based on your wallet and needs!

Want More?

Did you know that our very own pro photographer, Taya Iv, is offering an online course for self-portrait photographers? This easy and fun-to-follow video course will teach you everything you need to know about how to take portraits of yourself using your own best lighting DIY materials.

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Krystal Kenney is an award-winning photographer residing in Paris, France. She has been photographing for over 10 years and enjoys teaching others about the craft. She spends most days shooting events, portraits, and weddings around Paris and working on writing new books.
Krystal Kenney is an award-winning photographer residing in Paris, France. She has been photographing for over 10 years and enjoys teaching others about the craft. She spends most days shooting events, portraits, and weddings around Paris and working on writing new books.
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