Images by Brad » Beauty Exposed

Shadowless lighting without a ring light

If you’re a photographer, you’ve probably seen fashion images shot with a right flash to achieve that characteristic wrap-around shadowless light, popularised in the 80’s. You’ll often see these images with strange circular catch-lights seen in the subjects eyes. I’ve been a little intrigued by this look, but it’s a little harsh in most instances and could often flatten out the image somewhat. That, coupled with the fact that ring flash setups are pretty specialist and fairly expensive, I was never that interested to go out and purchase one myself.

There has been a revival of the ring light in a few different forms over time, more recently from Dani Diamond a writer for fstoppers with a home-made DIY continuous light setup. Have a look at Behind the Ringlight. Also a setup popularised by New York headshot and portrait photographer Peter Hurley used 4 Kino Flo light banks positioned in a square formation, wrapping the subject in light.

I tried a different setup to achieve this shadowless look, although it is a somewhat softer one, having used a larger effective light source…

Photography by Brad Scott - Beauty portrait

Technically this wasn’t a ring light at all as it is reflected light. Here’s the setup we used that day:

Ring light like reflector boardRing light like reflector board

It’s basically a polystyrene board taped to the c-stand with a lens sized hole cut in it. The subject was seated on the yellow stool pictured above. I generally shoot with strobes, so in this test I simply and haphazardly pointed two different strobes back at the reflector panel, bouncing the light back towards the subject, ensuring the angle was such that no direct light would hit the lens (creating flare) or spill directly onto the subject. The background is lit by the same light source and some of the light that gets past the reflector and bounces around the studio.

To be honest I can’t take 100% credit for the setup as I found the reflector panel with the hole already cut in it and decided to give this a try. I shoot in a studio shared by some other photographers, so I just used what I found that day. Thank you whoever you are for the idea!

The image shown here is shot with a 50mm prime lens. Ask me any questions in the comments below.

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