Using a ring light as an external light source for taking great portrait photos.

Light rings in eyes: taking portrait photos with a ring light

Taking optimally lit portrait photos with radiant eyes is the goal of many amateur photographers. A special look can be created with the help of a ring light, which creates radiant rings of light in the subject's eyes. We will explain in this article how you can get this great look.

An external ring light is usually used for portrait photography. It can also be used for taking photos of animals as well as for products.

Here is how to make your eyes look radiant in photos

You can use a ring light to make your subject’s eyes shine. A ring light enables uniform illumination of the face and it also creates a special catchlight in the subject’s eyes. These rings of light are created by the reflection of the ring-shaped light source, and they are popular in portrait photography.

Portrait photography: photos showing the difference between a photo taken with and without a ring light.
Portrait photography: photos showing the difference between a photo taken with and without a ring light.

The external light source is usually positioned on a tripod so that the camera with the correct lens is inside the ring light. Depending on the intensity of the light source, it is advisable to keep a relatively short distance between the DSLR and the subject to create optimal lighting conditions and see the luminous light rings reflected in the eyes of the subject.

The ring light works as a permanent light source, therefore, no flash is needed when taking photographs. Thanks to the consistent exposure technique with a ring light the desired result can already be achieved by trying out the f-stop number.

When using additional light sources in photography such as a softbox, unwanted and harsh shadows can appear, but they can be reduced or even stopped with the use of a ring light. The frontal and circular artificial light of the ring light places the shadows from the object being photographed directly behind the subject. You can achieve this look as seen in photos, which is characterised by the area on the subject’s eye which appears radiant.

External light sources in photography: softbox and a ring light against a white background.

However, one of the major disadvantages of using a ring light is that the subject must look directly into the bright light to achieve the desired effect. When taking photos of people and animals with a ring light, you should therefore always make sure that the subject is only exposed to the frontal artificial light for a short time. The light intensity is quite intense from a short distance, and it can come across as quite bright and unpleasant.

Ring lights for your smartphone

Ring lights for smartphones are ideal for taking perfectly illuminated portraits on the go. Ring lights are particularly useful for taking optimally illuminated selfies.

Ring lights for smartphones.

The front camera of a smartphone often does not have an integrated flash. In that case, this smartphone accessory will come in handy and they are available for under CHF 15. The ring lights for smartphones are available for numerous models. Depending on the model you can change the light intensity level.

Ring light vs. ring flash

To create a special catchlight in the subject’s eyes you will need to use an external ring light. There is a difference between a ring light and a ring flash. The ring flash is not only much smaller and more expensive than the external ring light, but it is also fixed onto the lens of the SLR camera.

A ring flash is smaller, and you don’t use it to create radiant circles in people’s eyes. There isn’t a link between the size of the light source and the camera lens as in this case a ring reflection cannot be achieved. Instead, the ring flash creates a bright spot in the middle of the subject's pupils. In addition, ring flashes are often used for beauty purposes in photography as they make it easier to highlight cheekbones.

To create the desired light rings around the subject’s pupils with a ring flash you will need to purchase an additional attachment. By using this attachment, the ring flash and the ratio between lens and light source can be enlarged.


To create light rings in the subject’s eyes it is recommended to use an external ring light for a DSLR or compact camera that is mounted on a tripod. Although a ring light is available in different sizes and designs, it still a relatively large piece of additional photography equipment. You should think carefully about how often you would use it. Ring lights for a smartphone can be useful when you are on the go. They are small and compact and not very expensive.



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