I was on Twitter the other day and a Tweet stopped me in my tracks. It said… "Influencer kits" on sale in Cashel's Lidl for €24.99. Get me off this planet” and it showed a picture of marvellously happy people making videos with a ring light and stand.
The tweet had over 600 likes and loads of engagements so I could tell this struck a nerve with people. Even though the contents of the box were just a ring light, a gooseneck and a stand, by calling itself an influencer kit it was clearly over promising.
But ring lights aren’t just for influencers...
Being on camera has become a part of our daily lives, and lighting and stabilisation can go a long way in how we come across on screen - whether you are on video calls or recording videos to share with your team so you don’t have to keep repeating the same messages over and over.
So I don’t want these marketing ploys to distract any of you from how great these little ring lights are. They are an excellent first light to buy since they are affordable and compact, they cast a night soft light on your face and they have different settings that you can adjust to suit your scene.
I can never have enough stands. They are great to have as you can use them as a tripod even when you’re not using the light. You’ll notice that the legs are at the bottom of the stand and this works well in small spaces, but if you plan on using the stand outside you’ll notice that any bit of wind will make the camera shake and that’s where the traditional tripod comes in more sturdy.
The specs say that the stand with this kit is 1.35m or 4ft 4 tall and that’s to the very top of the light. I’m about 5ft 4 or 1.6m small so that means that I won’t be able to get the lens at eye level if I’m standing up. I can place it on a tabletop or use when I’m sitting down but I’d rather buy a light with a taler stand included so that I have more options.
The Gooseneck and Tilt
The handy phone holder is called a gooseneck, and these give you flexibility if you need to tilt the phone a certain direction. You can also tilt the actual light to point down or up and I’ll show you why this is important in the setting up the ring light section.
The Power and Controls
This ring light is USB powered so you can plug it in to a laptop, a USB plug or a battery pack making it super portable and convenient. The controls are attached to the cable of the light and there are a couple of important functions.
Adjusting the Brightness and Colour
You can dim the brightness of the light depending on the environment that you’re in. If you had a light that didn’t dim, you could just move it closer or further away to achieve a similar effect.
You can also adjust the colour temperature between three settings. The first is a cold blue light that works well in day time. The second is a yellow light that works well in evenings and the third is a mix of the two and this is the one I tend to use the most as it complements skin tones.
This is a very cheap ring light and you can spend a lot more that €25 on these. If you have the budget you'll be able to buy a ring light with a larger diameter, studier stand, the ability to dial in an exact colour temperature and a higher Colour Rendition Index (CRI) which is the measurement of how colours look under a light source when compared with sunlight. These cheap light don’t even tell us what the CRI is so we can safely assume it’s low. But we’re not making movies here!
How to Set Up Your Ring Light
Here are three options for setting up a ring light:
Set Up 1 - The first and most straight forward is to use the ring light as it’s intended by putting your phone in to the gooseneck. Use selfie mode so that you see yourself when you're adjusting the brightness and colour and to help make sure that you stay in the frame while you’re filming. Some people love the circle effect that the ring light casts on your pupils and others don’t like it all. But this can become an issue if you need to wear glasses when on camera because the reflections of the ring will be distracting for the viewer.
Set Up 2 – For a more flattering image and to avoid light reflection in glasses you can raise the light and tilt it down. But now the camera is going to be looking down at you and so you’ll need to remove the phone from the gooseneck and put it on a separate stand or tripod. You could also position a ring light above your laptop facing down at you during video calls. This can help get rid of the reflections from glasses, it can also be less hard on your eyes and it still casts a nice soft light on your face.
Set Up 3 - The final set up will requires buying two (or three) ring lights to mimic a professional Three Point Lighting set up. One light will light up the left side of your head and a second light will light up the right side of your head. By doing this, your face should look less flat and more three dimensional, almost like you're popping out of the frame. Then the third light, in a three point lighting set up, should shine on the back of the top of your head. This ‘hair light’ helps to separate you from the background adding another level of depth to essentially what is a flat image.
So I hope that this vlog has shown you some of the benefits of ring lights, how they work and a couple of pointers for setting them up.
Whether you’re interested in a cheap and cheerful ring light like this one or a larger diameter ring light with more control and a higher CRI, I have put a couple of options on the equipment page with descriptions and links to purchase.