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Are Ring Lights Good For Product Photography?

are ring lights good for product photography

Professional photographers rely on a variety of tools to create their outstanding art, including ring lights. But, are ring lights good for product photography? Lighting is undoubtedly one of the most important factors that photographers are actively manipulating in their studios for good product photography.

Products that aren’t properly lit can appear flat, boring, and undesirable to customers. Using the appropriate light for product photography is a foolproof technique to ensure a successful shoot, but ring lights may be challenging for beginners or intermediate photographers. 

Here's an explanation of what ring lights are and how to use ring light technology to enhance your photographs and videos.

What Are Ring Lights?

A ring light is a circular light that is usually powered by LED or fluorescent bulbs. They’re usually available in three generic sizes: 12 inches, 14 inches, and 18 inches. 

A ring light is often supported by a stand, which allows you to adjust the light so you get optimal positioning for your projects.

product photography with ring light

One benefit of a ring light is that you can place your camera directly in the center and as a result, you can get well-illuminated photographs and video of human faces using only one piece of equipment.

Ring lights were originally designed as cosmetic items but because they create such a wide spectrum of natural-looking lighting and are affordable, people have started wondering whether they could be the best studio lights for product photography too.

While ring lights are undeniably popular, they’re unfortunately not the best choice for product photography thanks to its undiffused light and ring shape.

Using Ring Lights For Product Photography

While ring lights are good for many things, they aren’t ideal for product photography. However, if you already own a ring light and want to try it first before investing in another light (like a continuous light with a soft box) there are a few things you can do to make your life easier.

First, you can adjust the amount of lighting produced by a ring light by moving it until you achieve your desired shadow look.

The biggest problem with using ring lights, however, is that the lights aren’t diffused. You can remedy this problem by draping a veil or cloth over the lights so that the lights diffuse over your subject. You can also place a "scrim" from a 5-in-1 reflector set in front of the ring light to diffuse the light. The round thing in this photo is what a scrim looks like.

product photography and ring light

To avoid all this diffusion, an easier solution to product photography is using an umbrella light. Specifically, a light that coms with a "shoot-through umbrella." They’re less expensive and easier to use for beginner photographers. Plus, the umbrella IS a diffuser, since the light softens as it shines through the umbrella. Let's talk about those next!

Using Umbrella Lights For Product Photography

Umbrellas are simple to use, extremely mobile, and reasonably priced. Let's look at how to use umbrella lights for product photography. These are "shoot-through" umbrella lights, by the way. See how the light shines THROUGH the umbrella to soften it?

Umbrella lighting for product photography offers a wonderful soft glow to your products, which replicates natural outside lighting quite well. 

We recommend placing your umbrella to the side of your scene to replicate window light. 

To further reduce shadows and brighten your photo, use a "reflector". A reflector is anything white you place opposite your light source to reflect light onto the far side of your scene. You can use white foam core, a trifold poster board, or even a white-based Surface like I'm using in this photo. And it doesn't have to be pure white to work. If you own a white-based Surface like White Marble or Subway Tile and aren't using it in your scene, it makes a great reflector too!

taking product photography with ring light

Using Ring Lights For Food Photography

You may be wondering if you can use a ring light for food photography. Unfortunately, many of the problems that plague ring lights and product photography crop up again here.

Ring lighting isn’t diffused, so they can cast high-contrast shadows on your subject, or create hard-to-remove hotspots (aka spots of glare) on dark or colorful backdrops that ruin all your hard work. Again, if you already own a ring light and want to try it, add that layer of diffusion in front of it!

What Is Product Photography?

Product photography is used whenever you photograph products for commercial purposes. Beauty products, candles, clothing, and jewelry are all examples of products that can be photographed. 

There are many different styles of product photography, each with its own purpose and style. Some styles are intended for regular usage, while some should only be used in more niche situations. 

Whether you want to maintain a consistent style across your product shots or want to mix it up, it's good to know the differences between them, and how to effectively capture them. The most popular styles are explained below.

Packaging Shots

Customers care about packaging, they want a consistent shopping experience from start to finish, from exploring your website to completing a purchase and receiving their product in the mail. So, even if you have a fantastic product, if your packaging is lacking, your customers will notice.

And, if your products are in attractive, branded packaging, why not highlight it on your product page to offer your customers a taste of what they can expect? Packaging photos show not only the product but also the product packaging, such as a box, bag, or label.

You need to consider the properties of your packaging when you calculate your lighting needs. Reflective packaging will need softer light and will require experimenting with the angle between your light and the reflective areas, whereas matte packaging enjoys harder lights with more contrasted shadows.

Detailed Shots

Detail photos assist in highlighting key product elements that a typical photo might not catch for products with minor subtleties that require a close-up such as jewelry, watches, and other small objects. 

To capture these delicate photos, this style of photography frequently requires specific lighting and camera equipment, like macro lenses.

Individual Shots

The individual shot is one of the most prevalent styles of product photography. As the name suggests, individual shots have only one item in the frame. These are frequently used in product catalogs, banner graphics, and product pages to highlight particular products apart from the entire collection. In this individual shot featuring the Weathered Wood and reflective Gloss Black Surfaces, there's no confusion that these shoes are the star of the photo! 

A simple way to accomplish minimalist photos is to photograph the item against a white background to create a clean look that focuses on the object.

How To Light A White Background

Light "temperature" is essential to light a white background photography correctly. The key to a perfect white background is using the most neutral light possible. In other words, using light that is as close to white-colored as possible without skewing blue (cool) or yellow (warm).

Natural Light: To find the time of day when your natural light is most neutral, set up a simple scene and take a photo every hour during the times you're available to shoot. Compare the photos and choose the time when your white backdrop looks the whitest and you like the look of the shadows.

Artificial Light: When choosing a new light, try to find one as close to 5500K as possible. This is the most neutral light temperature, which will give off white light rather than blue or yellow-tinted light.

LED Lights For Product Photography

You might have the best camera in the world, but if you don't have proper lighting, your photos will fall short. The best LED lights for product photography provide you with more control over light intensity, allowing your products to shine.

Furthermore, an LED light kit is easy to set up, making it one of the most useful tools in your photo or video toolbox. Whether you need LED lights for professional photography or to boost your social media presence, they will give you the power of an adaptable "sun" in the palm of your hands.

Final Thoughts

Ring lights are attractive options for many photographers since you may already own them for portrait photos or video, but they’re not the best choice if you’re focusing on product photography. Grab a continuous light with either a soft box or shoot-through umbrella to soften the light, and your photos will thank you!

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