Home How-To Tip Of The Week How To Fake A Ring Light Strobe
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Friday, June 6, 2014

How To Fake A Ring Light Strobe

No Ring light? No Problem.

This Article Features Photo Zoom


Digital Photo Tip Of The Week
Ring lights are popular light sources, especially for fashion and glamour photography. The strong direction of the frontal source and its unique shadow outline are hard to replicate any other way—unless, of course, you don't have a ring light, and you want to fake it, as I did here.

All you need to create a fake ring light is a round softbox or brolly box (an umbrella with a silk across the front) and a roll of black cinefoil (like the shiny aluminum foil found in your kitchen, but with a matte black finish). You'll use the foil to create a circular black flag that can be affixed to the center of the brolly box, leaving only a thin ring of silk exposed at the edges. The process is pretty straightforward, the cost is quite low, and the results aren't half bad. Here's how I did it.

First, measure the diameter of your umbrella. If it's 40 inches, you'll probably want the diameter of your black foil disk to be about 30 or 32 inches. I taped together several pieces of black foil until I had a 30x30 square, out of which I could cut a 30-inch circle. To do this, I simply swung a pencil on axis at 15 inches around the center of the foil in order to trace my circle, and then I cut it out using scissors. That's as tricky as it gets.

Digital Photo Tip Of The Week
Next, to affix my new black foil circle to the brolly, I poked a hole in the center of the foil to slide the center column of the umbrella through it. Then I chose good ol' gaffer's tape to adhere the backside of the black circle to the silk. Positioned on the strobe head, though, I quickly realized I'd need a larger hole through which the strobe would fit. Cinefoil cuts and tears easily, so I just manhandled it in place by poking a hole in the foil where the light goes through, and then molded the foil in place around the opening once the light was in position.

It's not overly glamorous, but the rig does work and the "ring light look" is most noticeable when the source is kept very close to the camera axis. No, it's not as refined as a real ring light, and the pictures may not have exactly the same dramatic pop, but given the minimal investment of money and effort, it's a suitable substitute. When you figure a few bucks of materials and 15 minutes was all it took to make such a unique light modifier, the results are even more impressive.

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