Introduction: Large Off Camera Ring Light

After seeing images from people such as Dani Diamond and Jay Russell (aka the Photo Fiend) I decided to make my own large ring light.

The off camera ring light allows for a fantastic soft continuous even light source allowing wide apertures and creates a fantastic catch light in the eyes of the subject.

My motivation was to create something on a cheap budget that was versatile enough to be used in a studio or in a normal room.

As a safety warning I have to say that you will be dealing electricity. If you wire something wrong or miss something whilst wiring the ring light up you could electricute yourself or do serious harm to others. If you are unsure about anything I recommend getting someone with a bit of electrical know how to help you.

Its better to be safe and alive than dead with a shocking picture!

This whole build cost me around £70 but can be done cheaper if you have the time and patience for eBay.

Step 1: Materials

3.5ft by 3.5ft MDF board

Black paint

10 meters of two core 0.5mm cable

20 x 25w Bulbs

20 x Socket holders

1 x plug

Step 2: Step 1: Cut MDF Board & Paint

First thing I did was mark my MDF board up with a 3.5 ft by 3.5 ft circle with a 1 ft by 1 ft inner circle. Once this was marked up I used a jigsaw to cut the outer and inner circles out.

Next I painted the circle black as this will help absorb any excess light from the bulbs.

Step 3: Step 2: Make Up Bulb Holders and Drill

Placing the bulb holders on the board in the positions you want them to be on the finished ring light make around them with pencil.

I placed my outer ring on the hour positions like a clock and the inner ring I spread evenly between.

Next drill a hole in the centre of each circle you've drawn on your ring light as this will be where you thread your wires through. Make them large enough to fit two sets of wire through.

Step 4: Step 3: Wire It Up and Secure the Holders

Once again I need to warn you if you're unsure what you are doing with wiring ask someone who does as this is going to be plugged into the wall and can be dangerous if the wiring is done badly.

Anyway with that safety bit out the way wire each socket holder up. I did mine in parallel with the outer and inner rings on separate runs. Make sure you don't mix up the polarities as it can be a nightmare going over each socket holder one by one checking which one is wired wrong.

Take your time and you shouldn't have any issues.

Once they're all wired together you will have two sets of positive and negative wires (if done like mine in two runs, one if done all in one run). Wire these to the plug and put to one side.

Screw down the socket holders onto the MDF and secure any loose cable behind the board (so it doesn't look as messy as mine did).

Step 5: Step 4: Plug It in and Go

If everything has been done right screw in your bulbs and plug it in. Turn the power on and hopefully you won't have anything go bang.

Place a willing subject in front of it and set your camera up behind on a tripod. This is personal preference but I find it easier to get a good sharp image this way as you'll be dealing with low apertures (depending on your bulb wattage) and manual focusing with the live view zoomed in will assist in nailing the focus on the eyes.

Normally my settings are around ISO 400-800, f2.8 - f4 and shutter speed 1/90 sec to 1/180 sec. This all depends on how close my subject is to the ring, wattage of bulb and the sort. Experiment and you'll soon find your optimal settings.

Remember to grey card your first shot unless you are using daylight bulbs you will have a colour cast. I use cheap bulbs and get a really nice soft light from them and colour correct in post.

Comments

author
Mr_Wolf_Is_Innocent (author)2016-09-07

I thought there was a "be nice" in your feedback requirement on here..

I did a similar "play" with a ring light by wrapping led (soft white) xmas lights around a small "hulahoop" and shooting through it with a short (13mm) lens.. it worked for what I and the client wanted.. and I got the images required, and both myself and the client were very happy, yes, there are always other ways of doing things, but just because its not the same as "most" people do it, does not make it a bad idea.. can it be improved.. probably, but again, that's for the designer to resolve..

btw I do have proper light rings too, but sometimes you want to stand out from the "crowd" who do it the "normal" way!

Also, a rectangle light would change the dynamics a fair bit, and create a very different eye reflection, something that probably would not be quite what Simon wanted.

Very nice work Simon.

author

Thank you.

I am currently looking at different ways to improve it but I like the soft light you get from the bulbs rather than the harsh lights from LEDs

Thank you for your support and understanding what the comments policy is about.

author
Battlespeed (author)2016-09-01

A ring light (i.e., configuring LEDs in a circle) has no particular lighting advantage off-camera compared to a rectangular panel incorporating the same LEDs over a similar surface area. The whole point of the ring light is its position relative to the camera lens.

author
VajkF (author)Battlespeed2016-09-06

Dude, this is still a ring light, just too big to mount on the lens. You do shoot thru the hole in the middle.

author
Battlespeed (author)Battlespeed2016-09-01

Edit to add: If you do make this, no need to cut circles. Use a rectangular piece of MDF, scribe an outer circle and an inner circle on it, placing your LEDs in the space between them. Then, if you must simulate the center hole, just paint it black.

author
Simon Kitt (author)Battlespeed2016-09-01

Tell you what fella make your own instructable.

The lighting advantage is you get a crisp detailed look without the big shadows you'd get from a point source. By surrounding the lens you light from all angles simultaneously you eliminate strong shadows, leaving only a faint shadow which encircles your subject.

The reason I put the DESCRIPTION as off camera is because 1. it is (duh) and 2. it's different from the other ring lights on here.

The other "Edit" you've suggested about using a rectangle is personal choice. I've used a circle due to ease of transport for me, it cut a bit of weight down and I wanted a circular design.

I don't get your comment about painting the centre hole black though. What you going to put your camera through a painted hole?!?

author
bonagva (author)2016-09-04

Ring light, large surface: ok -> very flat and soft light.
Something you need in your lighting palette.
DIY in studio lighting is key when you need specific results.

But the reflections of all these lighting points on specular surfaces like glass, polished metals, glossy paints or eyes, like in these (or Dani) examples, are just terrible ...

Design can easily be improved by adding a diffuser shaped like a ring, placed not to close to the leds.
That way you get the diffusion and soft light and a reflection similar to what you get with a beauty dish.
Still pretty unnatural (which is a desired effect with beauty dishes) but not as much as all these points.

LEDs_points_reflected_in_eyes.jpg
author
tomatoskins (author)2016-08-31

This is great! How do you support your ring light?

author
Simon Kitt (author)tomatoskins2016-08-31

Thanks. I've got two metal clips on the back which I tie wrap onto a heavy duty background stand.

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