Ring light usage tips

Discussion in 'Macro' started by davidtriplett, Dec 8, 2016.

  1. Since I just bought my dream macro lens, an AF-S Micro-Nikkor 105mm/2.8 VR, I didn't have the money to also purchase the Nikon macro strobe kit. I settled on the Polaroid ring-light/LED "flash" instead as a stop-gap measure. I've played with it a bit, but would be very interested if anybody has suggestions on how to get the best results using this type equipment. The model I purchased is the universal-type (not TTL) with 48 LED's and three gells. The LED's can be constant-on or "flash" synced, selectable for 24 or 48 (L or R sides), and have seven light levels. I know this setup will not give me the "freeze frame" effect of a true strobe, and that I will have to play with settings in M mode to get acceptable results. Ultimately I plan to purchase a double strobe TTL macro setup, but that will have to wait at least a year or more. Thank you, as always, for your kind input and suggestions.
  2. Some years ago I wanted to get a ring light. Read lots of reviews and discussion, and the more I read, the more it seemed that the cheap ones, especially LEDs, were really very dim, often had non-replaceable batteries, and many other technical shortcomings. I gave up.
    However, there is one memory that stuck with me -- when photographing anything shiny like the human eye, the highlight spot will be annular. This may not be a desired outcome.
  3. SCL


    I have a Lester Dine ringlight for macro usage, but I've found it to be pretty unwieldy. I think it just takes a bit of practice and right now I'm rusty.
  4. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    David -- I fooled around a bit with a little Metz TTL and macro, the process holds some promise. Didn't pursue it because the light is so good out here that I didn't feel like I needed it. I posted a folder. I'm intrigued by both ring light (tho some experts say results are flat) and the Nikon kit. I have seen some good deals on Macro Flash at Roberts Camera's Used Photo site.
  5. One thing with ring lights is that there is little to no shadow. So depending on what you are shooting, it may or may not work. When I want a shadow I put a desklamp on the side, and move it around until I get the shadow effect that I want.
    PapaTango likes this.
  6. I use a Neewer LED Ring Flash with both sides lit up and the macro lens stopped down to f/11 or f/16 and get good results. Having just purchased a Yongnuo SU-800 I've started using it with my SB-600's and also enjoy the results but prefer the ring light.
  7. Mark, I think my Polaroid unit is very similar to your Neewer unit. It's time to go out looking for bugs to scare...
  8. A proper ringlight xenon flash doesn't have to cost much. I got a used one for £15 UK (~$20 US) not too long ago.

    It's very basic with a full-power only manual and single auto-aperture setting, but that's about all you need for macro work. It came with a set of lens adapters from 52 to 62mm. The native thread was a series7.

    I used it to augment daylight as a fill for this shot of a shield bug. Ringlighting on its own can be a bit flat or ugly. Not that that Leaf bug 2.jpg grumpy looking bug needs any help looking ugly!
    PapaTango likes this.
  9. Thanks, RJ. I appreciate the feedback. Excellent bug. I'll likely play around a bit with the current kit before making a further investment. Besides, autofocus on my Tamron 150-600 just quit and I may need to drop some coin to get it fixed...
  10. I retired my 40+ year old Vivitar 5000 and got the Neewar TTL version for Nikon. It lets you vary power (all the way to turning it off) on both sides to provide some modeling. I have found it very easy to use and far more flexible than my old Vivitar. I don't use it much in TTL but it lets you back the power down to 1/128 which comes in very handy when you just want a little bit of light to fill in shadows and throw catchlights into eyes. So far it has been worth the $100 I spent.
  11. I'm intrigued by both ring light (tho some experts say results are flat) and the Nikon kit.

  12. I picked up a Nikon SB-21 cheap not too long ago.

    It's a dual-strobe light(fixed position), but has a snap-on diffusion panel to spread the light out a bit more.

    AFAIK, it will work as a TTL flash on any Nikon film camera that supports TTL(you need a different control box or an AS-17 for the F3), but it's manual only on DSLRs(no d-TTL or i-TTL). It does have three power levels and also lets you fire only one of the two strobes. It also has a calculator dial for manual use marked in terms of reproduction ratio(not distance as most), which should theoretically make it very useful but practically I've found it to be gibberish :) .

    In any case, as others have said the light from it can be ugly. As Joe says, use it as a fill in. I've also had passable results with it in reasonably well lit rooms or by popping a secondary flash triggered by an optical slave. To my eye, though, when used as the only light source, it looks like most any other bad flash photograph.
  13. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Interesting, Ben -- #11 seems to be a direct cut and paste from my reply to David back in December '16. Strange that the first 5 comments are all #1.
  14. No wonder. PN = ParaNormal
    Sandy Vongries likes this.
  15. Thanks Mark,
    That might be just the thing for my wife, for shooting macro of flowers, and not have to hassle with separate lighting.
    The easier it is to use, the more she will shoot.
  16. I used to shoot close ups and macros more than I do these days, but I do like and use the Nikon R1 Wireless system. It's pricey but it works well. I added a couple more SB-200 wireless macro flash heads to what was already included in the kit. The nice thing about the wireless heads is that they do not have to be mounted on the ring.

    Nikon 4804 R1 Wireless Close-Up Speedlight System 4804 B&H Photo

    DavidTriplett likes this.
  17. There's an old trick with ringlights that are "too flat".
    Cut a semi circular ND acetate or gel 2X or 4X & attach where you want with small bits of sticky tape. You can cut several different ones covering more or less of the tube.
    DavidTriplett likes this.
  18. Hi,

    does anyone have experience with the Apurture Amaran Halo AHL-H100 ring light? I was actually off ring lights for macro again but this one seems to have gotten ok reviews while not being super exspensive... Any thoughts?

    Aputure Amaran Halo AHL-H100 Ring Light
  19. I have no real experience yet. - My waterproof Pentax P&S has an option to use a circle of LEDs around the lens to illuminate super close up shots when you place the lens hood straight upon a sheet of paper. - Seems to kind of work for tele-communicating issues inside the printing industry. - On shiny surfaces that kind of lighting looks odd.
    For my SLRs I just received a Speedlight modifier - link - By Neewer, a similar product is also offered for way more money by RoundFlash. The entire thing folds down very nicely but is a snare drum sized softbox with a center hole to shoot through. I guess before I dare shooting makeshift models with that monster I should spot my old Stroboframe somewhere and cobble the tablet onto it as a makeshift WLF / flip scren to remain able to maintain something like eye contact. - but for non-human subjects that inexpensive modifier seems to work well enough. - I managed to stick my 70-200 through it it seems likely to work fine with a 50mm on a crop body too. Unfortunately the bungee straps meant to center the lens will interfere with my Leicas' RFs. - The beast might be overkill for real macro, but should work as a fill for product or flowerpot photography.

    @ David: Best way to get to know your light: Wait for the night, put a bottle on your table, focus on manual and figure out what the LED thing provides light wise between filling the frame with your entire bottle and 1:1.
    When I tried real macro in the past I never felt very successful shivering my handheld camera into focus at !:2 - 1:1. With Yongnuo and other Chinese Speedlights being as inexpensive as they are and also capable of wireless TTL now I'd get a pair of them instead of a dedicated 2 lights macro kit. - Even one speedlight off camera paired with tinfoil wrapped chocolate as a reflector or that foil on some cardboard should get you pretty far.

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