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Archive for Sunday, July 27, 2008

Behind the Lens: Ringlight creates flattering effect

Jayme Walden, a Kansas University senior from Shawnee, models for Journal-World photographer John Henry's homemade ringlight. At left, notice the even light across her face and the slight haloing effect around her shoulders and her hair. At right, with a regular flash mounted on the camera, shadows are directional toward the right side of the frame, leaving a shadow behind Walden's nose and on the ride side of the frame.

Jayme Walden, a Kansas University senior from Shawnee, models for Journal-World photographer John Henry's homemade ringlight. At left, notice the even light across her face and the slight haloing effect around her shoulders and her hair. At right, with a regular flash mounted on the camera, shadows are directional toward the right side of the frame, leaving a shadow behind Walden's nose and on the ride side of the frame.

July 27, 2008

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About this series

"Behind the Lens" is a weekly look at photography, written by Journal-World staff photographers. Have an idea for the column? Contact Thad Allender, photo director, at 832-6359 or tallender@ljworld.com.

Comfortable using a flash but looking to spice things up?

For $12, a little bit of craftiness and some time, you can make your own ringlight.

Ringlights are typically used for fashion photography and macro photography. The way they work is this: Your camera lens is inserted in the middle of a circle flash head. Imagine sticking your hand through a car tire: Your hand is the camera, and the tire is the flash. When your subject is standing next to a wall, the circular light creates even shadows, creating a halo effect around your subject. At the same time, it evenly eliminates all shadows on your subject, as long as your subject is standing directly in front of a wall.

This is great way to spice up portraits of one or two people, or even pets. Place them in front of a colorful wall, brick wall or a surface with an interesting texture and start snapping

I liked the look of ringlight photography but didn't want to drop hundreds of dollars on a large flash head that I might only break out for a couple of projects. Plus, I wanted to be mobile. And you can't very well navigate through a dance hall or social event with a huge flash stand and a winding trail of extension cord.

Instead, I opted to make my own. There are numerous online tutorials out there on how to make these homebrew ringlights. The guide I decided to follow is from a sportsshooter.com member and can be found here: www.sportsshooter.com/guyrhodes/ringlight.

Basically, all you need is black foam board, aluminum foil, aluminum foil oven liners, a hot glue gun and a white piece of paper. You will also need an off-camera flash chord to attach your flash. For me, the hot glue gun is a must-have. It saves loads of time and dries almost instantly. Just make sure you're gluing the right pieces together.

After the flash head is assembled, you run the flash into the side of the box and put your lens through the center of the head. It might be a little clumsy, but gives you fashion light look for under $20, and you keep your mobility.

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