Stephen Eastwood|Beauty and Fashion Photographer | Tutorials



Q. In your opinion as a photographer, What are they good for? 
Why do I get red eye and how do I get rid of it when using a ringflash? 
What is the best ringflash? What ringflash do you prefer?  What are some
of the others available?  I hear they are great for beauty, is that true
and do you use them for that often?  What about the battery powered ones?

In my opinion…

I am going to answer those questions a bit out of order but here it goes. 

What is the best ringflash?

The best currently offered would be the Broncolor Verso 3200ws with 300w modeling
lights.  Its a great flash and the packs are amazing, can do battery and
ac adapters for studio.  Also a bit expensive, in fact this may be the
most expensive one on the market currently when you add a verso pack and ringflash
c together over the remaining options. 

What are some of the others, and what do you prefer?

Well above I listed what I feel is the best available, and I have two one with
and one without the modeling light, they both are great, other high priced and
also amazing units would be the Profoto ProRing 2  series now with modeling
light as well, for Profoto 7 series packs.  That said in Profoto I am a
fan of the D4 system and to that end they have a D4/acute ringflash that is
4800ws but does not have a modeling light as of yet.  I do not use Profoto
lights myself except at rental houses as I personally have never been a fan
of them, but I do think that the new D4 system is the one I would look into
if I was looking into Profoto studio lights and would recommend to others looking. 

What are the others and what do you prefer?

Well, I also use Hensel now, for the porty system, I like the porty premium
plus packs for the price and I love the ring for the handle and octahaze which
allows the ring to be used easily as a softer light source but far more important
to me as a larger ring to allow me to move further away from the model for a
more flattering perspective without getting a small pin point size lightsource. 
I feel for the price this is the best bang for the buck on the market, its a
very good reliable system, good power good battery life and performance, good
durability and nice size and weight and the system is nice in the fact that
they have a remote that allows for firing (I rarely ever use it for this and
prefer radio slaves or pocket wizards) but what it also allows is remote control
over the power of the pack.  So I can place 4 packs with heads up all over
and place each on a separate channel and have a mount of remotes to control
the power of the packs and connected lights from where I am as a photographer
which is convenient especially when the lights are spread far apart and in out
of the way areas, but also when you are needing to work quickly in fast changing
lighting conditions (sunset/sunrise) For studio only the Hensels can be ac connected
(not an adapter per se but the charger will run the pack as a ac unit given
the fully charged battery installed and on the slow recycle setting with no
loss and any down time it will charge a battery that is connected if you need
to plug in with a dead battery and still shoot while charging.  They also
have a Hensel mini 1200ws pack that is studio unit, it powers lights and the
ringflash with from the porty and has an interchangeable head that has a 300ws
modeling light that can be used with no modeling light on the porty or as a
full head w/modeling in studio, and for this pack Hensel has built and offered
an external battery pack similar to a porty pack with two ac plugs to power
the unit and it uses the original porty batteries and adapters/chargers if needed. 
The main downside is a lack of modeling light on the unit, something I have
not found to be an issue to date, and would rather kill a battery pack quickly
in use, but its always better to have it and turn it off than not have it and
need it.

That said the Elinchrom system is equally good in value and I would not hesitate
in recommending that to people as well.  The only reason I went porty was
the design of the ringflash and octahaze which I preferred and that is a personal
preference of mine. 

I have used a Speedotron Blackline pack with a converted Profoto head for sometime
and have since stopped, but that was a very viable option that has worked for
years before switching to newer setups and springing initially for the Broncolor

Alienbee and Whitelighting have released there ringflashes, the Alienbee being
a monolight and lower powered ac unit the Whitelighting Zeus system being a
pack and ring system and designed for both 1200 and 2500 ws packs.  I have
not used them, but have always stated that Paul Buff makes very good products
for the money, and have heard that they are reliable, the one thing I note in
regards to the Alienbee monolight ringflash is that it is a relatively low power
unit and you should be sure to familiarize yourself with what you will be doing
and how much power you may need in given situations, this is especially true
if you are planning on doing any outdoor shoots where you may need to overpower
the sun at midday times, the unit itself is about as powerful as a high end
hotshoe flash such as the Canon 580ex or Nikon equivalent or about equal to
a 400ws typical flash unit as it is rated.  For information on how much
light is needed for overpowering daylight for a specific look you can currently
check out this info on lighting until I have answered it in a thread here which
I will than point you to. 

What about battery powered ones?

Well so far the Hensel, Elinchrom, Broncolor Verso and Profoto Proring2 all
have battery options available and all are 1200 ws or higher in power rating. 
But what else? 

Profoto now has a 600ws battery powered unit which works with the acute ringflash. 
That is also dependable and practical given its 600ws rating. 

Lumedyne has a system that is based on the Hensel ringflash design, it has the
handle and allows for the octahaze to connect as well and includes a LED modeling
light that is useful although not to bright.  Lumedyne has system starting
at 200ws and 400ws and allows for booster modules up to 2400ws, also available
are AC units that allow for modeling light usage as well.  I will likely
describe this system again but for now I will say that Lumedyne is a very small,
very convenient battery powered system that has great advantages in its small
size of heads and overall small size to power and performance.  New these
systems are not inexpensive, used they are quite reasonable but being knowledgeable
of the many, many numbers, systems, options and changes is a must to get a good
deal and as always buying used is a buyer beware situation. 

Sunpak and others make some smaller battery units that are usable indoors for
people but have a guide number of no more than 45 which is quite low for people
use, though not unusable within its limitations and quite usable for the designed
use of macro photography.

And I should certainly mention that while the Zeus by Whitelighting and Alienbee
Ringflashes are AC powered they can both be effectively used on the Vagabond
Battery powered unit with good results.

What are they good for?

Macro!  they are designed for macro as they place the light directly around
the camera lens so that you do not block the light when moving in very close
to the subject being photographed.  OK that said, what are they used for
in regards to something we people photographers would care about?  That’s
different!  Well a characteristic trademark of a ringflash is a halo shadow
around the subject when placed near to a wall, why would I want a shadow, I
generally work hard to eliminate shadows from the background?  Right, but
not here, as that is a trademarked effect of a ringflash so if that’s the look
you want that’s the look you want….Get it?  its artistic vision. 
What else do they do?  well they can be quite useful as a fill to eliminate
shadows,  What?  you just said they create a halo of a shadow now
they are to get rid of a shadow?  Yes they can be used to fill in shadows
created by other lights sources by filling from the lens axis.  They can
create a flawless light by being the main light on the lens axis also, though
this is a flat or fat light (please refer to this for more on flat and or fat
lighting   http://www.modelmayhem.com/p.php?thread_id=252406
) What else?  Well they can create a nice center highlight on skin in glamour
shots a center highlight that comes from a light on axis with the lens and that
is often enhanced with the use of a baby oil, glisten spray, bodybutter. 
They can help add some sparkle to shiny objects such as jewelry, sequins and
the like.  Close up beauty work, such as close up eye or lip shots and
even macro shots of the face, and the trademark ring effect in the catchlight
many seem to like.  I do often say this however if its a big ring in the
eye and you are seeing a whole head its got to be a bit if not a lot distorted! 
But that’s me big_smile 
Of course there are many others uses of ringflashes and you could always use
it like any other strobe head off the camera with great success.

Why do I get redeye and how do I get rid of it?

If you use a flash in a dark environment, you often get a red eye effect. This
is because the light of the flash is reflecting from the retina, which is covered
with tiny blood vessels. The more open the pupils are, the more red eye effect
you get in your photos.  And the reflection is great because you are bouncing
light straight form the camera lens position toward the subject and bounces
right back at you, angle of incidence and all sad 
What can I do to prevent it?  use a bright modeling light on the ringflash? 
if you don’t have one, use a brighter light from near the camera axis just make
sure it is not so bright and your flash power so low that the modeling light
itself effects the exposure, unless you want it too of course. 

I hear they are great for beauty is that true and do you use them often?

In my opinion they are not great for beauty, they work for specific things and
on specific shots but I do not use them for beauty often at all, and I more
often use them for fashion and or glamour type shooting most especially outdoors
in brighter light.  How can you say they are not great for beauty? 
Well mainly in my opinion if the use of them is to be as most would want to
buy it for (on the camera around the lens) And you want to see the telltale
catchlight in the eyes you would need to be very close to the subject for a
portrait/headshot/beauty shot to use a long lens and the wider angle lenses
needed combined with the distance to face would result in what I call distortion
of the facial features that make the face pretty to me in my head.  Getting
close enough to see the ring nicely in the eyes (not using a octahaze type unit
attached) means you are close enough to have the nose get very big! the ears
get very pushed back and far apart and an overall image that I find unappealing,
when you look at what I do you will mainly see shots of faces or closer shot
with at the barest minimum a 135mm or equivalent on a fullframe 35mm frame but
more likely shots that equate to 180mm-350mm in the same 35mm full frame equivalent,
on a 6×7 a minimum of a 300 or longer same on a 6×6 and on a 4×5 I used 800-1200
mm lenses.  At the distance of say 7 or 6 feet away the ringflash becomes
more of a point source in the eyes and the telltale ring catchlight is not very
apparent at all, at that point I may have used a hotshoe flash which I would
not do so why use the ring?   WOW!  you must be a mile away to
use that long a lens?  Not quite the chart below shows a working distance
of a lens with some idea of what size image you get read it and next time you
are shooting think about how far you are really from the face, how much of it
you see and what length you are using.  Its not that far or that long! 

OK real world real numbers

all 35mm full frame

Lens tip to subject, not making allowance for background here.

Lens tip to subject  7 feet

300mm     11inches

200mm     17inches

135mm     24inches

85mm       40inches

50mm       65inches

average head from  tip of head to chin 10 1/2 inches

1 inch above head to nipple line of average large (tall) woman,

average 6’2inch male,  18 1/2 inches

Now realize,  if the background were behind them by several 3 1/2 feet
the angle of view would mean if you gave 1 inch head clearance your image would
have approximately 5 inches above the head in frame.

Look at my work and the close up face shots for some great examples of long
lenses and the flattened face you all say is present and tell me if a bigger
nose and further backset ears would be better for you.

By comparison a 50MM on the same 35MM format Full Frame gives the following
realize that a full face as stated above from tip of the head to the chin is
10 1/2 inches you would need to be almost but not quite 1 foot from the subject
just to fit the whole head in frame, and closer if you crop into the head at

50mm ___24inches at 3 feet 36inches

50mm____17inches at 2 feet or 24inches

50mm ____9.5inches at 1 foot or 12inches


I suggest you try this at the next shoot. Take a len maybe a zoom is best,
and shoot the same straight on face shot at the widest you can get (maybe 24mm)
than again at say 35mm, than at 50mm than at 100mm than at the longest you can
get maybe 200 or better 300mm and keep the framing of the head and face the
same for all shots, that’s important to see this easily. It does not take a
lot of room really if you are shooting a face top to bottom, so you do not need
a huge studio to try this. Important things to do is keep the same framing of
the face for all shots and keep the lighting the same for all the shots, you
may need an extension tube or close up step to keep the same framing on all
shots with all the lenses as some may not allow you to focus as close as you
would need too.

Next with the face in the same framing, look through the images one by one
to see the face change dramatically. That will make you more aware of what to
look for, and also determine what your preferences are.


©Stephen Eastwood 2008 www.StephenEastwood.com

About photographers1

Stephen Eastwood Fashion and Beauty Photographer and Retoucher based in NY/LA/Ft. Worth TX http://www.StephenEastwood.com Current Canon Explorer of Light.
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