Project : Ring Light

Fast, cheap and easy project for a photographer in a need for better lighting in close up photography.
Author: Jani 'Japala' Pönkkö
Published: 15.11.2009
In English In English
Suomeksi Suomeksi


When taking close-up photos, the lighting can become a problem. The good old flash works most of the time but usually it leaves nasty shadows that do not go well with the photo. There are couple of solutions to this problem; a second flash to remove the shadows and light the scene more evenly or to use a ring light that surrounds the target object with uniform light from every direction.

One can buy a ring light from a store but that is no fun. In a true Metku spirit we will try to find a cost effective replacement for a commercial unit. Something that one can do with a low budget and with tools that most people have. Read on and see if the succeeded in our mission this time.


The Ring Light


Ring Light

Ring light is basically a light that is placed around the objective. In close-up and macro photography it covers the subject with even light that seems to come from all around the lense. This removes all the shadows from the surface of the object. A great thing if you are shooting a photo for a ring that you want to sell on ebay or some hardware close-ups for a review article.


The Parts


Ring Light

LEDs are good for photography as they operate with DC voltage (no flickering) and as they emit very little heat. I had an option to make my own PCB for the ring light but I happened to notice some sweet, ready-made PCBs with leds already attached to them with a very low price.

These lights are originally meant to be used in cars, around the headlights as they are often found with higher end models. DealExtreme sells these with low prices and as usual, the postage is already included in the price.

The Sigma 18-50 mm f2.8 that I have uses 72 mm diameter filters. I got lucky as the 90 mm ring light PCB fits snuglly around it. No need to cut or sand anything here. I ordered several different sizes as at the time of ordering, I didn't knew what the inside diameters of these lights would be. Now I know that the PCB is 8 mm wide this the 90 mm ring light has an inside diameter of 74 millimeters. The same formula works with all the sizes.


Ring Light

All the lights operate with 12 volts and the current need is based on the amount of leds the light uses. In this photo we have a 90 mm light with 24 leds and it needs 120 milliamps.


Ring Light

And here we have the light positioned around the filter. 90 mm model sits well together with Massa 72 mm UV filter that I had. Just take measurements of your own filters and compare them with the sizes of the lights to find the parts that work well for your hardware.

This was the setup that I used for some first test pictures but as I did have a 120 mm light on me, I decided to add some more lighting power to my setup. And this is actually the part where the actual work begins.


The Plan


Ring Light

This is the setup that we are going to use. A 90 mm light around the 72 mm filter and on the outside we have a 120 mm light. Quite a lot of lighting power for relatively cheaply.

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