Put a Ring On It

A ring light, behind my desktop monitor. Spice sits at my desk, looking up suspiciously.

John ScalziI have been doing rather a lot of virtual events and other video-related things this year, and thus is was decided that I should have a ring light, in order to light my face flatteringly and otherwise even out things, in terms of basic luminosity. It arrived today and I have installed it behind the monitor. Spice the cat is annoyed, because she and the other cats like to hang out behind the monitor to nap and/or attack my fingers while I’m typing, and now the ring light is all up in there, taking up space. I imagine I will take it out from behind there when I’m not using it, if not other reason than to keep the cats from murdering me.

But I did use it today, during my event with Christopher Paolini, and it mostly worked as advertised; I was well-lit, which made it easier for my webcam to spot me, and to make me not appear like a grainy pointillist mess. I have two more events and one tech test next week, so I think I’ll keep it where it is for now. Nevertheless I feel like I’ve gone over some line and now it’ll be nothing but vlogging for me from here on out (note: This won’t happen, I’m too lazy). At least I’ll be pleasantly illuminated.

— JS

27 Comments on “Put a Ring On It”

  1. It took me a moment or three to figure out that you didn’t have tusks displayed in the frames on the walls.

  2. Did you do a “with/without” screenshot for yourself to definitely ID whether it was… doing things… or was it a clear enough effect that you didn’t even need that? I had been under the impression that for ring lights, you want the camera to be in the middle of the ring, and otherwise you can just use regular lights, but maybe the ring is magic even if it’s offset?

  3. I recently got one for livestreaming but haven’t loved it because of the ring-shaped glare on my glasses. I don’t have quite enough space to angle it far enough away from me to avoid it, though, and I kind of need my glasses. Even if I take them off, it shows up in my eyeballs and looks weird. Do you — or does anyone else here — have any suggestion for avoiding the reflection?

  4. Did you do a “with/without” screenshot for yourself to definitely ID whether it was… doing things… or was it a clear enough effect that you didn’t even need that?

    I had been under the impression that for ring lights, you want the camera to be in the middle of the ring, and otherwise you can just use regular lights either plain or in a key-and-secondary setup, but maybe the ring is magic even if it’s offset?

  5. Technically ring lights are made to go around the camera, thus illuminating the subject from all around. Using it like this, it’ll still work fine, seeing as it’s a big light source, and the bigger the light, the more diffuse (soft shadows) it gets. To avoid ring highlights in your glasses, you can just hang a large shear white sheet in front of the light. This turns the whole sheet into a large soft “light source”.

  6. When you say “webcam,” do you really mean one of those glorified pinholes? When you could download (for free!) the Nikon Webcam Utility, as well as many other third-party apps? (Full disclosure–after hopefully installing the NWU and starting Live View on my old D7100, plugging in the USB connection promptly shut off Live View and dropped the mirror). On the other hand, the similarly free Canon webcam utility worked fine with my old Eos 60D–just needed a manual white balance, since its internal IR filter has been removed for hydrogen-alpha astrophotography.

  7. Please don’t encourage this. The only thing ring lights are any good for is evidence photography at murder scenes. There are a terrible choice for lighting live people, particularly if you have glasses. Consider a nice 1×1 panel or, even better, two of them and make a nice two point light setup so you get dimensionality and nice gradients on your face. You’ll also find it better to not be staring at the light.

    At least if you must use it, you are using it right. Shooting through the things is really bad. All of the lighting is directly from the camera direction, so everything looks flat, which is good if we want a picture of your corpse at a murder scene, but not so good if you are still breathing. They are really good at bringing out nostril hairs, though. They tend to make foreheads glare really badly. You have it to the side, which is much, much better, since it then works more like a diffuse panel, though you will get those horrid ring reflections on both glasses and eyes. If you have a piece of white silk around, try tossing it over it and I think you’ll find you look better with more diffusion.

  8. I’ll echo the people suggesting to be careful with the light placement. Ring lights can produce a distracting catchlight in your eyes if they are positioned incorrectly. ESPN used them on one of their shows, and all I could watch was the large rings in the subjects’ eyes.

    With two of those lights, you could put them on the wall near the corners of the desk and have a good approximation of a standard two-light setup.

  9. I am also building a mini home studio. Something I had never thought I would ever need. Now there are llights, mics and cameras to consider…

  10. The photo above shows it fairly ‘warm’ in tone, is that accurate? Is that adjustable? Anyway, nice!

  11. While the new light is nice, the more important question is…where were you when you took that picture of Krissy? After 6 months of pandemic house arrest, I crave seeing new locations and possible places to go visit in the Aftertimes.

  12. It’s not really serious until you get a couple of soft boxes to place strategically and setup your DSLR as a webcam.

  13. Ain’t life funny?

    Now we have to worry over whether we are adequately lit.

    We’re ready for our close-up, Mr DeVille….

  14. How is the webcam working with the higher speed internet? I know at one point you gave up and where using a laptop stacked on books.

  15. Basically, you don’t need a ring light if you have a couple light sources that bounce their light off the wall to make a diffuse, large source. Fortunately my ceiling is white, and I bounce a light off of it and angle it so it lights me evenly.

  16. I did a video chat with a friend who’s been doing virtual interviews for a new job. She was a silhouette only. I tried to get her to put a lamp on her desk facing her (no, the cats will knock it off), books on the empty bookshelf behind her (no, the cats will knock them off), and hang a blanket over the sheer curtains on the window behind her (no, the cats will pull it down). How about locking the cats out of the spare bedroom with the computer? Oh, no, not that!

    “Well,” thought I, “I guess it’s a good thing her job is accounting — and not design!”

  17. That’s cats for you. With an entire house full of good napping spots to choose from, those they covet most are the ones where another cat is peacefully sleeping, or the places to which the humans, for their own cruel & wilful reasons, have denied access.

    I enjoyed the video chat between yourself and Zachary Quinto. A minor distraction was the difference in white balance between him & you. This new lamp will help, I’m sure.

    Spice? Adorbs as ever, but with a side of, “If I had opposable thumbs, things would be done differently around here.”

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