Achieving the perfect lighting for your camera, be it a DSLR or a webcam, can be a tough task. There are multiple different factors that can influence how good or bad your video capture footage will look to your viewers.
One fix for this is setting up a permanent and consistent light source to light your face up evenly and brightly. Grabbing a ring light (or two) can help you achieve really solid results.
Already snapped up a ring light? Thinking of adding a few to your setup? Read on to find out how to setup a ring light for your recording or streaming needs!
Why Use a Ring Light
Ring lights are basically LED strips formed in a circle inside a plastic shell. This plastic shell is designed to soften the lighting and create a smoother look. The result is that the subject usually looks more flattering. If you were to use a lamp or other light directly on your subject, the light would look extremely harsh and most likely be poorly dispersed.
This makes ring lights a fantastic solution for those looking to light their face and upper body strongly and evenly. On top of this, they are extremely wallet-friendly, with USB versions coming in at around only $25.
Most ring lights come with a USB connection that has an on-wire settings adapter where you can change the light color and intensity.
On top of this, LED ring lights use little energy in comparison to standard bulbs and last much, much longer with no dimming. Bulbs also heat up over time and if used regularly could be a safety concern.
Step 1: Select a Ring Light
Before we go into how to setup a ring light, you need to choose which type of hardware to get. Ring Lights are mainly divided into USB and mains powered. And there are a few differences you need to be aware of.
We have an article on the top 5 ring lights you can use in situations like this, if you haven’t gotten one already, we recommend you check it out.
USB Ring Lights
USB ring lights, as the name suggests can be powered using USB ports. They can be plugged into PC USB ports, USB adapters, or other similar ports to give you solid LED lighting.
The benefits of these ring lights are that they can be part and parcel of your streaming or recording setup and don’t require a mains power socket.
The downside would be a lack of power meaning that the LED lighting itself will not be of the highest quality. Nevertheless, it is usually MORE than enough for 99% of streamers and recorders.
Can You Power Your USB Ring Light From Your PC?
Quite a lot of creators worry about abusing the power output sockets from their system and whether or not that will lead to overclocking/overheating. USB ring lights are made with this in mind and most certainly CAN be powered from your system ports.
For most USB ring lights, only USB 3.0 ports are suitable and will provide you with enough power. Connecting to a USB 2.0 port won’t harm your computer, it will just simply not work.
Mains Powered Ring Lights
Mains-powered ring lights are preferred over USB ring lights due to the fact that they can support higher power limitations. This means that the actual LED hardware installed in the light is more complex and gives off a much more powerful and cleaner light.
They tend to be around 5 times more expensive than USB lights and are only really recommended for use in photography or beauty studios. Streamers will find out very quickly that a mains-powered ring light is just not necessary to capture just upper body and face shots!
Step 2: Ring Light Placement
To set up a ring light for a single subject, your ring light should be placed directly in front of your subject and around 3 to 5 feet away depending on the light size and power.
This will ensure a smooth light of the entire subject and remove any shadows and dark patches.
To mount your ring light, consider using a tripod or clip mount. They can be attached to the top of monitors or screwed onto tripods and placed on your desk behind your setup.
If you place your ring light to one side instead of face-on, one side of your subject will be much better lit than the other side creating shadows and lower overall sharpness. This could be good for people going for an artistic effect but realistically is not favored amongst streamers and content creators.
Use Natural Light
Nothing lights people better than natural light. If the sun stayed in one place all day and provided the perfect angle onto you or your other subjects it would be the perfect lighting solution.
If you have a window, you can use it in addition to your primary lighting source, like a ring light. Having said that, factors such as the weather, time of day, and window placement all mean that natural light cannot be used as a standalone lighting solution.
Step 3: Adjusting Your Ring Light Setup
Adjust the Brightness and Color
On nearly all ring lights, you are able to adjust the lighting intensity. Generally, the brighter the light is, the sharper and more detailed the picture will appear. But you can overdo it as well, so don’t go too crazy.
USB ring lights very often come with three different color settings which you can change by using the on-wire control. These colors are normally a bright white/blue, a more natural and soft ‘cream’, and orange/yellow.
The reason for having different color settings is that not every room has the same default light temperature. You may have to offset your room lighting with a slightly different hue in your ring light. Experiment until you find the result you desire, however, the middle ‘soft cream’ setting is usually the one favored by creators.
How To Fix Shiny Skin
Shiny skin is unavoidable without a change in hardware settings or skin products. Healthy skin is very slightly oily and these oils reflect light.
Ring lights do not create soft light like softboxes and therefore create quite a bit of surface reflection.
To get rid of forehead shininess, consider playing with your capture source settings and turning down your contrast and gamma ever so slightly.
If this doesn’t remove your shiny problems, consider purchasing some matte setting powder online, similar to this product. Just dab a little bit on the shiny areas before you stream or record and you’ll see that the reflections are gone!
Without a shadow of a doubt, ring lights are the perfect option for content creators hoping to produce well-lit results. They’re relatively cheap, lasts a long time, and do the job efficiently. They are a must-have item for aspiring and even established creators! Now you know how to setup a ring light properly. Happy creating!