So you're looking for a ring light. Maybe you're trying to improve your TikTok game, start a YouTube channel, or even just make your Zoom calls look a lot more professional. I've shot a fair amount of video over the years, and it's true; lighting is everything. But there are so many different kinds of lights, from panels to spot lights, and so many different options, like color temperature and diffusion. So what do you really need?
For this guide we're focusing on people who are buying their first light. Ring lights are great because they're basically the all-in-one option for shooting video of yourself. If you need to shoot multiple people, or a wide indoor scene, ring lights aren't ideal. But if you're just making videos of yourself, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more cost effective option.
All that said, there are so many ring lights on the market these days, so I asked pro videographer Jeremiah Warren about what to look for in a ring light. "My tip would be to get a bi-color ring light and film in a room with natural light. You want the bi-color lights so that you can match the temperature of your indoor lighting. That way you can have a nice backdrop to your video and also have yourself some good flattering lighting."
Warren also advised getting bigger ring lights if you can afford them. Bigger lights are naturally more cumbersome and kind of a pain to store (which I can say from experience), but bigger often means more light, and more light means higher quality video. We also talked about diffusion, which is where you soften the light to reduce harsh shadows. Because you're usually facing a ring light head-on, diffusion isn't nearly as important as it would be if you were using an elevated spotlight, but light shining directly from the LEDs can be harsh, so it's still a good idea to look for a ring light that offers some level of diffusion.
I'll be totally transparent here: when you read the reviews of some of the highly recommended ring lights around the web, you'll find a common refrain that they work, but they're fragile and made out of crappy materials. You see this everywhere. Basically what's happening is that companies are scrounging up cheap ring lights from China and slapping their brand name on them. You can clearly see that this FotodioX light and this Generay light are exactly the same when you look at the back.
So, in summary, we're going to present some cheap lights that seem... okay, and some lights that are actually worth investing in. Good video equipment is expensive, but sometimes you just need something cheap that works. So without further ado, here are the best ring lights we could find around the web:
Cheap ring lights
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As explained above, Neewer is definitely a company that scoops up Chinese photo and video products and hawks them on Amazon, but listen, there's no shame in the game. I've purchased many Neewer products over the years and they definitely work. Here we have the Neewer Advanced 18-inch ring light, which is not to be confused with the company's non-advanced 18-inch ring, and though the difference in price is minimal, the advanced model can change the color temperature and brightness electronically and with a handy remote control. Here's what Patty Pepper, a teacher giving remote lessons, said about this ring light:
Absolutely LOVE my Neewer 18” Advanced Ring Light. I researched for about three weeks on which ring light I wanted and this particular one is the best one. I’m a teacher and recently started at home teaching because of the coronavirus and wanted proper lighting for my zoom lessons. If you’re working from home this is the best choice! The setup was easy, packaging was amazing and most of all I love that it comes with a Bluetooth remote for pictures and videos and a remote control (I had to add 2 AAA batteries) for the lighting you want. I purchased this item with my own money and if I had to purchase another ring light this one is my favorite!
Here's the Best Buy special, and even though there are a few reviews that question the Sunpak's quality, there are far more reviews that say it's just fine. It is dimmable and has adjustable color temperature, but you don't get a remote. Like the Neewer, there are no battery slots, so you have to use AC power. If you're only keeping your ring light in one location and aren't planning on taking it down after every use then this probably won't be that big of a problem.
Expensive ring lights
Finally, some professional equipment. I don't mean to be a snob, but when it comes to lights, you get what you pay for. Here we have a very large 30-inch ring light, and get this; it folds in half. Very good for packing away in a closet, especially at this size. The materials, buttons, and dials all look professional grade, and you can use the company's app if you don't want to get up and fiddle with the settings.
The R720S is much smaller than the C-80 ring light above, but that makes it a lot more manageable in small spaces. That said, it's still a high quality professional ring light that's dimmable, color temperature adjustable, and packs two battery slots. You can even control each quadrant of the ring light independantly, giving you the option to mix color temperatures or brightness for more advanced shooting. This light can be remotely operated, but you'll have to shell out for an optional Wi-Fi controller.