Just one ring light? I can't believe portrait setups can be this easy!

Using a single ring light for portrait photography
(Image credit: Future)

Portraiture is a photographic genre that is easy to try but difficult to master – and particularly so when it comes to the lighting. Ranging from natural light right through to more complicated four-light setups, the choices can sometimes feel overwhelming.

When I took up photography, like the majority of people I shot with natural light – the sun. Having a single light source, like a ring light, can simplify a portrait shoot; place it in front of your model’s face – about 45˚ off to one side is always a good default place to start. Continuous LED lighting offers another advantage: it allows you to see in real-time how the light falls onto your subject.

• Best ring light: beautiful lighting for vlogging, video calls and selfies

(Image credit: Future)

(Image credit: Future)

Shooting this way can often be far easier than using a flash or strobe and having to shoot a few test images before finding the ideal shot settings. Especially if you haven't used lighting before, this is a great way to see how it affects your shot.

Working with an LED ring light

You can shoot portraits with one simple LED light, says Alistair Campbell

You can shoot portraits with one simple LED light, says Alistair Campbell (Image credit: Future)

(Image credit: Future)

The most appealing benefit of using LED ring lights is that they help to eliminate harsh shadows. Most are dimmable, which is helpful when wanting to adjust your aperture, and some lights have the option of changing the color temperature from cool to warm to suit your shooting style.

As LED lights don’t get hot, you can move the light much closer to your model, allowing you to experiment with lighting intensity.

Check out 8 portrait photography mistakes (and how to avoid them), be sure to look at the best lenses for portrait photography

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Alistair Campbell

Alistair is the Features Editor of Digital Camera magazine, and has worked as a professional photographer and video producer.