ring light, ring bright.

The ring light look has been a staple of fashion photography for years. It produces perfect catchlights as well as a very clean, shadowless look. Which isn't something I thought I'd like to be honest, since I pretty much live for the shadows and the contrast between light and darkness. Yeah... I'm a bit of a drama queen when it comes to studio lighting ;-)

But with the fairly recent release of a couple of kinda inexpensive ring light solutions for speedlights, I decided to take the plunge. And I'm happy I did.

I chose the Orbis over the Ray Flash for one reason only: the Orbis is universal while the Ray Flash needs to be tailored to a particular flash AND camera model. Since I have both SB-800s and SB-900s I wanted to be able to use whatever I had on-hand. I also figured it would be a more future-proof solution. Both units work along the same principle, slipping over your speedlight and projecting its strobe burst around a ring-like chamber creating the uh... ring light effect. Although the manual suggests using at least 400 ISO it doesn't eat up that much power. I did find it a little snug with an SB-900 and have been using it mostly with my 800s.

It's surprisingly effective both as main or fill light. Here are a few examples from a recent studio session (notice the catchlights):

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I'm not crazy about the last one, his shoulders are way too high. But it shows the type of light that's possible. In all these cases the Orbis is being used as main light. In fact it's the only light...

How about fill? On this next one I was using a 42' Softlighter II as main light but the black dog was, well... pretty black. The Orbis gave it a bit of shine and also rounded the shadows on the kids:

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The only drawback with the Orbis is its need to be handheld (unlike the Ray Flash). It does take some getting used to especially with kids and dogs runnning around the studio ;-) The makers say they are working on a universal adapter that will allow attachement to any SLR body, which will be a welcome addition. But while handholding can be unwieldy, it also opens up possibilities: moving around transforms it into a pretty interesting light shaper. You still get the ring flash quality but now you can re-introduce shadows by changing its direction. Here's what I mean (I was holding the flash over her head at camera left):

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So is it worth $249.00 (canadian)? To me it is. It opens up possibilities and gets creative juices flowing. That's a pretty good mix in my book.

Here's one last picture - can you spot the Orbis in the binoculars?

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