A ring light is a handy accessory used by many serious product photographers; it’s a neat little way to give your scenes a much-needed brightness boost, and it can provide soft, beautiful lighting that’ll instantly enhance your photos.
However, picking the right model is no easy task. Ring lights vary in size, power, size, intended use, and more – so it’s important that you consider a handful of factors before buying.
That’s where we come in. We spent over 15 hours testing and researching different products, and below, we share the absolute best ring lights for product photography (including options for all budgets!).
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What Is a Ring Light?
Ring lights are a specialized lighting accessory. Unlike studio strobes and standard speedlights, these lights are circular:
Most ring lights offer both strobe lighting (i.e., the light flashes once) and continuous lighting (i.e., the light stays on constantly). Their main benefit is that they produce soft, even light – that is, light without harsh shadows.
There are two broad varieties:
Studio ring lights are large in diameter and are mounted on light stands or cold shoes.
On-camera ring lights (sometimes referred to as “macro ring lights” or “ring flashes”) mount on the camera hot shoe, and the light itself goes on the front of the lens:
Now, studio ring lights are mostly used by portrait photographers and vloggers, but they can be useful when shooting products (especially if you’re capturing larger items) and will give your subject a nice glow.
On the other hand, on-camera ring lights are used primarily by close-up shooters, including product photographers looking to capture small items (e.g., jewelry). Product photographers mount the light to the front of their closest-focusing lens and use it to softly illuminate earrings, necklaces, toys, and more.
These lights are a great way to add some extra light in both natural and studio situations. Flashes (both on-camera and off-camera) tend to be frustrating in macro product photography because the lens itself often gets in the way at such close distances. But if the light is mounted to the front of the lens, you can bypass this issue and capture well-lit shots.
How to Select the Right Light
When purchasing a ring light, there are four main features to consider:
Do you want a flash that’s durable and made to last? Or would you prefer to go for something cheaper but much more prone to breakage?
The best models are made from high-quality materials, and you can tell as soon as you hold them in your hands. Cheaper products, on the other hand, are almost completely plastic and pretty fragile.
If you’re cautious with your equipment, this may not be a big deal, especially if you’ll be working in the studio. But if you plan to do on-location shooting or you prefer to invest in a product that’ll last many years, it’s worth paying more for something a little more durable.
Strobe Versus Continuous Lighting
Do you want to use your ring light like a flash? Or do you prefer to work in a what-you-see-is-what-you-get manner?
Strobe lights fire each time you press the shutter, whereas continuous lights provide a constant beam of illumination. You can buy either type of ring light, though if you’re a beginner, I’d encourage you to go for a continuous lighting option. It’ll let you see in advance how your subject will be lit, and it’ll make it easy to correctly expose for your subject.
Studio ring lights mostly offer continuous lighting. But some on-camera models offer strobe lighting options, which might be preferable if you’re used to working with speedlights.
Just make sure that your chosen product has your preferred type of lighting. Don’t get stuck with a continuous light if you want a strobe!
Lighting quality depends on two main factors:
Power and color.
First, you want a light that will generate enough power for your needs. If you’re shooting large products from a few feet away, you’re going to need a ring light with a fair bit of punch.
On the other hand, a jewelry photographer who works at a three inches from the product will require a far less powerful light.
You should also look for variable power settings. The best models offer a number of power options so that you can turn the brightness up or down as needed.
And consider the color of the ring light. This does depend on personal preference, but I like a warmer white color or a more neutral white. Colder lights give a starker, less pleasant look.
(Fortunately, some models come with gel-like overlays, which hook to the front of the light and modify the color. And others allow you to set your desired temperature via a dial or button.)
Size and Portability
Close-up photographers should probably stick to on-camera ring lights, so size isn’t a major variable; these accessories mount on the front of your lens, so they’re all pretty similar in diameter. And while products with more robust components will weigh a bit more, portability shouldn’t be much of an issue.
But for more general product photographers – especially those who do outdoor photoshoots – size and portability are huge factors.
First, if you’re going to be shooting through the ring light, you’ll find working with a larger model much easier. On the other hand, if you’ll be doing closer shots, a big 18-inch light might seem unwieldy. It all depends on your needs.
Portability matters, too. You don’t want to buy a well-built but heavy model and struggle when it comes time to transport it for a shoot.
The 9 Best Ring Lights for Product Photography
I’ve divided the top ring lights into two categories. First, I’ll share the best studio ring lights, then I’ll share the best on-camera (i.e., macro) ring lights.
1. IVISII 18-Inch Ring Light
This IVISII light offers a handy carrying case and plenty of settings options (including color temperature adjustments). You even get a remote control to speed up your workflow!
The IVISII 18-Inch is an excellent studio ring light, perfect for vlogging, portraiture, and – most importantly – product photography.
The 18-inch diameter gives you the size you need to capture small and medium products. The IVISII also comes with a hot shoe adapter and phone holder, which allow you to shoot through the light without much hassle.
The ring light features smooth dimming from 100% to 1%. In other words, you can choose practically any brightness setting you need, which is perfect for shoots with changing conditions or simply for achieving a look that you really like.
Plus, the IVISII ring light features adjustable color temperatures; that way, you can work with warm white light (3000K), cool white light (5800K), and anything in between, which is essential if you need to match your ring-light temperature to the temperature of the ambient light.
You also get a neat little remote control, which lets you adjust brightness and color temperature from afar. This will undoubtedly come in handy when capturing photos of larger products or product still lifes (that way, you won’t have to run back and forth between the light and your camera!).
Finally, the IVISII kit includes a handy carrying case, which makes it one of the most portable studio ring light options around.
2. Neewer 18-Inch SMD LED Ring Light
This Neewer light is reasonably priced and offers everything you need to get started.
The Neewer 18-Inch SMD LED ring light is one of my absolute favorite studio options out there, and here’s why:
First, the ring is a great size, perfect for lighting small and medium-sized products.
Second, the Neewer model offers a suite of options for flexible shooting. The normal color temperature is 5500K, but an orange filter (effectively an orange flash gel) allows you to easily warm up the temperature, while a white filter lets you produce diffused, soft light.
And the ring light features a huge brightness range; this ensures easy shooting in all kinds of conditions.
The stand is a nice bonus, which extends to an impressive 78 inches. It also includes a hot-shoe adapter and a phone holder, which allows you to position your camera or your phone within the ring itself to shoot the subject directly.
While the IVISII option (above) offers the convenience of a wireless remote, the Neewer comes at a better price – so if you’re on a budget but still require a quality product, it’s a great pick.
3. Inkeltech 18-Inch LED Ring Light
This Inkeltech model is highly portable thanks to an included carry case and light stand.
If you’re looking for a slightly fancier model and have more money to spend, this 18-inch Inkeltech ring light is perfect for your needs.
Like the Neewer and IVISII options, the Inkeltech sports an 18-inch diameter, which is great for bigger products and through-the-ring shooting. And the phone holder and hot-shoe adapter make it extra easy to hook your phone or camera to the light stand.
The Inkeltech ring light is 0% to 100% dimmable, which means that you can quickly change the light output depending on your situation. And the light stand and carrying case are nice accessories that make the light flexible and highly portable.
But here’s where the Inkeltech really shines:
First, it doesn’t come with color filters. Like the IVISII model featured above, you can manually choose a lighting temperature (between 3000K and 6000K).
And second, the Inkeltech comes with a remote that allows you to change your settings on the fly. It’s a major timesaver, and once you start working with a remote, you’ll never want to stop.
4. Pixel 19-Inch Ring Light
Pixel’s 19-inch ring light is the biggest on this list, and it sports plenty of fancy features for the serious product shooter.
The Pixel 19-Inch ring light is plenty expensive. It also has the most impressive features, plus it offers a 19-inch diameter. If you’re a beginner or even an experienced shooter looking to capture larger products, it’s a good pick.
The Pixel comes with a stand, a smartphone holder, and a cold-shoe camera adapter for hassle-free shooting with all of your devices. It also allows you to adjust power from 1% to 100%, and you can change the temperature from 3000K to 5800K with the press of a button. The soft carrying case is a nice bonus for enhanced portability.
The Pixel includes an LCD on the ring light body. With it, you can view the brightness and the temperature so you can keep your color and brightness consistent across shoots. Conveniently, it also includes a remote control with an LCD; you can use it to change your settings on the fly (even while in the middle of a shoot).
Bottom line: This Pixel model is one of the most flexible options on the market, though its capabilities are reflected in the steep price.
5. Bolt VM-160 LED Macro Ring Light
The Bolt offers good-quality on-camera ring lighting for a reasonable price.
The Bolt VM-160 is the best macro ring light for product photography. While there are fancier options (see several of the choices below!), the Bolt succeeds where it’s most needed:
In offering nice, consistent lighting for detailed macro product photography.
The Bolt VM-160 mounts easily to your camera’s hot shoe and to the front of your lens. It comes with a series of adapters that screw into the lens threads: 49mm, 52mm, 55mm, 58mm, 62mm, 67mm, 72mm, and 77mm. That way, you can use the light on all your product lenses without needing to buy any additional kit (or worse, additional lights!). And while the build quality isn’t stellar (the unit is almost entirely plastic), the light gets the job done.
As for performance:
The Bolt VM-160 is powerful enough for most close-up applications, including jewelry and toy photography. And you’ll appreciate the variable brightness options, which allow you to change the power to suit your situation.
You can shoot with only the right side or left side of the light, and several color filters are included so you can warm up and cool down the light color in moments.
Note that the Bolt VM-160 offers both continuous lighting and flash mode – though the flash lags slightly behind the camera shutter, so it’ll only work with slower shutter speeds.
6. Yongnuo YN-14EX TTL Macro Ring Lite (for Canon)
The Yongnuo ring light may be pricey, but it includes E-TTL metering and excellent build quality for the serious Canon photographer.
The Yongnuo YN-14EX is more expensive than the Bolt for a few reasons, but one stands out:
It comes with an E-TTL mode.
E-TTL modes allow the flash to evaluate the exposure through the lens – and the light will brighten or dim depending on your camera settings and the available light in the scene.
This can be useful in outdoor product photography if you’re working with changing light and don’t have time to repeatedly establish the right flash settings for good exposure. It’s also a great way to get started in the studio if you’re not comfortable setting your flash power manually.
Some photographers prefer to use E-TTL metering for this very reason. Personally, I don’t find E-TTL metering very useful; I’m happy establishing the proper exposure with a bit of trial and error. But if you often work in a fast-paced shooting environment, E-TTL metering can make a big difference.
The Yongnuo YN-14EX comes with four lens adapters (52mm, 58mm, 67mm, and 72mm). Build quality is solid, and the light itself is made from higher quality flash tubes, not LEDs.
The ring light also comes with extensive exposure control; you can alter the power levels to fit your shooting scenario. But note that it’s a strobe light only – you cannot use it for continuous lighting, only flash. So if you need constant lighting, look elsewhere. And make sure that this Yongnuo light is compatible with your camera before buying (it only offers full functionality on Canon devices).
7. Neewer 48 Macro LED Ring Flash
The Neewer 48 is inexpensive, it’s flexible, and it gets the job done. If you’re just testing the waters, it’s a solid pick.
The Neewer 48 Macro ring light is a strong budget option, offering decent lighting at an affordable price.
First, the pros:
This Neewer 48 comes with adapters to fit most lenses: 49mm, 52mm, 55mm, 58mm, 62mm, 67mm, 72mm, and 77mm. It offers several filters for changing the lighting temperature, including blue (9000K), yellow (3000K), and white (5000K).
The Neewer 48 offers several handy lighting modes – including the option to fire the left and right lights independently – but the flash is tough to use. Like the Bolt, it lags, which makes it difficult to work with fast shutter speeds in its flash modes. So if you’re someone who needs a good strobe, you should look at one of the other options on this list.
Also, it is built fairly cheaply: It’s all plastic and feels flimsy. Yet while the Neewer 48 isn’t the best ring light out there, it’ll get the job done for a fantastically low price. If you’re not sure whether product photography is for you, it’s a great starting point.
8. Ploture Ring Light
This Ploture light isn’t exactly flashy (no pun intended!), but it’s decently capable and is a solid budget choice.
The Ploture ring light is another nice budget option. It caters to macro product photographers who aren’t ready to purchase a high-level flash but want to try it out as a lighting option.
No, it’s not going to win any awards for the most versatile light out there. But this Ploture model does offer several useful features.
First, the light comes with eight lens adapters (49mm, 52mm, 55mm, 58mm, 62mm, 67mm, 72mm, and 77mm) as well as three color filters (white, orange, and blue). This lets you mount the light to pretty much every lens you own. And you can use the color filters to give your shots slightly different looks: cold, neutral, and warm.
The Ploture ring light also sports four useful lighting modes. The left-flash mode and the right-flash mode let you shoot with half of the flash. The standard/full-flash mode operates as a normal flash, and the full-light mode works as a continuous light, allowing you to see the light’s effect before you shoot.
Serious photographers should consider grabbing one of the other models on this list – but beginners on a budget will be plenty impressed by what the Ploture ring light has to offer.
9. Meike 14EXT i-TTL Macro Ring Flash (for Nikon)
This Meike ring flash is powerful, well built, and it includes an i-TTL mode. What more could you want?
The Meike 14EXT i-TTL only works as a strobe. However, it’s a high-quality option for experienced product photographers even if it is a little pricey.
First, it boasts a TTL mode, which is useful for beginners and for those hoping to save time while shooting. It’ll let you capture product photos without spending long minutes adjusting exposure settings. You can set your flash to the TTL mode, point it at your subject, and capture a well-exposed image.
Second, the Meike boasts fast recycle times (approximately three seconds), which allow for rapid shooting. The light itself is made of flash tubes so you won’t have to deal with individual LED lights appearing in any reflective surfaces.
The Meike also comes with several flash modes, including a “Lamp A” and “Lamp B” flash, so you can selectively fire one side of the flash ring. And you can easily adjust the flash power with the flash controls.
Along with these advanced features, you’ll also find pretty standard hardware: A control unit that mounts on your camera hot shoe and seven adapter rings so you can work with different lenses.
Note that the Meike 14EXT only functions fully on Nikon cameras. While you should be able to mount the light on Canon cameras, the TTL mode won’t work.
For the more serious photographer willing to pay a premium, this Meike flash may be the way to go.
Pick the Perfect Ring Light for Product Photography!
Hopefully, you now have a good sense of the best ring light for your needs!
If you’re after a solid studio ring light, grab the IVISII 18-Inch, which comes with a remote, a smartphone holder, and more.
As for on-camera ring lights: The Bolt VM-160 is an amazing pick (especially given the price). It comes with several colored filters, a continuous lighting mode as well as a flash mode, and it can be used on pretty much any lens-camera combo.
But if you’re looking for something a bit more advanced – especially if you want to dive into commercial photography – you might go for the Meike 14EXT i-TTL (for Nikon) or the Yongnuo YN-14EX (for Canon). Both offer TTL modes and more sophisticated shooting options.
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