LAST UPDATED: January 2, 2019
I’ll come clean: I didn’t know anything about ring lights until professional barber/hairperson Kylie Belachaikovsky schooled me on them. She is a frequent visitor to our site, and she shared with me her trials and tribulations as she shopped for a ring light years ago when she was trying to build her business using vibrant Instagram photos. She begged me to write about the best ring lights. I told her I knew nothing about them. Consequently, we sat down one afternoon, and she told me all about them and discussed the pros and cons of the best options out there.
Below are the results of her years of experience…as filtered through the brain of a Neanderthal (me.)
What Are Ring Lights Anyway?
If you want to make totally awesome videos or take rad pictures like a pro, you need to have good illumination. Today’s photo studios are making use of the best ring lights. They are all the rage these days because they highlight the windows into your soul (the eyes), minimize shadows, and offer even, radial illumination that conceals skin imperfections. This makes these devices ideal for close-ups and portrait photography, like when you want to show off the gorgeous new hair color job you just spent four hours on.
What to Look for when Shopping
Before we get to the ring light reviews, you gotta know what to look for. In Kylie’s experience, you get what you pay for when it comes to ring lights. So, what sets an amazing light apart from the just okay ones?
You don’t need me to mansplain that different ring lights have different lighting options. You get maximum functionality with the best models. For instance, the majority of ring lights allow you to take pictures in low light conditions and to adjust the light output. Others even allow you to adjust the color temperature.
LED versus Fluorescent Lamps
The two main types of ring light lamps are LED and fluorescent. We can’t give you a blanket answer for which is better. They both have their pluses and minuses. LED lamps supply a minor pink shade, while fluorescent lamps are on the green side. Plus, fluorescent lamps emit diffused light, but the LED lamps are more directional. When it comes to durability, nothing beats LEDs. So, you should choose an LED ring light if you plan on traveling to different places to take photos.
Extras and Size
We suggest checking out what accessories each model comes with to ensure you are getting everything you need. For example, some lights come with a stand. If you need a stand, be sure to check if the light comes with one. If not, you can buy them separately. I recommend the CowboyStudio Aluminum Adjustable Light Stand. Size also matters. You need a small diameter ring light for phones if you are going to do some macro shooting.
Now that you have an idea of what to look for, here are the best ring lights according to the pros:
- Dims to 20 percent of full power
- Comes with a 5400K bulb that is just like daylight
- You basically get everything you need, including a mounting bracket for your camera
If you don’t know about Diva, you’d better ask somebody. Since we’re here, we’ll answer the questions you may have. Specifically, Diva is at the top of just about all lists of the best ring lights, and the Super Nova is the standard by which all other lights are measured. It is ideal for videographers and photographers who want to bring out the best features in their subjects. One of the coolest things about this ring light is how it makes eyes look like they are sparkling.
- Dimmable from 1 to 100 percent of full power
- Made up of 240 LEDs that produce 5500K daytime light
- 180-day warranty
This Neewer model is our pick for the best ring light under $100. We like it because it’s easy to take with you wherever you go. For instance, if you are visiting New York City, you can just pack it into the travel bag it comes with. If you happen to run into a big celebrity, like Mike Birbiglia, you can just set it up quickly and have a professional looking photograph taken with him. There are countless buyer reviews from salon owners and makeup artists who found this light really made their work pop.
- The High Roller Pick
- 640 individual lights (don’t worry about replacing them all: they last for up to 100,000 hours of nonstop use)
- Comes with tripod mount, light stand mount, and diffusion cloth
If you have $300 to spend on a ring light, buy the Nebula right now. Click the link above and do it. It is the best you can buy. You can probably even make your money back after a couple of days of charging people $5 a pop to take selfies with it.
- Small, 12-inch ring light that is perfect for shooting little people
- Shooting, as in, taking photographs
- We love little people and are very much against bang bang shooting them
- Comes with tripod adjustable from 50 to 86 inches
True to their name, you could conceivably take this light ring with you in a limo and have a little photo studio at your fingertips. The LimoStudio LED Ring Light is ready to use within a few minutes of extracting it from its packaging. It isn’t ranked higher because its durability is questionable and most salons will probably want a larger ring light.
- 240 LEDs, 5500K light, and dimmable from 1 to 100 percent
- Easy to use in your salon or while out on the town
- 5’ aluminum alloy stand
The Neewer Ring Light Camera Photo Video Lighting Kit is ranked so high because of its versatility. It does not take up much space in your shop, and it is easy to take with you on the go. You can get the perfect shot by adjusting the angle, twist, and height. And, you don’t have to use a tripod with it thanks to the built-in camera mount. The only downside is that the materials seem a bit flimsy (they’re made in China), so the Neewer ring light may not last long enough for your grandchildren to pass it on to their grandchildren.
- Best option if you only have $60 and absolutely must have a full-size ring light
- 5500K dimmable light
- You’re gonna need to buy a tripod separately
Just because something is made in China, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is low quality. In fact, many of the high quality products available in the United States are made in China. They just cost more. AW managed to strike a good balance between affordability and functionality.
- Comes with stands for the ring light and your smartphone
- Most affordable option on our list
- 3 light colors and 10 levels of brightness to choose from
The Self Right Light by UBeesize has more than 800 positive reviews on Amazon. At less than $20, it is the most affordable ring light on our list by far. However, it is also the smallest at about 3.6″. Buyers note that it fits iPhones and Android devices and the light can double as a desk lamp.
- Comes with fancy stand that adjusts from 35.4″ to 78.7″
- Orange and white color filters to enhance or detract from skin tones
- 240-LED ring light
The Neewer Upgraded 18″ Outer Dimmable SMD LED Ring Light is quite a bit like our #2 pick. The main difference is that you are spending about $50 more for a nice tripod. If a high-quality tripod is important to you, go with this kit. Otherwise, you can find less expensive options to go with #2.
- 5500K lighting
- Four-piece white color filters
- Comes with a bag that you can use for carrying candy
We know nothing about AW other than they get their materials from China, and they also run a fast food chain that caters to people who never leave their car. This is a giant, barebones ring light for phones and cameras. Unfortunately, it does not come with a stand.
- Comes with orange and white filters, phone holder, ball head, stand, and bag
- 5500K illumination
- Service life of more than 50,000 hours
The Eachshot 240-LED Ring Light Kit is a good, affordable basic kit that comes with just about everything you need to get started taking vibrant photos. Buyers found the ring light works exceptionally. They appreciated the dimming feature. However, there were some complaints about the stand being flimsy.
I hope you like our ring light reviews. If you have questions or comments, please leave them below.