LED Ring Light


[Jani] built his own photography ring light based on automotive LED rings. The rings he used are meant to encircle headlights on a car and are available at a low cost. The assembly is built around a filter that attaches to his camera lens. Two rings of LEDs are then glued to a case made from the plastic of a CD-R container. To diffuse the light, he sanded both sides of the clear plastic housing to make it translucent.

LED rings operate on DC power and unlike a ring flash, they provide constant light to help set up your shot. His finished project is well-built and should come in between $10-20.

30 thoughts on “LED Ring Light

  1. Creative use of CD box, very nice project, spectacular results (I hate making macro shots for the very reason I either get grainy dark crap or overexposed blob from the flash).
    I give it 3 strawberries.

  2. All my attempts to use white LED’s to assist photography so far led to horrible results because of poor colour balance. I tried Picasa, SilkyPix and something else.. Nothing seems to be able to balance a LED-lit image satisfactory. I wonder what could be the trick? Probably don’t mix LED lighting with other types?

  3. @svofski: IIRC LEDs are usually a bit lacking in the red spectrum. I’ve read about people who spend a lot of time in the woods with LED lights have modded them to include a red LED to help make things look less flat. I don’t know if that could be useful for photography but I guess it wouldn’t hurt to give it a shot.

  4. I’d really like to know how much light this produces. By this I mean at a distance of 3 ft what is your shutter speed if an fstop of 5.6 and an iso of 200 is used? Even an estimate from the author would be fine. I just don’t want to build this to find it’s so underpowered that it’s not useful for my uses.

  5. @svofski

    Does your camera have a custom whitepoint setting?

    Set the custom whitepoint using the light ring and a sheet of matte photo paper. If the spectrum on the white LEDs fall within its correction range, you shouldn’t have to mess with color correction in Photoshop ever again.

    I use the same technique for taking product photos under 850 fluorescent t8s. It provided a far better match than the three fluorescent whitepoint correction presets that came with the camera.

    Basic rule of thumb for artificial lighting casts, incandescent = yellow, standard fluorescent cool white = green, xenon flash = blue. The white LEDs I was using a couple of years ago for a highlite effect were bluish, but newer ones might have a better spectrum.

  6. @sean: I have a EOS 400D. I normally ignore camera offering, take RAW and then process whatever I find worthy processing in SilkyPix: this is slow but I don’t take many pictures and I like carefully balanced results. Usually I’m able to balance stuff carefully with all combinations of lights: natural, fluorescent, incandescent. But not LED’s.. Maybe I’ll try more some day.

  7. Wow, great hack together of existing supplies and hardware! I think the demonstration photos prove the usefulness of this tool. While the fiber optic flash rings HAD has featured before give smoother light, this is a much simpler solution.

  8. The reason for the poor color balance is because most white LEDs output a spectrum with a peak at blue, and a peak at yellow. Blue+Yellow=white, but red and green end up sorely lacking and poorly-lit by standard white LEDs.

    Better solution: use RGB LEDs and light up all 3 elements to make white.

  9. tyco, it totally depends what you are photographing. If you are photographing a painting made of red paint, green paint, blue paint and mixtures of these to get all the other colors then the RGB LEDs will work great. If the painting uses magenta, cyan, yellow, and mixtures of these to get all the other colors then RGB LEDs will only show a black image. In reality most materials have a great mixture of pigments so all LEDs look ok, but there are certainly corner cases that will always look bad with all LEDs. I’ve actually seen art that takes advantage of the narrow frequency of the LED and controlled pigments. The moving lights created a very unusual optical illusion.

  10. If you can afford a 40D camera you can afford one of the cheap ring lights available.

    Granted the 40D is a cheap junk compared to the 5D or 1Ds but it’s 3X the price of the digital rebel that takes just as good of photos. (Hint, the camera is 10% of the photo, the lens is 90% of it)

    I find it odd that some rich guy would waste a ton of time to make a ring light instead of buying one off ebay for $60.00 that is better built and does not waste a couple of hours screwing around.

    Honestly, it’s a neat idea, but by the time you chase down all the crap, you might as well buy something already done that is better and does not look home made. Now make that ring light from 10 3W cree lamps so I can do some really cool longer distance stuff and you got a very cool hack!

  11. @fartface
    because its bloody good fun :)
    my one cranks at 9W so 30W would be impressive (and would have some rather interesting heat issues)when you build please post pics
    i do like jani’s light since it used components for a purpose other than what they were originally designed, a classic “hack”

  12. Who cares about proper verbage, or translucent vs.opaque. If you can buy a decent camera, you can purchase a ‘ready-made’ ring light. The point is, as it is with everything else, he learned something valuble in the process, and that alone makes it worth-while.

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