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Are ring lights bad for self-tapes?

Ring lights are pretty cheap options when you compare them with the elaborate three-point lighting setup. But are ring lights bad for self-tapes?

When comparing the result of three-point lighting, ring lights provide the most natural light for the self-tape. However, a ring light is the best choice if you have no room for an elaborate setup. 

Here we will look at why you should use a ring light and the issues you face while using it. 

best ring light for self tapes

Why Use A Ring Light?

Let’s look at the several reasons why you  should use  ring light for self-tapes:

1. Tight Space

As I mentioned earlier if you want to ensure the lighting is perfect for your self-tape auditions, go for the three-light setup plus a backdrop light

Nothing beats this setup. 

However, this does require space in your home. 

As a beginner actor, you are probably living on rent or sharing a rental apartment with a couple of other people. 

In such cases, you don’t have the luxury of taking up a lot of space for your self-tape setup. 

The only option is to use to ring light. 

Build character worksheet

It is easy to set up and provides more natural light than other LED or fluorescent lights. 

DIY No Wire Light

It can light up your face from almost all angles if placed right. 

Budget

When you factor in the money, getting all the self-tape equipment can cost you from $150 to $300 (excluding the camera).

Spending that kind of money is impossible when you have not booked any job and are living off a part-time job. 

But ring lights cost you from $30 to $100 depending on the quality and brand. This is more affordable in the early phase of your life as an actor. 

More Light For Face

Let’s say you own a professional lighting setup, but still, there isn’t enough light on your face. 

You want a light source in front of you where the camera is. 

With any other lighting, you will have to either move the camera or place the light from a different angle which won’t serve the purpose. 

This issue is taken care of by the ring light. 

Due to its design, you can place the camera exactly in the center of the light. This way camera is facing you as well as light coming from the front, providing even lighting to your face. 

Issues With Ring Light

There are several advantages to using ring lights, but there are disadvantages to using just a ring light. 

Reflection 

When you place the ring light exactly in front of you, sometimes the reflection of the light is visible in your eyes or your glasses.  

The reflection can distract the casting agent.

When ring light is the only light source for your self-tape, you will face this issue. 

If you have a camera on a separate tripod, then you can remove the ring light reflection from your eyes or glasses in three ways:

  • You can move the ring light at 45 degrees, but don’t move too much; otherwise, your face will have a shadow on the opposite side. 
  • For more even lighting on both sides, just increase the height of the ring light. But don’t go beyond a foot or show otherwise, your forehead will be white, and your chin will have a shadow. 
  • The third thing you can do is something to bounce the light on your face rather than facing the light directly. You can use a simple foam board or a white chart to bounce the light. 

Limited Frame

When you have a ring light as a source, you cannot keep the light too far away from the face. 

So the shots you can shoot using ring light are limited to close-up or mid-close. 

You will have to buy ring lights of size 18 inches and above to get much wider shots. 

Even with a bigger ring light, you don’t have much room to move around in the frame. 

For most of the auditions, you are not going to move around. You will be either standing or sitting. 

So most of the time, you won’t face this issue. 

Dynamic Lighting

A three-point light setup gives you dynamic lighting, which makes the scene look more real. 

When you just use a ring light, you won’t be able to achieve that dynamic scene. 

All you will have is a visible face. 

But in my experience, this is not a big issue. Not many casting agents focus on that. You are an actor, not a cinematographer. 

Casting agents want to see your face and expressions. I have talked to other actors on auditions, most of them use only a ring light, and they are booking many jobs or getting callbacks. 

This will be only an issue when you are doing a screen test or look test before finalizing the role. However, this will be done by production. You as an actor won’t have to do it alone. 

However, still, there is no harm in providing self-tape with natural and dynamic lighting. This is going to increase the chances of being noticed. 

How Can I Tape Myself Without A Ring Light?

If you consider the ring light is not right for you, you can go for the three-light setup.

It will be enough for any kind of audition. 

Make sure you set the light in such a way that your face receives maximum light. 

Another option you can consider is the use of reflectors. 

I believe when your face doesn’t receive the right amount of light, a reflector can make a huge difference. 

You don’t have to buy a new reflector. You can simply use something like a white foam that can reflect light. 

And while shooting, ask anyone to hold the reflector close to your face. The aim is to bounce the maximum light of the reflector to your face. 

Final Thought

A ring light is the best option if you do not have room or budget for the elaborate three-point lighting. However, make sure you buy the large ring lights.