Ring Light vs. Softbox Light for a Video Studio: Which Is Best?


Ring lights and softbox lights (also known as soft light) are both awesome lighting sources that are useful in different situations. The light you should choose depends on the types of videos you plan to shoot in your studio. 

A softbox light is best for videographers who plan to take more creative videos or want more lighting options. A ring light is best for beauty or hair videos in which you want consistent, even lighting on your face. Softbox lights are more versatile, whereas ring lights are easier to use. 

This article will go over what ring lights and softboxes are and each lighting tool’s pros and cons. Then we will help you choose which lighting option is right for you depending on your video content and lighting needs! 

Ring Lights: A Basic Overview 

Ring lights, also known as the diva ring lighting, are normally rings of LED lights in a plastic casing. The light comes from a circular outer ring with a hole in the middle, like a donut. Ring lights create even lighting that fully illuminates your face. All you have to do is put the ring lights on their mounts directly in front of your subjects for some gorgeous lighting. 

Right lights are generally a widespread inventory in equipment for Youtube lighting. Commonly used as the main light for close up videos.

To learn more about ring lights, check out these two videos posted below by Photo gear. 

In the first clip, a Photogear representative goes over what ring lights are, the situations in which you would use a ring light, and other situations in which they are not ideal. This is helpful if you are unfamiliar with this lighting option and want to get a better idea of whether or not ring lights will be a good option for your studio: 

In the next video, the same representative goes over how to set up a ring light. He demonstrates the best way to position a ring light, including putting it 3 feet (91.4 cm) away from the subject, making it tall enough so that it is at its head height, and putting it on a solid stand so that it won’t move around. He also demonstrates how to adjust the angle of the light for ideal filming: 

Ring Light Construction 

High-quality ring lights have metal frames constructed from lightweight materials, such as aluminum. You shouldn’t buy bulky or heavy ring lights since these will be difficult to take with you if you decide to take videos outside of the studio. Ring lights constructed of cheap materials, such as plastic, should also be avoided since these likely won’t hold up for very long. 

These lights come with either one circular fluorescent light bulb or numerous LED lights inside their metal rings. Fluorescent light bulbs are considered old technology and are not as nice as LED bulbs since they often become overheated and are more likely to break. LEDs are safer, cooler, and more reliable, so they are a better lighting option. 

High-quality ring lights come with dimmers that allow you to adjust the brightness of the light. This will make your life much easier since you won’t have to keep moving the ring light closer or farther away from you to change the brightness!  

Ring lights are often mounted on a stand. However, sometimes they are designed to sit on a tabletop, or they can clip right onto your phone! For professional video studios, ring lights with a stand are typically recommended. However, you should always get the ring light that will work best for you. 

Ring Light Sizes 

Ring lights come in a variety of sizes. The ring is built to fit directly onto a lens or larger to fit an entire camera within its center, allowing the camera to shoot through it. Some common ring light sizes are 9 inches, 12 inches, or 18 inches in diameter, but they can be larger or smaller. 

Larger ring lights may be preferable if you are a studio videographer who plans to take close-ups of models. Similarly, if you want to see the unique ring shape in your subject’s eyes, you’ll need to get a larger ring light for it to show up.

On the other hand, smaller ring lights are more portable, so they can easily take with you from the studio to any off-site shoots. However, they aren’t as powerful as larger ring lights, so they are generally recommended for more casual videos, such as vlogs or YouTube clips. 

Pros of the Ring Light 

Next, we will go over the advantages of using a ring light. 

  • They create consistently and even lighting. Ring lights produce soft lighting that can hide wrinkles and blemishes. This gentle lighting is very flattering and makes people look flawless on camera. Ring lights are perfect for videos where you want uniform lightings on your face, such as beauty or hair tutorials. 
  • They are very affordable. You’ll be able to find a high-quality ring light for around $100. They also sell lower quality ring lights for as little as $12 if you are on a tight budget. 
  • They are straightforward to use and set up. All you have to do is put the ring light on its mount, and you are good to go. These are ideal lights for beginners or for videographers who want a simple lighting option. 
  • Ring lights can be used to create color effects. Switch out the white LEDs or fluorescent bulbs with colored bulbs to get cool colored lighting. This is ideal for videographers who want to film themselves or a subject in a uniquely colored setting. 
  • Many ring lights can cast light downwards towards the ground. If you are an artist who enjoys videoing yourself or others performing crafts, paintings, or inking tattoos, ring lights are a great option for capturing these activities. 

Here is an 18-inch ring light from Neewer that I personally use: an absolute bargain and seriously great value for its price!

Neewer Ring Light Kit:18'/48cm Outer 55W 5500K Dimmable LED Ring Light, Light Stand, Carrying Bag for Camera,Smartphone,YouTube,TikTok,Self-Portrait Shooting, Black, Model:10088612
47,601 Reviews
Neewer Ring Light Kit:18"/48cm Outer 55W 5500K Dimmable LED Ring Light, Light Stand, Carrying Bag for Camera,Smartphone,YouTube,TikTok,Self-Portrait Shooting, Black, Model:10088612
  • Please note: 1. The light stand is packed in a separate box inside the big package box (under the ring light box at the extreme bottom of the box)as shown in the 2nd picture. If you can't find it, please contact seller customer service; 2. Instructions for unfolding the stand are in the 8th picture. The legs are upwards, so please unfold the legs upside down
  • Kit includes: (1)18"/48cm Outer 55W 5500K LED Ring Light+(1)61"/155cm Light Stand+(1)Soft Tube+(1)White and Orange Color Filter Set+(1)Ball Head Hot Shoe Adapter+(1)Universal Power Adapter with Plug+(1)Smart Phone Holder+(1)Carrying Bag for Ring Light
  • Dimmable 18"/48cm Outer 55W 5500K 240 Pieces LED bulbs with a wide dimming range from 1%-100%. Special LED SMD design, lightweight and portable. No ultraviolet and infrared light radiation, low heat output, safety, and environmental protection

Cons of the Ring Light 

Ring lights are great, but they aren’t perfect. Let’s take a look at some of their disadvantages. 

  • Ring lights aren’t versatile. These lights create consistent lighting that isn’t easily manipulated. So, if you are looking for an adaptable lighting source that can provide you with a wide variety of lighting options, this may not be the right light for you. 
  • They create a unique reflection in people’s eyes. This can either go on the pros or cons list, depending on your preferences. Ring lights create a ring in the subject’s eyes that has a somewhat futuristic look to it. Depending on the kind of video you are taking, this may be a desirable quality or something you’d rather do without. 
  • Not ideal for glasses wearers. Ring lights are not suggested for people who wear glasses because they will create a ring-shaped glare on their lenses. While you may like the ring reflection in people’s eyes, you definitely won’t like it on your subject’s lenses since it is incredibly distracting on camera.
  • Ring lights generally aren’t used by themselves. If you are making YouTube videos or hair, makeup, or art tutorials, a ring light may be the only light source you’ll need. However, for most video productions, ring lights are used as an additional tool along with a softbox or another light source since they are only effective at lighting up what’s directly in front of them. 

Want to light your studio on a budget? Read my article here!

Softbox Light: A Basic Overview 

Softboxes (also known as soft lights or box lights) are generally made of translucent boxes containing a light source such as light bulbs. The purpose of softboxes is to provide a directional light source. You can manipulate these boxes to create anything from dramatic lighting to soft lighting and everything in between. Softboxes come in a variety of shapes, which create different light effects. 

Softboxes or box lights are generally essential items in lighting equipment for YouTube content creators. They’re really inexpensive and can fold away quite easily.

Softbox lights are also normally used in conjunction with natural light within your lighting setup, as it creates a contrast. Softbox lights and natural light are often used together in a typical lighting setup called the standard 3 point lighting setup.

The standard 3 point lighting setup consists of different light types: the key light, the backlight, and the fill light.


The key light is the primary source of light at the scene and produces harsh light. This light often requires artificial light.
The backlight separates the subject from the background and shines from behind the subject.
The fill light cancels the key light’s harsh shadows but produces less light output than the key light. It is often that natural light is used as a fill light, e.g., window light.

If you’d like to learn more about softboxes and the best softboxes for video studios, check out this YouTube clip by Justin Browne from Primal Video. In this short video, he goes over the most important features you should consider before purchasing a softbox light, such as its power and globes. He also goes over how to position your softbox for the best results: 

Softbox Light Construction

Softboxes are wire boxes that are covered with translucent cloth. The interior cloth is typically white or silver-colored. White is a great option because it makes the light soft and makes your subject’s skin look nice.

Silver is also a good choice if you want a little more “oomph” to your videos since it makes your subject’s eyes bright and allows you to see details on their skin. The exterior cloth is always black since this color prevents light from spilling out of the box. 

Inside the box is the light source, which is usually fluorescent light bulbs or LED lights. The lights are covered with a panel, which is made of diffusion material that softens them. This panel is usually removable so that you can adjust the severity of the light. This panel can be replaced with color filters.

Softbox Shapes 

While Softboxes are typically rectangular or square, they can also be strips or octagonal. Below we will go over the advantages of each shape in detail. 

  • Rectangular: This is the most common softbox shape. It is also the most versatile since it can be used for several cinematic or photographic purposes, including portraits, capturing products, fashion, and more. The rectangular shape of these boxes was designed to mimic the lighting you’d receive from a window. If you use a rectangular softbox, you’ll see a square window-like reflection in your subjects’ eyes. 
  • Square: Square softboxes are also very popular. These are more concentrated than rectangular softboxes, making them ideal for smaller spaces. 
  • Strip: Strip softboxes are long skinny rectangles that are shaped like a stick of gum. They are often used as hair lights, meaning they only light up the subject’s hair, or as rim lights, which means they create a halo effect around the subject’s body. 
  • Octagonal: This shape creates a natural look that is ideal for portraits or videos focused on people. The rounded shape creates circular reflections in the subject’s eyes. This is desirable since it looks like the light is coming from a natural source, such as the sun. 
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Softbox Light Sizes 

Softboxes come in a variety of sizes. The smallest is about the size of a soccer ball, and the largest can be as big as a wall. Smaller softboxes create more severe lighting and less harsh shadows. 

Larger softboxes lighting is more diffuse, creating a soft, natural-looking light. It is generally recommended that you purchase a small, medium, and large-sized softbox so that you’ll be able to create any lighting effect you desire. 

Here is a 32-inch Octagon Softbox from Neewer that I have used in the past – it works really well and pretty good value for money.

Neewer 32 inches /80 centimeters Octagon Softbox Octagonal Speedlite, Studio Flash, Speedlight Umbrella Softbox with Carrying Bag for Portrait or Product Photography.
1,612 Reviews
Neewer 32 inches /80 centimeters Octagon Softbox Octagonal Speedlite, Studio Flash, Speedlight Umbrella Softbox with Carrying Bag for Portrait or Product Photography.
  • The light diffusion surface diameter is 32"/80cm, with wide range of applications, suitable for portrait or product photography.
  • It is a soft box when being spread and like an umbrella when being folded, easy to use.
  • The umbrella body made of high-density nylon material, high reflective.

Pros of Softbox Lights

In this section, we will go over the advantages of softboxes. 

  • Softboxes’ position can be manipulated to create the desired lighting effects. Whether you want lighting on the side of your subjects’ faces, directly in front of them, high above them, or down below them, softboxes have you covered. Softboxes can be positioned in any number of ways, so you’ll always be able to get the type of lighting you are after. 
  • They can create soft or dramatic light. Softboxes can produce light that is edgy and dramatic, soft and gentle, and everything in between. Adjust the distance between the softbox and the subject or modify the diffusion panel to change the lighting’s severity. 
  • There is a nice transition between light and shadow. Softboxes are great because they allow photographers to capture both light and shadows with a pleasant transition between the two. This creates a natural yet dramatic look that ring lights can not achieve. The softboxes can create less harsh shadows and less harsh light.
  • They can be used for several styles of photography and videography. If you create a wide variety of videos, you’ll definitely want to invest in a softbox. Their adaptability allows you to use them for pretty much any video shoot, including fashion, product reviews, storytelling, food, and any other video category you can think of.
  • Softboxes can light up several people at once. Depending on the size of your softbox, you may be able to light up one, two, three, or a whole group of people! This is a wonderful feature if you plan to film multiple people at one time. 
  • Light bulbs are easily replaceable. The advantage a softbox has over a ring light is that you can easily replace the lightbulb without replacing the whole set up, whereas, with some ring lights, it might be difficult to replace the LEDs.

Cons of Softbox Lights

While softboxes are amazing, they do have a few disadvantages. We will go over these potential cons below. 

  • Softboxes are harder to set up than ring lights. The construction of softboxes is more complex than ring lights since they have more parts. Once they are all put together, they are more difficult to position to get the desired lighting effect. Therefore, they require more steps to set up than ring lights do.   
  • They are typically more expensive than ring lights. Softboxes range in price from around $50 to $1000 (or more) depending on their size and quality. Often, the light stand and other lighting accessories are sold separately, so you’ll have to spend some extra cash to purchase these additional items. 

Check out how softboxes compare with reflectors here!

Which One Should You Choose? 

Ring lights and softboxes are great lighting options depending on the types of videos you plan to shoot.

If you want an easy tool for close-up videos of subjects, ring lights are a great option. They are ideal for beauty or hair tutorials because of their ability to hide wrinkles and blemishes.

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Ring lights are also a popular option for vloggers because they are an affordable lighting option that provides professional quality lighting. Additionally, if you are an artist or plan to film artists, these can be a handy lighting tool because of their ability to bend downwards. 

However, If you want to make more creative videos or desire a more adaptable lighting source, softboxes are the way to go. While it takes more time to set them up, they are way more versatile than ring lights, so they are worth the extra effort.

You’ll be able to use them in any number of situations to capture a wide range of content. No matter your artistic style or subject matter, the softbox will be able to provide you with the perfect lighting.

Although softboxes cost more, their adaptability makes them worth the money. So if you plan to do anything other than beauty, hair, or art videos, softboxes are likely the better option. However, if you are a Youtuber or vlogger who only plans to capture tutorials, then ring lights may be an easy and affordable lighting solution for your studio. 

If you want to find out more about setting up a cheap and easy YouTube studio, find out in our QUICK GUIDE here!

Conclusion

Ring lights and softboxes are both great lighting tools that can be used in different situations. If you plan to mainly film vlogs, YouTube videos, makeup and beauty tutorials, ring lights are a great option. They are easy to set up and provide you with consistently beautiful lighting. 

Softboxes, on the other hand, are more difficult to set up and are generally more expensive. However, they are incredibly versatile and can create more lighting effects. If you plan to do anything other than the video categories listed above, a softbox may be the better choice. The ring light unmatches Their adaptability.

Our opinion is that softboxes are probably your number one choice if you want the best lighting equipment for YouTube or other videos. If budget is not too much of an issue, they can both be present in your lighting kit.

Hopefully, this guide has helped you to pick out the ideal lighting for your video studio.

Find out more in my article about how to professionally light up your video studio here!

Sources

Last update on 2021-10-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Vinnie

I'm Vinnie, and I'm here to support you to create your own studio at home, whether it’s for photography, recording audio, podcasts, or videos!

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