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A few weeks ago I was prepping for a trip to Halifax to do a fairly big shoot for a makeup artist down there. We were planning a 3 day shoot with many many different looks. I knew I wanted to do a pretty wide array of lighting set-ups and so I needed to borrow a few pieces of gear.  I wanted to try a ringflash and see if perhaps I could put it to good use in Halifax. So the week before I headed down I borrowed the flash and called Jessica for a test shoot. Jessica has quickly become one of favourite models to work with. She makes my job much easier by moving extremely well, with little to no direction. So I put up the red backdrop and we set to testing the Alien Bee Ringflash with the various accessories that are available for it.

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I started off by using the 56″ moon unit on about a 45 degree and a background light behind her with a snoot to give the circular light.  The thing I will say about the ring flash, and all the accessories, is that they are cheap and plastic. But for the money you pay for them, they should be. The 56″ moon unit is $60US (plastic speed-ring and all), and the ring flash itself is only $400. But yes sometimes you may feel like you could crush it in your hand.

taken with the 56" moon unit ~ click to enlarge

56" moon unit with no background light ~ click to enlarge

I absolutely love the light from a ringflash with just the diffuser. When taken from a little further away it gives a nice even light throughout (shown in the image below). Because of the harshness of the light, skin tones & structure are very nicely defined. It gives a very light halo around the subject which I really like. It wouldn’t necessarily be something I would use all the time, but a nice light to have.

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The black edge in the corner of the next image is actually the inside of the ring flash. I like the look it gives sometimes, but again not something that could be used regularly. I did this for a few shots in Halifax but backed up the lens a bit more so the inside circle was framing my subject.  This image is shot with the 20 degree grid over the diffuser, which exagerates the halo and concentrates the light quite a bit more. Because she was a bit further from the backdrop, the halo is greater and the background is darker.

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This next image shows the beautiful donut shaped catchlight when shot from very close. It is shot with just the diffuser and the reflector. It gives great definition to the jawline and the cheekbones.

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The following image was taken the same way as above except that my camera was away from the light. All the other shots that were taken (without the moon unit) had the camera placed through the hole in the middle of the ring flash. I only wanted to test the ring flash as a solitary light, with minimal to no fill light as well.

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The remainder of the images, taken with the yellow jacket, were all taken with the lens through the flash and the grid over the diffuser.

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This, I think, is my favourite light from the ring flash. I absolutely love the halo and the vignetting that the grid emphasizes (no photoshop enhancement was done to the vignette or the halo). The grid is $60US & at that price I think it would be a must add-on (for me anyway).

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All in all I really enjoyed working with this light. I brought it to Halifax and used it for quite a few of the shoots. While I used it in a few different ways than I did for this shoot, I still love the light it gives on it’s own. Also the diversity of light you can get from the various accessories.

Jessica was an absolute pleasure to work with and I’m very happy she brought that yellow jacket. It popped so well off the red.

Yes the flash is cheaply made (not kidding, virtually every part is plastic), but for $520US (plus shipping and duty of course) you can get the ring flash, diffuser, reflector, 20 degree grid and a 56″ moon unit. Which is a lot of different types of light combinations for that price. Not only useful as a main light but as a fill as well with a reasonable 320w/s power. It’s not the type of light that everyone will like, but it definitely has it’s own look.

Makeup by: Nicola Jefferis

Hair by: Francine Benoit

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