Ring Lights vs. Softboxes: What is the Difference?

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Ring Lights vs. Softboxes: What is the Difference?

7 Minute Read

Creating different photography lighting setups is possible with the right equipment. But to know how to create these beautiful lighting effects, you first need to know your lighting equipment well. Both equipment will help create dramatic lighting effects that enhance your imagery, but – they are different in their own ways. And that’s exactly what we will be talking about today – the lighting differences of both ring lights and softboxes, their pros and cons, and the light quality they deliver.

 

Light Direction


Both ring lights and softboxes deliver different light results. Ring lights are a circle of light that creates even, soft lighting without any shadows. Ring lights are placed in front of the subject, and they form catchlights in the subject’s eyes. While this may be the most common way of using ring lights, you are free to use them in different parts of the frame to create diverse light effects.

 

On the other hand, softboxes come in different shapes and sizes and deliver soft, directional light. In addition, softboxes give you creative freedom. Try placing them at a beam angle anywhere near the camera or subject to add a subtle, soft glow in the frame. Depending on the placement of the softbox, you can also create a bold, dramatic lighting effect.

 

Application


Ring lights are perfect when you have to capture a single subject up and close. That's why you’ll notice ring lights being used in YouTube tutorials, vlogging, flat lays, makeup videos, and beauty salons. So when you require a simple, bright, and less dramatic lighting setup, opt for a ring light. The 18” Diamond Luxe III Ring Light  from Spectrum is an excellent pick if you’re looking to invest.

 

Softboxes are well-suited for portraiture photography and can be used when capturing more than one subject. Also, softboxes will help add a dash of drama and scope for customisation, making them apt for creative and storytelling videos. You can also look for a collapsible softbox, like the 120cm Deep Parabolic Softbox from Spectrum.

 

Cost


Both products come in a reasonable price range. You’ll find a good quality ring light for anything between $50-$200. You can also opt for the kits, which offer more value for money and include ring lights and a triple phone mount.

 

One softbox would cost you roughly $50-100, and if you choose to invest in a kit, it will go up to $100-300 per kit. Some high-end softboxes can even go up to $1000. So investing in a kit makes sense, as you get a bundle of essential equipment along with the softbox. Spectrum offers kits for both ring lights and softboxes!

 

For those who are just starting out, you can opt for the primary, budget-friendly options. Then, as you scale up your craft, you can invest in more expensive equipment that offers better features. For example, you can check out our range of ring lights and softboxes and pick one that suits your requirements best.

 

Other Features (Duration & Operation Time)


Ring lights are compact, sleek, and can be carried along anywhere. They also come with more battery-powered options. The Spectrum Aurora delivers a CRI of 95+ and comes with a 12-month warranty. Along with bi-coloured options, you also have different size options (13”, 19”, and 20”). Spectrum Ring Light Kits, include all standard accessories and have an approximate lifespan of 80,000 hours.

 

Softboxes work slightly differently, as they can be set to varying levels of brightness. A typical softbox with a low-level setting and a 3000mAH battery can work well for 5 hours. At maximum brightness, the same softbox with a 3000mAH battery would last for around 90 minutes. Our  softboxes come with a 12-month warranty.

 

Pros & Cons


Ring lights give you excellent control over harsh shadows and are perfect for lighting up the subject in a subtle way. They also light up your subject’s eyes, adding depth to the imagery. That’s why a 13" Mini Pearl III Ring Light is ideal for beauty vlogging.  Lightweight and versatile, ring lights have a simple setup and are portable, too. And yes, they’re inexpensive, which means they are perfect for beginners.

 

Ring lights come with their own set of cons, too – the first being restricted application. Ring lights are a good option only for close-up photography and videos as the light can get overbearing on the eyes and may make you uncomfortable.

 

On the other hand, softboxes flood your studio with natural light, making them apt for portrait or product photography. A perfect example is the Spectrum Pro Collapsible Softball Lantern Softbox with an 80cm size. You can control the intensity of light as per shooting requirements too. Softboxes are mostly opted for by professionals, thanks to the scope of creativity they offer. They also work well with other types of lights.

 

As exceptional as this piece of equipment is, it comes with downsides of its own too. Softboxes typically require a lot of space and are not easily portable. In addition, they require technical know-how to use them well, which means beginners won’t make the most of them. After a while, when you get the hang of different soft lighting setups and equipment, you can always consider investing in a softbox. Alternatively, gain the best of both worlds with a product like the Spectrum Blogger & Vlogger 13" Ring Light & Softbox Kit that features both a ring light and pair of softboxes for the ultimate kit.

 

Summing Up

Both ring lights and softboxes bring in their own set of pros and cons. While one is cost-effective, beginner-friendly, and delivers bright, focused light, the latter is more professional-oriented, flexible, and offers more scope for creativity. Considering the features each of them provide and their diverse applications, you can choose one that fits well with the genre of photography or videography you pursue.