This weekend I dove into a DIY project with the help of my partner in crime, Max McDonald from mondayshift. After reading David Tejada’s excellent (not to mention affordable) ring flash tutorial, I decided it would be the perfect project for someone like me (i.e., someone completely inept at anything remotely resembling handyman-dedness).

After raiding Home Depot for supplies, Max and I set to work. It was an arduous task requiring literally minutes of physical and mental labor. Following Tejada’s tutorial to the T (give or take skipping the last eight steps), we were able to create a crude flash adapter referred to in certain photographic circles as a “ring flash.” Or just a ring flash without the quotes.

Ring Flash Set Up

Being incredibly impatient, cheap, and rather lazy, we opted to modify Tejada’s design by not mounting the flash directly to the camera. This provides two advantages, the first being that we can mount the unit to a tripod, the second being that we don’t have to locate all that mounting stuff. This also allowed us to connect the flash using a simple sync cord. It also provides one disadvantage: portability/adaptability. Foregoing the use of mounting equipment, we opted to use a magic arm to attach the flash to the unit. Since the unit can’t be handheld, it takes a lot of adjusting whenever the shooting situation changes.

An early test with the ring flash yielded pretty even lighting, though it would have looked better on someone with better skin

The results were pretty mixed after a lot of trial and error. Using Max’s rig with his 135mm yielded better results, due mostly to the length of the lens combined with the lens hood (which cut down on the reflections from inside the ring flash barrel (coming back from the white background and especially the backlight when we chose to use one). Unfortunately, my 85mm (which doesn’t have a lens hood) was much more susceptible to the in-barrel reflections. To combat that issue, we painted the inside of the barrel with the darkest color we had as a temporary fix (like I said, impatient and lazy). This cut down on the reflections quite a bit and yielded some better results.

Of course, we couldn’t have done any of this (or at least a little of this) without the help of our willing model, JR “The Man With the Face.”

Below are a few early shots, but I’ll have more to post from the shoot later in the week.

JR, the Thinking Man’s Thinking Man

Cut Out That Racquet

Cut Out That Racquet

 

UPDATE!

Portability was really one of the key problems I ran into with my production of the ring flash, mainly because I didn’t follow David’s original instructions to the letter, which included attaching the flash and adapter to the camera using a bracket (mainly ’cause I’m lazy).

Max had the novel idea of modifying one of my Stroboframe flash brackets to fulfill that purpose and get us mobile. The whole tripod and magic arm arrangement was pretty much a pain in the ass to adjust whenever the subject moved.

Stroboframe Bracket with DIY Ring Flash

Stroboframe Bracket with DIY Ring Flash

So here’s the semi-finished product now with the flash and adapter mounted to the camera using a Stroboframe bracket. This seems to work pretty well and gives us quite a bit more ease-of-use, though it could still stand for some tweaking. With the number of screw holes at the bottom of the bracket, I suppose it would still allow for tripod mounting without removing it from the camera, which is good news.