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Photography

How to use your monitor or TV as a ring light

Use a TV or monitor to get a cool halolike ring light effect for your photography.

Now Playing: Watch this: Make your own ring light for portraits
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Using a ring light or ring flash helps to produce nice, even light across your subject's face. It is an ideal tool for portraiture or close-up work because there are no shadows cast from the light.

However, a traditional ring light or ring flash can be an expensive tool. Here is how you can create a similar effect with tools you hopefully already own.

What you need:

  • A camera with manual exposure controls
  • A tripod
  • A large-screen TV or computer monitor that can display a static image
ring.jpg
Lexy Savvides/CNET

Step one: Download the ring light image here (1,080p resolution and 4K resolution). Alternatively, you can make your own image in an editing program.

Display the image on the screen. Turn up the brightness and/or contrast so the black levels are deep and the white ring is nice and bright.

Put the camera on a tripod and position it in front of the screen. You may need to adjust the height and positioning until the camera sits directly in the centre of the middle black circle.

Step two: Now is a good time to turn off the lights and determine the correct exposure for the light coming from the screen.

You may find it best to crank up the ISO sensitivity to 1,600 or 3,200 because you'll be shooting mostly in the dark. Position your subject (or yourself) in the frame. A camera with a rotating screen helps get the positioning right, or you can experiment via trial and error. Make sure you have autofocus turned on if your subject is constantly changing position, otherwise set manual focus and keep your subject fixed.

lexy-ring-light.jpg
The ring light should give a nice, even look to portraits. Lexy Savvides/CNET

Step three: Take your photos and adjust the exposure if things are too bright or too dark.

Depending on your screen, the light will fall off quite quickly. Make sure to work out where the sweet spot is relative to screen size and brightness.

When you take the photo, you should see your subject's face evenly illuminated, with a circular catch light in their eyes.

The circular ring light gives the most even and flattering look because you are emulating the round shape of the eye, but you could also make a square or triangle shape for some neat effects.

This segment appeared as part of CNET's DIY show The Fix. Click here for the full episode.