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A couple of months ago, I was asked to do a photo shoot for a friend who was applying for a contest, depicting her skills as a hair stylist. I was very excited for the opportunity, as both photography and photo editing are quickly becoming some of my bigger passions. I was also excited to truly work in a setting with models, a director, and a full studio set up. As I’m sure plenty of people out there do this all the time, I wanted to take a little time to talk about one of the pieces of gear I used that really helped make some great looks pretty easily attainable: The Diva Ring Light.

Now, instead of jumping right in, I’d like to acknowledge something I’ve read in forums right off the bat: this look is NOT for everyone. This is a specialty result typically used in beauty blogging, certain types of photography, and rarely used in film. Due to the nature of the shoot, I found it to be very helpful. Anyway, here we go!

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First, the set up: I was shooting on a Canon 5D Markii, using a couple of Lowel LED lights for key/overhead lighting. The models were up against a gray backdrop (a Reflecmedia curtain, but without the LED LiteRing), f-stop set to F8 at 1/120th of a second. Now, the end results I achieved were mostly dictated by the director (my friend), so occasionally the model’s face will look a bit blown-out, but the focus is supposed to be on the hair.

Results: What I found with the Diva right away is that it truly makes the subject’s eyes completely pop: a soft light ring centered in the iris, both girls’ eyes looked beautiful.  Unlike standard flashes that can create red-eye or even cause the eyes to be less prominant, the Diva completely brought them out, becoming a part of the whole image without distracting from other elements either.

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It also did something I haven’t seen in many other light rigs: the Diva helped to warmly wrap the light around the subject, softening the edges just enough to truly achieve that depth of field look the director was hoping to get from these pictures: crips focus and warm light up front, fading towards the back so there was no distraction from the colors in the hair.

The use of the Diva is pretty simple if you’re shooting on a tripod: You simply mount the Diva to a C-Stand and position it in front of the camera, close enough so you don’t experience vignetting. (The picture to the left had the vignet added afterwards for effect) This photo makes it a bit easier to see the Diva’s effect on a larger surface: The light is warmly wrapped around the whole subject, tapering evenly along the top of the head and beneath the shoulder blades. The camera was about 7 feet away during both photos, with the dimmer on the Diva turned to about 50% power.

So, the obvious drawback here is that if you’re going hand-held, it’s probably not going to work out too well. There are rigs out there that do allow for quite a few accessories beyond what your normal SLR can hold, but the diameter of the Diva is 18″, so this would definitely not be ideal for that type of shoot.

Second, these pictures were done with constant lighting. I haven’t compared the Diva’s output to a couple of studio strobe lights, but I can safely assume it doesn’t have the output for that. As this is a pretty standard method for many photographers, I understand that this limits the people who would be interested in it, but I’m giving you my honest assessment here.

In my opinion, if you’re likely to do any type of shooting like this, it’s worth the (relatively) small investment: for $229 (as of this writing) you get the Ring Light, a 3200k tungsten bulb and a 5600k daylight one. The light is dimmable, comes with a swivel-mount arm for mounting, and a sweet little adapter to add a cold shoe mount to the middle, if you need a microphone or small strobe on there or something.

The light really doesn’t generate too much heat, and is incredibly simple, eliminating any necessary experience before using it. Right out of the box it was ready to just be plugged-in and used: I stayed with the tungsten light, as my Lowels were set to 3200k as well. The Diva comes in a surprisingly substantial carrying tote, with a divider for your spare (alternate) bulb.

So, since people are already talking about this, why did I decide to write about this now? Because it excited me as a photographer, that I could so easily achieve the results I was going for on this particular shoot. Because it’s an incredibly versatile light. Because standard lights that do what this can do typically run thousands of dollars more. And because if you’re shopping for a light, it’s much more helpful to read about someone else’s experience with it, both good and bad, before making any decisions.

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