By Kevin Bradley
I’ve filmed a lot of faces and headshots. I would consider it one of my go-to skills. After thousands of headshots, I’ve found If you don’t mix-it-up, it tends to get boring…
A catch light (or eye light) is used to draw attention to your talents’ eyes. In virtually every lighting situation involving a person’s face, you want a good catch light. Whether you’re shooting corporate interviews, romantic scenes, music videos, headshots, whatever, a nice looking catch light is what separates the professionals from amateurs.
But every situation is different, and there are different styles of catch lights.
In the 90’s, a lot of cinematographers started using beauty ring lights for motion pictures. It’s a lighting style that became particularly popular in music videos. More recently, I’ve noticed that a lot of Lady Gaga videos are using a ring light on their main safety angles.
So, what is a ring light and what are the advantages of one? A ring light is exactly as described, a ring of light that the lens of the camera can aim through. The advantage of this approach is two-fold, for starters it is damned-near the softest source of light in the world, no need to worry about harsh shadows on the subject, no serious threat of the talent falling out of their best light in the shot. Still photographers have used them for years, mostly for fashion model shoots for that very reason. Secondly, the effect of filming your subject through a ring light at close proximity yields a beautiful, circular catch light.
The look that this type of luminary produces is almost a special effect on its own, it’s highly stylized but uniquely beautiful.
The bad news about ring lights has always been the ridiculous cost of them. For years, the most popular models of ring light that are specifically designed for motion picture use have been the Lite Panels Ringlite and Ringlite Mini. I’ve rented and used both of them on set. Both are flicker free, both LED driven (low power consumption) and both are dimmable. They’re great lights. That’s what I thought until I found out how much money I’d have to shell out to be the proud owner of these babies: $8,500 for the big one and a mere $2,000 for the Mini!… That my friends, is stupid expensive. Rent!
That was THEN.
Ladies and Gentleman, I present the Stellar Diva Ring Light, the first truly affordable ring light for film and video!
The Stellar Diva Ring Light is an 18-inch ring specifically designed to be the cheaper alternative to its more expensive counterparts. It has a flicker-free ballast built in, multiple mounting options, low power consumption and a 5400k native color temperature. And the best part of all, it’s only 200 bucks!
One of the unique features of the light is that it comes with an adjustable goose neck for stands, making it fast and versatile for quick changes in angle, height and position. It also includes a bracket that allows you to hard mount it directly to the camera platform or tripod.
The light comes with the bulb pre-installed and has a 5400 kelvin color temperature. After searching their site, I’ve concluded that they only offer globes in 5400k, no tungsten. But, I’ll have to confirm that with Stellar. Spare bulbs are a little pricey ($26) but they’re a necessity, I would suggest 2-3 of them lying around in case of disaster.
The light has a built-in on/off switch, but does not include a dimmer (UPDATE: A new version has been released that does have a dimmer built-in), which is a drag but if you’re using this as the key light you simply adjust your other fixtures accordingly.
The Stellar Diva Light is a cheap and viable solution for creating a circular catch light. They also produce great results for soft lighting, it will be interesting to see just how many different ways I’ll be able to use it in the coming months / years.
I highly recommend this piece of gear, you’ll save yourself thousands when compared to the price and feature set of the competition. The bang-for-the-buck value here is key.Check it out.