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Enhance your portraits with Dorr Ring Lights

Portrait Photography with Dorr Ring Lights

In no way would I describe myself as a photographer. To do so would be pretty insulting to a lot of far more talented people who’ve devoted their life to the pursuit. I stumbled into it. I originally started taking photos after the college I work at told me I was teaching photography. I came from a video background and had only used a DSLR a handful of times. What followed was a panicked rush to learn as much as I could before students realized I was an utter fraud. From there, it became a hobby, and occasionally people pay me to take photos, which is handy as I’m currently trying to pay off an expensive sofa.

Today, I’m going to write about Dorr ring lights, which have been a staple of my kit since my video days. I originally started using them to shoot video interviews. They were lightweight, compact, and gave a nice, soft dispersal of light, which aided in covering up skin imperfections. I was also impressed by their build quality compared to other ring lights on the market. Like most ideas, using Dorr ring lights was pinched from someone far more capable. In this instance, noted stills photographer David Boni used them for an advert he did for a Scottish university.

Portrait sitting with ring light

Having used them for video over a variety of projects, I looked at the quality of images being produced while editing and decided to have a brief foray into stills, shooting various mates one day against a black backdrop erected in a friend’s living room. The images following were produced using a Dorr ring light and Canon DSLR, the model of which escapes me.

Bearded male portrait

I was happy enough with the results, but this was the last time I picked up a stills camera for years until I was requested to teach photography at my workplace. Reasoning that my grasp of composition and technical functions was choppy, to say the least, I decided to compensate for this by using the only form of lighting I was comfortable with and ensuring students went home with images they could brag about. A Dorr ring light was ordered quickly.

Standard shots were produced featuring the light facing directly on, producing the halo effect in the eyes synonymous with ring lights. Students went home happy, and I retained my job, but then I started experimenting. I decided to use different angles to produce shadows on the face and used the ring light above the subject. It gave a dramatic, spooky effect which I combined with cinema-inspired framing and a lot of dead space, likely provoked by too many viewings of Mr. Robot on the telly. I also made use of Adobe Lightroom in post-production, which helped cover up my deficiencies immensely.

Noted photographer Gary McIntyre, whom I have the pleasure of working alongside, also pointed out a fantastic use for ring lights as a kicker or rim light. I also used Dorr ring lights for this purpose during a recent video shoot. Here's an example of Dorr ring lights being used for this purpose during a stills shoot:

I likely reached peak ring light experimentation when I attempted to use it for a George Hurrell-inspired shoot after an evening out on the town with my ex-girlfriend. Luckily for me, my ex-girlfriend had a background in modeling, a talent for makeup, a keen sense of art direction, and the patience of a saint. This came in handy as I was having a multitude of issues with focus that evening, likely due to my red wine consumption. The light was raised high and angled to the side to sharpen the cheekbones until they were razor-sharp. The photos turned out fantastic, despite being shot in my living room using an old Nikon D3200 and a hastily assembled black backdrop.

In all honesty, I can’t eulogise enough about Dorr ring lights. They've helped me shoot great-looking video interviews, enabled me to retain my job, and got me through a George Hurrell-style shoot where I may have been slightly intoxicated. They’re a fantastic piece of

affordable lighting equipment that has multiple uses, and one of the first bits of kit I recommend to neophytes to the world of video and photography. You can see more of Johns work via his website and social media @jrspace6.


by John Rae on 02/03/2023


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