Everything looks better in good lighting – faces, Instagram flat lays, products. And never has there been more demand for it than right now. Lord knows those of us who are stuck on video calls all day could do with a bit of a boost. And content creators want to look good in their TikToks, Reels and vlogs too.
Enter ring lights – the answer to everyone’s gloomy ambience issues. These halo-shaped items beam an even coverage of light, with very little shadow. This is often called “beauty” lighting, providing a similar effect to old-school dressing-room mirrors – it’s why make-up artists love them.
The idea of ring lights originally was that you’d shoot your footage or photos through the middle of the ring light – and many of them still come with a camera and/or phone holders that allow for that. But now the market also takes in desk-mounted versions, ones that attach to phones with a clip and ones that grip onto awkward surfaces. The ring light has evolved.
Some also allow you to alter the colour temperature to give a warm, glowy feel or a stark, bright hue. Many come with filters that allow you to add a wash of colour through the shot or footage – a bit like Instagram filters. Another feature is catchlights – that is, the ring-like reflection in your eyes. This can make eyes look brighter and give them more depth.
To find the best ring lights we spent hours video calling, photographing and even TikToking (we are nothing if not committed). We looked at the size of the light versus the brightness, ease of use, how transportable they are and if they have colour filters and warmth dials. We also took into account the cost – the price of ring lights varies wildly. Here are our top picks.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
The best ring lights for 2021 are:
Best overall – ESDDI 18in LED ring light: £89.99, Amazon.co.uk
Best for fun – Mayhem smoovie 8in colour ring light: £16.99, Robertdyas.co.uk
Best for video calls – Rotolight neo II video conferencing kit: £225, Parkcameras.com
Best for on-the-go lighting – Rotolight ultimate vlogging kit: £79.99, Parkcameras.com
Best high-end ring light – Elgato ring light: £155, Dv247.com
Best for selfies – Mayhem smoovie ring light 6in with tripod: £13.76, Amazon.co.uk
Best medium-size ring light – The Tech Bar vlog livestream 12in ring light: £39.95, Selfridges.com
Best for flexibility – Beamo ring light kit: £104.90, Joby.com
ESDDI 18in LED ring light
This is a serious bit of kit. The 18in light has two dials that allow you to adjust the colour temperature and brightness, which we found really good for making the light feel natural for our video calls. This is a powerful product that’s capable of beaming out a very bright light – there are 432 LEDs inside, and it gives out 48W. Flaws and blemishes will be a thing of the past. It is one of the larger ring lights we tried, and therefore it’s ideal for make-up and beauty shots as it gives out a really wide beam, so you’ll have plenty of room to work. It also comes with a telescopic stand, a detachable phone holder for the middle and a nice carry bag.
Buy now £89.99, Amazon.co.uk
Mayhem smoovie 8in colour ring light
Best: For fun
We were impressed by the function range of this budget-friendly ring light. It’s easy to use as the controls are on the power cable, and it’s powered via USB. There are three colour temperatures on offer: natural, warm and soft, which should be enough for newcomers to the ring-light world. There are also 16 colour options thanks to the RGB LEDs. You can switch between solid colours or opt for a party feel with modes such as spectrum chase, pulsing between all 16 shades. There is also a white strobe function. Although perhaps not the functions you’re after on a video call with your line manager, it is a really fun light for the TikTok generation, and is also great for creating mood lighting in a room. The stand is short, so it’s only really good for desks or wall mounting, but it has an attractive rose gold finish.
Buy now £16.99, Robertdyas.co.uk
Rotolight neo II video conferencing kit
Best: For video calls
A seriously high-end product, this light is made by British company Rotolight – a big player in film and TV production. Away from the silver screen, the brand has turned its hand to video-conferencing lighting too. This kit includes a 5.7in ring and a desktop stand with adjustable height and ball head, which has been designed to sit behind or beside your computer. It has a colour dial which is easy to use – a display on the back lets you know the current temperature.
This definitely felt like a movie-style kit as we sat in front of it, and it was a great performer for our video calls. It also includes four filters to provide a subtle wash. Although we tested this for video conferencing, you can also use it for flash photography when teamed with the right equipment. You can power it via the mains (it comes with an actual plug, which is a rarity these days) or with six AA batteries. We found this light to be a great, high-performance, premium option.
Buy now £225.00, Parkcameras.com
Rotolight ultimate vlogging kit
Best: For on-the-go lighting
Designed, as the name would suggest, with vloggers in mind, this kit is portable yet still packs a hefty punch in the lighting stakes. Quick to set up, it comes with a mini desk tripod with extendable legs. The tripod has an arm, with one side for your ring light and the other for your phone holder. The lamp itself casts a decent light – at 242 lux at 1m, it’s not the most powerful we tested, but it’s more than enough for video conferencing, vlogging and make-up.
What’s nice about this set is it is powered by just three AA batteries, so it’s lightweight. It’s got about four hours of battery life, which might not see you through a whole day of work if you’re unlucky enough to have back-to-back meetings, but is certainly enough to shoot a decent amount of footage. There is also the option to mount it on a shotgun mic, should you be shooting with audio equipment. One thing that perhaps won’t suit everyone is that the phone holder will only let you film in a landscape orientation – great for YouTube, but less ideal for vertical video platforms such as TikTok and Instagram.
Buy now £79.00, Parkcameras.com
Elgato ring light
Best: High-end ring light
If we were to sum up this ring light in a word, it’d be “slick”. When we first opened the box we were a little overwhelmed by the kit, as there seems to be a lot of it, but actually it’s really easy to put together. The stand has a desk clamp, so it’s perfect for, well, desks, kitchen work surfaces and dressing tables – and it’s great for rooms where there isn’t much space. There is a ball socket too, meaning you can adjust your light to any angle, and a phone holder that crucially lets you film in portrait or landscape orientations. The light itself offers really good coverage and adjustable colour temperature and brightness.
It’s also edge-lit, meaning the LEDs are positioned around the side of the light ring and diffused, rather than being beamed directly at your face. This makes the kit more slimline (it’s the thinnest of the bigger ring lights we tried), and more gentle on your eyes. Speaking of eyes, the catchlights on this ring light were fantastic. But the most exciting element on this model is the fact you can also control the colour temperature and brightness levels via an app on your phone. This makes things easy if you’re using it in a larger setting such as a studio.
Buy now £155.00, Dv247.com
Mayhem smoovie ring light 6in with tripod
Best: For selfies
Fun and flexible, this light comes with a phone holder and malleable arm. This lets you clamp the light and your phone to any surface. It’s powered via a USB cable, but the flex is quite long so as to give some wiggle room. The flex also has easy-to-use controls which you can use to cycle through colour temperatures (warm, soft and white are on offer) and brightness levels. It’s never going to win in the brightness stakes – it’s only 6in in diameter – but this is a great option if you’re limited on space or budget and want a little lift.
Buy now £13.76, Amazon.co.uk
The Tech Bar vlog livestream 12in ring light
Best: Medium-size ring light
A great medium-sized light (we seemed to mostly come across massive or mini ring lights, with not much in between), this would be a good starting point for newbie content creators. The light is powered via a USB cable, with the controls on the flex. There are three colour temperatures – warm yellow, warm daylight or cool daylight – and it has adjustable brightness with enough range to suit most amateurs. In the centre is a detachable phone holder on a flexible arm. We found this really useful for getting different angles – better than most other phone holders we tried. It also allows you to shoot in portrait or landscape mode.
What’s worth noting is that this ring light doesn’t come with a stand of any sort, which might explain the wallet-friendly price tag. The stand it’s made to go with is almost £80, which is a bit eye-watering. However, it would be easy to use any other stand with it, as it has a universal screw-in fitting.
Buy now £39.95, Selfridges.com
Beamo ring light kit
Best: For flexibility
This is truly the flexible friend of the ring-light world. The kit comes with a GripTight pro 2 gorillapod tripod, which has super flexible legs that you can wrap around almost anything – trees, bannisters, furniture… the list goes on. The light itself has three colour temperatures and a 10-step dimmable function, operated via controls on the power cable. The light itself gives good coverage and is best suited to being used reasonably up close. The kit also comes with a phone mount that allows you to film in landscape and portrait orientations.
There are plenty of add-ons available for this kit, such as mics. Although not included, if you want to gradually upgrade your setup, this could be the right choice.
Buy now £104.90, Joby.com
The verdict: Ring lights
The ESDDI ring light was hard to beat on both cost and performance, but it is quite sizable. If you’re after something smaller, then the Rotolight video conferencing kit is great for not taking up too much desk space.
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Need a camera to go with your new ring light setup? Read our guide to the best mirrorless models that are compact and user-friendly