Beauty, Lifestyle, Makeup, Tutorials

My Beauty Photography and Lighting Setup

makeup photography lighting ring light 1
Through the ring light (with camera removed)
makeup photography lighting ring light 5
Left: Canon 5D Mark III on separate tripod (with vello remote attached), MyRingLight fluorescent ring light on aluminum light stand. Right: Front view of the light at full power.
makeup photography lighting ring light final
Final outcome (before color correction and editing)

makeup photography lighting ring light 2

makeup photography lighting ring light 3

My photography and lighting equipment for beauty portraits: MyRingLight Dimmable Fluorescent Ring Light, Aluminum adjustable lighting stand, Vello RS-C211 Wired Remote, Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 lens


Since “How do you take your makeup photos?” is one of my most frequently asked questions, I finally put together some behind the scenes shots of my very simple setup. When it comes to photographing makeup, hair tutorials, or anything involving a self portrait, I usually prefer to use natural, diffused lighting — preferably somewhere indoors, facing a window. But since I live in Brooklyn, where much of the natural light is blocked by shadowy buildings, that isn’t always an option. That’s why I invested in lenses that perform in low light (the lower the f-stop, the larger the aperture = the more light it lets in), and additional lighting. But while our studio is stocked with different types of lights, backdrops, and accessories, I often turn to the most affordable and easy to use light in the bunch, when photographing beauty tutorials: my ring light. I actually own two ring lights: one strobe and one continuous, but I use the continuous much more. It’s the easiest thing to set up, is extremely lightweight and portable (though fragile), and Miku could probably figure out how to use it, if she put her puppy mind to it. All you have to do is turn it on, set your camera accordingly, and take the picture. It’s just one light, so it’s that easy — and since it’s continuous, it’s also perfect for video.

Ring lights are a great one-light setup for portraits, because they cast minimal shadows, giving just a slight halo effect around the subject (which can be eliminated with a fill light, if that bothers you). You’ll also notice the reflection of the rings in my eyes, in the final photos — this effect is greater with the light close to the subject. For my self portraits, I normally shoot with a prime Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 lens mounted on my Canon EOS 5D Mark III. I stand fairly close to the ring light (as demonstrated above), but keep the camera on a separate tripod, a little further behind the light. Since I’m so close to the camera and the remote doesn’t show — as it would in an outfit photo, for instance — I prefer to use a wired remote, which is immediately recognized. If you’re looking to elevate your beauty photography or video setup for your blog or youtube, I highly recommend investing in a ring light, but you do not need to rush out and buy a full frame digital SLR and expensive lens. Even if you’re shooting on a point and shoot or even an iPhone, this light will make a big difference. Case in point: this photo of Miku was taken with my iPhone and a ring light.

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  1. Hi Keiko,

    I love your setup! I’ve had the chance to use a ring light myself, but I’ve been having issues with the results. For instance, if I’m wearing a white shirt, the picture turns out super yellow, and if I wear a black shirt it looks really blue. Have you encounter this issue?

    • That would be your white balance. You probably have your white balance on auto, so it’s doing its best to guess the proper settings. If you switch to manual and adjust accordingly, it will help a great deal! What kind of camera do you have?

  2. Thank you for sharing this. I love seeing what more successful bloggers do behind-the-scenes. It makes me appreciate the posts and final outcomes better knowing how much hard work and effort was put into them.

    With love from the Philippines,
    Jorj | Mad Cherry

  3. Funny, I didn’t notice the ring reflection in your eyes until you pointed it out. 🙂 Love the look this light creates. Definitely going on the list.

    Thanks for the behind the scenes look.


    • Agreed, I definitely prefer natural light. Unfortunately, that’s kind of hard to come by (indoors) in NYC, sometimes!

  4. Hi Keiko! I was just wondering if you would reccomend a ring light for applying your daily makeup, aka not for a video or anything. I live in Scotland so natural daylight is just not available 🙂 trying to find the most natural light to apply makeup with! Thank you!

    • I’m not sure about that, but have you tried a vanity light? they’re the mirrors with bulbs all around them and they’re amazing!

  5. Thanks for sharing this!! I’ve just gotten a ring light and am super excited about it, however it is making the background of my photos look really dark. Do you know of any way I can remedy that?

    Thank so much! Always enjoy your blog posts!! 🙂

    • If you’re having an issue with that, use an additional light for your background. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – you can get a cheap light and light stand from b&h or amazon and aim it at your backdrop, behind you:)