ring light vs softbox

Last Updated on April 9, 2021

I am fanatical about my lighting (like all serious photographers) and in my lifelong pursuit of perfect image quality I have tested every type of lighting on the market. If you are trying to decide how to improve your lighting and are deciding which to get, ring light vs softbox, then today you have your answer.

Whatever style of photography you shoot, getting the best lighting possible is crucial to capturing the perfect shot. Two of the most popular lighting options today are softbox and ring lights, but what is the difference?

photo studio setup

Softbox Light vs Ring Light What’s The Difference?

Above is what a softbox looks like. It’s the ESDDI softbox which is one of my favorite versions for those just starting out thanks to it’s performance and easy setup.

And that is what a ring light looks like. This particular one is the Neewer ring light with stand which is a great option for on and off camera use. For more examples you can check out my article on the best ring light.

So as you can see these two types of lights are named appropriately. The real difference though is how the light is delivered. The softbox provides similar lighting to the ring but it offers a more spread out lighting. The ring light on the other hand has a hole in the center (for your camera) and provides a much more direct form of lighting. You can make the ring light softer with a diffusion cover.

So other than the difference in shape and light intensity, these lights excel under different shooting conditions. The softbox is a much more versatile light and is the far more popular style. It is a favorite for cinematic photography, and most studio sessions.

The primary use that I like a ring light for is for capturing Catchlight. Catchlight is when the ring of light from the ring light is reflected in a subjects eye. This is a great technique for surreal portrait photography and even more standard sessions.

But ring lights have gained popularity in more styles than just portraiture. They have also become the go to lighting for many YouTube video producers and other photographers who need powerful lighting on the go. And the ring light is far superior to the softbox when it comes to portability.

So at the end of the day, which is better ring light vs softbox comes down to your particular goals and photography style. Both offer great lighting and can be used with great results.


I have multiple softboxes and a few ring lights. I don’t do a lot of video these days but if I did you can bet I would be using a ring light for many of those sessions. My softboxes will likely never be fully replaced as they are so versatile and offer great lighting. But if you are not looking to invest in both right now I highly recommend you get the option best suited to your personal style.