A ring flash is a type of circular photographic flash that fits around the lens, especially for use in macro (or close-up) photography. Its most important characteristic of a ring flash is providing even illumination with few shadows visible in the image, as the origin of the light is very close to (and surrounds) the optical axis of the lens. Where the subject is often very close to the camera, where the distance from the optical axis of a conventional flash becomes significant. For objects close to the camera, the size of the ring flash is significant and so the light encounters the subject from many angles in the same way that it does with a conventional flash with soft box. This has the effect of further softening shadows. A ring flash is also occasionally used in portrait photography to provide front-lighting.
A conventional ring flash usually consists of two parts: a shoe-mount unit mounted on a hot shoe, and a circular ring flash unit mounted on the front of a lens. Within the circular ring flash unit, there can be one or more flash tubes, each of which can be turned on or off individually. A ring flash can also have focusing lamps for helping low-light focusing. ring flash diffusers are also available, which have no light source of their own, but instead mount in front of a conventional flash unit and transmit the light to a ring-shaped diffuser at the front of the lens.