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How ring lights came to symbolise the heart of the creator economy

Instagrammer Naveen Singh (@bihariladka) with his grandmother, Maya Devi, who often features in his postsPremium
Instagrammer Naveen Singh (@bihariladka) with his grandmother, Maya Devi, who often features in his posts

  • Ring lights saw a sharp rise in sales at ecommerce sites in 2021 as lockdown-born creators saw it as an easy, affordable solution for vlogging in place of a professional studio setup
  • In prominent hubs for electronic goods across metros, ring lights have become the most conspicuous item on display.

Sometime in 2019, back when TikTok was still operational in India, Vaishnavi Naik, then a flight steward just getting into the content biz, noticed that many creators on the Chinese short-video-sharing app looked rather “bright and glowing" in their 15-seconders. “I thought they were all using some filter," says Naik (@beingnavi90), now a full-time lifestyle creator who lives in Pune. Her research led her to discover it wasn’t a filter but a lighting device—which she bought a few months later—a ring light.

A ring light is essentially a ring-shaped fluorescent light bulb or several small LED lights connected to form a circle on a stand. It’s placed behind a camera to provide uniform lighting, making the object in front look sharp and bright. For members of the creator economy, it is perhaps the best thing since sliced bread. “If I had to rank production tools in order of necessity, I would say ring light is at the top," says Naik, who has over 1.3 million followers on Instagram at present. “I need it as much as I need a camera to shoot videos," she adds.

With swathes of new users joining the creatorverse during the pandemic, there’s been a spike in demand for these lights online and offline. Amazon India witnessed a surge in sales of ring lights in 2020, which went up by approximately 50% in 2021, a company spokesperson said. At Flipkart, demand for flash ring lights more than doubled in 2021 from the previous year.

“While tripods and mics were already widely used, ring lights gained more popularity among creators in the post-pandemic period as an easy, affordable solution for vlogging from home where it was hard to create a professional studio setup for many," says Rakesh Krishnan, senior director, electronics at Flipkart. Flipkart also saw an increase in demand for the cheaper and smaller variant, mobile ring lights, during this period.

Over the past five years, interest in the search term “ring light" saw a sharp rise on Google Trends India for the first time in the last week of March 2020, coinciding with the first pandemic-led lockdown. The interest hit its highest level a year later, in the second week of May 2021.

Right now, a ring light is arguably the most prominent symbol of the creator economy. Inevitably, “even stationery and electronics shops near creator hotspots in tier 1 cities are selling ring lights and displaying them upfront," notes Gautam Madhavan, founder of Delhi-based influencer marketing platform Mad Influence, which represents over 300 influencers and celebrities.

In fact, in prominent hubs for electronic goods across metros, ring lights have become the most conspicuous item on display. You’ll find them at electronic goods shops in Nehru Place, Chandni Chowk, Lajpat Rai Market, and Palika Bazar in Delhi, for instance. They’re hard to miss as you pass by shops on both sides of lanes leading up to the busiest local train stations in Mumbai’s Andheri, Borivali, Bandra and Mira Road. A wide variety of ring lights are available at electronics hubs in Bengaluru’s SP Road area and Mumbai’s Irla and Crawford market.

While ring lights are available at different price points, starting from 500 going up to 10,000, a few high-end ring lights that come with multiple attachments can cost up to 40,000 as well. The price depends on the length of the tripod, camera/mobile mount, add-on filters, among other things. Traditionally, ring lights were used in specific fields. “Like dentists use them for taking images of the dental structure," says Abhimanyu Thakur (@technomanyu), a technology creator with 140,000 followers on Instagram. “But thanks to the increasing number of creators, they’ve become more commonplace now. Companies like Digitek and Sunup use influencer marketing aggressively to promote their ring lights among different kinds of users," he adds.

The reflection of a ring light in the subject’s eyes in a video is a mark of a seasoned creator, separating them from amateurs. But now ring lights have also lured working professionals from other sectors who buy them for their Zoom calls, says Thakur.

AS Electronics, in Mumbai’s Andheri, has a ring light prototype on display at the shop’s entrance. “We started selling ring lights shortly after the first lockdown in 2020 because there was high demand," says Binod Mali, 34, the store manager. Most of his sales are to professionals currently working from home.

For members of the creator economy, ring lights are more than just a utility tool. “I still haven’t thrown away my first ring light that cost me 500 because I have an attachment with it," says Naik from Pune, whose latest ring light cost her 10 times as much.

Almost every creator has a story behind their first ring light. Naveen Singh (@bihariladka) was in 10th grade when he got his first ring light in March 2019. “I was studying in Kota at the time. My elder brother called to tell me he had ordered it from Mumbai, and it’ll reach me soon," recalls Singh, a creator famous for his humorous and slice-of-life posts with 1.3 million followers on Instagram. It took 15 days for the ring light, then priced at 7,000, to reach him. “It was damaged in transit," adds Singh, who was recently named one of the “25 under 25 Instagrammers of India" by Instagram. “Yet, I continue to use the same ring light for all my videos and carry it with me wherever I go," he says.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shephali Bhatt

"Shephali Bhatt writes human interest stories on the creator economy, internet culture, mental health, media and entertainment. Someone once told her, 'you always do a great job of a story you really care about'. So, she cares. When not writing, she draws venn diagrams of all her life's situations. "
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