Beauty Dish Photography! One of the interesting things about photography is there is often many different ways to achieve the same or similar result. Often though the different paths result in subtle photographic nuances. This is the situation with the subject of this page, beauty dishes. Interestingly the beauty dish is the solution to two photography questions that I have wondered about. One subtle and one dramatic.
Eye Catchlights (Eye Catch Lights) – A “catchlight’ is simply the highlight of a light source reflected off the surface of the eye. This highlight adds depth and dimension to the eye, and gives the eyes life in a portrait or snapshot. You have seen this effect in professional portraits everywhere. The reflection takes its shape from the light source whether it be flash, softbox, ambient or sunlight. The shape of the catchlight on the eye is a reflection of the shape of the light source. Not only the physical shape but also the sharpness and light fall off of the light source. It’s also important to note that catchlights are often adjusted in Adobe Photoshop post processing. A beauty dish can produce the best catchlights. It’s what the professionals use.
Dramatic Portraits and People Photography – In recent years as I have expanded beyond nature and firearm photography into people photography I have been intrigued by these very dramatic portraits of light and shadows I see on book and magazine covers. I have tried to recreate the effect with moderate success. I have purchased all kinds of lighting and light modifiers but have never quite achieved the results I desired. The problem was I didn’t know the proper terminology. I did notice though in many of these portraits there was a light similar to what used to be found in doctors offices and medical institutions. This light is a “beauty dish”.
What is a Beauty Dish?
Below is the description of a Beauty Dish from various sources.
A beauty dish is a photographic lighting device that uses a parabolic reflector to distribute light towards a focal point. The light created is between that of a direct flash and a softbox, giving the image a wrapped, contrasted look, which adds a more dramatic effect.
There are two main differences between a beauty dish and a normal reflector. First, beauty dishes are inevitably larger than normal reflectors. For example, in one equipment line, reflectors range from 7 to 16 inch diameter, while the beauty light is 22 inches in diameter. From another manufacturer, their normal reflectors range from 7 to 13 inch diameter, with an approximate 21 inch diameter beauty dish.
Second, virtually every beauty dish has an opaque cover directly over the front of the light source in the center of the beauty dish, preventing direct light from hitting the subject. Thus, all the light that emanates from the beauty dish has bounced off the interior wall of the beauty dish, resulting in softer light than obtainable from a standard reflector
A Beauty Dish reflector is white coated and has a counter reflector inside. It is an ideal reflector for portrait and beauty photography, it is an interesting alternative to softboxes, being more directional but still soft. It can be combined with honeycomb for a smaller light angle and/or with a diffuser for softer and brighter shadows.
A Beauty Dish gives an even soft light and is perfect for fashion and portrait photographers. Small enough to go on location with you it is perfect light modifier.
Types of Beauty Dish
The standard beauty dish is typically made from metal though there are some plastic molded units. Standard Beauty Dishes mount directly to monolights and strobes. Most are not designed to withstand the high temperatures produced by continuous lights. The best beauty dish designs have an engineered shape to them. There are also speedlight versions and adapters for standard style beauty dishes. There are softbox versions of Beauty Dishes that are available for strobes and speedlights. many are still just glorified softboxes with a grid and the center of the light blocked like a real beauty dish. There are also portable beauty dishes that crossover wi
Beauty Dish Brands
Below is every manufacturer of Beauty Dish that I could locate at the time of writing this page.
- Alien Bees
- Chimera (Softbox)
- Cowboy Studio (Speedlight)
- ePhotoInc (for Alien Bees & White Lightening)
- Flashpoint (Speedlight)
- Hive (Softbox)
- Kacey Enterprises (Speedlight)
- Lumodi (Speedlight)
- Neweer (Speedlight)
- Opteka (Speedlight)
- Pictools (softbox)
- Poloroid (Speedlight)
- RPS Studios (Speedlight)
- Roundflash (Speedlight)
- SP Studio
- Westcott (Softbox)
Beauty Dish Support Equipment
Though you can use a beauty dish with any quality light stand a beauty dish works best when supported by a boom stand. This allows the stand to be placed of to the side of the model and offers greater flexibility for beauty dish placement. I personally use a Manfrotto 420B 3- Section Combi- Boom Stand with Sand Bag. The sand bag is a must to offset the weight of the light source and beauty dish.
total cost of ownership