The Beauty of the Beauty Dish
A beauty dish is a different kind of light modification device. It’s a metal reflector that uses its parabolic shape to distribute light towards a focal point and is an alternative to a softbox. It wraps light around a subject producing an effect somewhere between direct flash and a softbox and adds drama when used with accessories like a grid. A beauty dish is used in portrait and fashion work to generate a concentrated pool of light and produce its characteristic round catch light in the subject’s eyes. Beauty dishes are available in various configurations with versions having a round metal shield that blocks light from the flashtube and fills the dish with soft indirect light. A translucent fabric diffuser is included with Flashpoint beauty dishes to provide additional softness with white-lined dishes or cut the contrast from silver-lined models.
At left, I used a Flashpoint 27-inch beauty dish with white lining. The white interior produces softer light and the silver creates a snappier look. While 27-inches sounds small it is a big hunk of metal, so make sure you have enough shooting space to use it.
Grids are useful accessories for any studio lighting system and when mounted on a beauty disk (or soft box for that matter) alter the shape and intensity of the light output focusing the light more directly on the subject. A grid provides a wider beam than a snoot so it’s useful for focusing light on a particular part of the subject or narrowing the amount of light that falls on them. Because a grid, in effect, blocks some of the light output, it produces less light so you’ll need to either crank up the power of your light source or increase the camera’s ISO setting to maintain the same aperture as an un-gridded shot. Attaching a grid to any Flashpoint beauty dishes is a simply a matter of snapping a few clips to its edge; ultimately mounting flush with the front of the dish. A grid adds flexibility to using a beauty dish that along with its fabric diffuser lets you produce three different looks from a single light source.
At right: Attaching a grid to the beauty dish produces more drama and directionality to the photograph creating a completely different mood. It also takes away some of the light so you’ll need to increase the exposure. If I were delivering this portrait to a client, I would also add some soft focus to the image to make it more flattering while maintaining all the drama a grid provides. Canon EOS 5D with EF 135mm f/2.8 SF lens © Joe Farace