Beauty Dish Photography (How To Use BeauTy Dishes?)

Photography is a flourishing industry, worth over $10.1 billion in the US in 2022. Moreover, the global photography equipment and supplies market will be worth $93,750 million in 2022, and by 2028 it will grow at a CAGR of 4.3%. One such piece of equipment that many photographers use nowadays is the beauty dish.

A beauty dish can be a multi-purpose tool that allows photographers to modify light and take spectacular pictures. The modifier illuminates the model’s facial features, but it can also be used to capture detailed images of various objects. This guide will elaborate on beauty dishes, their uses, and techniques to capture eye-catching images with this tool.

What Is A Beauty Dish?

A beauty dish is a lighting modifier used primarily for portrait shots. It includes a parabolic reflector to disperse light toward the subject or the focal object. It’s circular and has an opaque center. Moreover, there are several light combinations for beauty dishes, such as speedlights or studio strobes.

It works by blocking the light coming from the center of the strobe, reflecting it about the whole dish. This helps to get a hard and focused light beam. However, it is softer than an umbrella, softbox, or a scrim. Since you can buy a beauty dish for most lights, and they’re more affordable than other modifiers, they’re a great investment if you want your photography career.

What Is A Beauty Dish Used For?

Beauty dishes are traditionally used for fashion photography, mainly portraits, and headshots. They allow the photographer to capture the intricacies of the subject’s face shape and skin texture without stressing the facial features. This makes it great for shoots where you want to highlight the model’s hair and makeup.

Since the beauty dish helps create hard lighting, it’s perfect if you want to show the texture of the model’s skin and sculpt the model’s face without it looking like you’re just using a bare flash gun.

Moreover, the light falloff’s quite rapid, allowing you to emphasize the subject’s facial features while deemphasizing the background and surroundings.

They’re also great at producing beautiful catchlights (the circular highlights which draw viewers to the portrait) in the eyes and flattering shadows under the model’s jawline.

Beauty dishes are also versatile and have other uses, such as changing the light quality. For this, you must select a beauty dish with either a white or a silver inner surface, with the former reducing highlights on the model’s face.

Types Of Beauty Dishes

Beauty dishes come in several types, with the most popular ones being:

01. Godox Beauty Dish Reflector

The Godox beauty dish reflector is one of the most popularly used for portrait and fashion shoots. It helps create a crispy edge, with softness maintained in the center.

02. Profoto White Softlight Beauty Dish Reflector

The Profoto White Softlight Beauty Dish Reflector has been designed to give off a uniform but wide soft light with defined shadows. It is meant for Profoto flash heads and has a built-in speed ring with a 65° spread. It’s a great accessory if you’re taking close-ups.

03. Westcott Switch Beauty Dish

The Westcott Switch Beauty Dish is part of the line of modifiers Westcott introduced to be set up and swapped out rapidly from any speedlight and strobe light brands. Its front diffuser is removable; it has a deflector plate and a collapsible design. It helps create catchlights in the model’s eyes, softening the face but making the shadows crisp to sharpen the portrait.

04. Broncolor Beauty Dish Reflector

The Broncolor Beauty Dish Reflector can be attached to any Broncolor monolight or flash head. It is meant to provide an even spread of light with soft-edged shadows.

05. Profoto OCF Beauty Dish

The Profoto OCF Beauty Dish is known for being portable because it’s collapsible. The light from B10 OCF flash heads bounces off the deflector that comes with it, being directed outwards and hitting the beauty dish’s edge.

How To Choose The Right Beauty Dish?

There are several factors you need to take into account when selecting a beauty dish for a photo shoot:

01. Grid

A honeycomb grid is used for a beauty dish to limit light from spreading and spilling where you don’t want it to. If you get a smaller grid, the more you can restrict the light from scattering.

A honeycomb grid causes minimal light loss compared to beauty dishes without. Moreover, the picture may not be as soft with a grid.

02. Color

There are two primary colors that beauty dishes come in: white and silver. For softness, both provide a similar effect. The main difference is that the silver beauty dish is the best choice for higher contrast and highly specular highlights.

The white is meant to make the lighting look a lot more natural. Moreover, a silver beauty dish will help textures be more accentuated than white ones.

03. Size

Collapsible beauty dishes come in 100 and 60-cm sizes, whereas standard ones come in 70, 55, 42, and 30.5 cm. The size you select will determine the lighting effect. Basically: the larger the modifier, the softer the light. The smaller the modifier, the harsher the light.

Creative Techniques For Using Beauty Dishes

Beauty dishes are versatile modifiers that can be used in several ways to help you get the final results you want. Here are some of the best ones to consider:

01. Clamshell Setup Without Diffusion

Place it above the model without pointing it directly at the model. Use a reflector below. This approach carves out the model’s skin details and provides better contrast. Center it, and have a black surface below the model that can absorb the light to get the effect.

02. Clamshell Setup with Two Lights

Using a clamshell setup where two where two lights are used allows you to control the fill light. You can situate both the lights towards your subject at a 45-degree angle, one angled up and the other pointed downwards.

03. Clamshell with Diffusion and Reflector

If you modify the clamshell lighting setup by using a diffuser and reflector, you can draw more attention to the face, softening the light and creating a luminous effect. All you have to do is place the diffuser over the beauty dish with a reflector below the model, which will create a beautiful catch light to develop in their eyes.

04. Using a Beauty Dish as Fill Light

If you’re looking to better control fill light, a beauty dish is a great option. Just use a beauty dish with a diffuser and point it towards the model either from below or the center. It will soften the light, beautifully illuminating the model’s face and creating a slight catchlight in the eyes.

05. Using a Beauty Dish as a Kicker Light

There is an easy way to enhance highlights using a beauty dish. You use it as a kicker or hair light which is placed behind the model, angled from the top towards the head. This will help create a crisp edge.

06. Use it as Main Light

A beauty dish is a great option if you’re looking for a powerful main light modification that enhances contrast. For this, you require a beauty dish with a silver interior without a diffuser, giving out more light. Place it right at the center, pointed directly at the model’s face, a soft light where the contrast is prominent.

07. Add a Grid to the Beauty Dish

Adding a grid to the beauty dish allows you to create a spotlight effect. As previously stated, it helps limit the spillage of light, helping you focus more of it on the subject and accentuate the face, making the rest of the details not be as prominent.

08. Use it Outdoors

Beauty dishes are ideal for outdoor photography, as they can be used as a main light or fill light. They will help to illuminate the subject, keeping the effect soft consistently.

09. Get Unconventional

Turn the beauty dish away from the model and face it toward a flat surface, such as a wall or white screen. This bounces the light off of the surface to illuminate the model. This method softens the light by making the light source bigger, giving you a more flattering result.

Tips For Using Beauty Dishes

Knowing the tips and tricks to get the best results when using a beauty dish during a photo shoot is important. Here are some of the best ones:

  • Alignment: Aligning the beauty dish with the subject’s face helps better illuminate the face and create a crisper edge.
  • Placement: For portraits, placing the beauty dish 2.5 to four feet away from the subject is best practice because if it’s too far, the light will spread more and not be as concentrated.
  • Diffusers: Use diffusers for softer light, especially for a subject with oily skin
  • Centered Light: Centering the light and beauty dish is a great way to emphasize the model’s facial features. A great tip is to use a boom arm for centered light to capture makeup looks.
  • Reduce Texture: Use a reflector if you do not want the skin’s texture to be prominent because of the beauty dish.

Final Thoughts

A beauty dish is an excellent modifier to capture stunning headshots and portraits. It’s an effective and affordable way to soften the light while keeping sharp shadows intact.

The size, grid, and color are the three basic features of a beauty dish that you need to decide on depending on the purpose of your photo shoot.