The Magic Of The Beauty Dish

Adrienne Studio Session-029 1100px copy copy

The Magic Of The Beauty Dish

Of all the light modifiers one of the most misused or misunderstood is the beauty dish. It frustrates a lot of photographers, yet once they “get it” it becomes a go to tool.

There are photographers that the Beauty Dish creates their signature look. Here is how to get to work for you.

With most light modifiers, soft boxes umbrellas and scrims the sweet light is on the edge. It creates the wonderful soft wrap around light.

Use the edge of the Beauty Dish you get a harsh unflattering light.

Always point the center of the light right at your subject that is the softest light.

Bring it in close; major users like Lindsay Adler like to keep it between 2 and 5 feet. 5 feet being at the extreme, when they need to light the whole body. Further out than that it becomes just another small specular light source with most of its desired design function lost.

Usually bring it up above the face so it shines down. As usual the magic angle is 45 degrees. You can tell by the butterfly shadow below the nose that it is in a perfect spot. The Shadow should not extend into the lips.

It is a bit of a balancing act. You also have to watch the eyebrows don’t cast a shadow over the eye. The model or subject’s head can tilt up slightly into the light for a more dramatic effect.

Of course the light does not have to be directly above, in the sample images you can see both by the catch light and the shadow in red haired Jamie’s image the light is just off center. In Adrienne’s you can see back lights have been added to the mix.

To soften the downward shadows, use a 20 inch or more reflector, most photographers use a 30 inch reflector, to bounce a soft light back up into the face. You will see a striking catch light in the bottom of the iris. Be careful though, you don’t want the reflector light to over power the Beauty Dish light. So a softer white reflector is the preference.

Place the reflector below their face; it will get the spill light from the Beauty Dish. As you work the angle you will see shadows go from soft to magically disappearing. The silver reflector can turn the reflector into the main light, be careful of that.

The Beauty Dish is available in polished silver or flat white. Most beauty photographers go with the matt white, it is softer thus more flattering.

Keep in mind that the beauty dish does create shadows. This tool is usually best with young models or older men. It can be pretty unforgiving for an older woman with lines, which it seems to make pop out.  For older men you get a kind of glamorous character study.

Once you have the dish in place, you can soften the light even more by bringing in two white reflectors from the sides. They work best if they overlap, creating a tent of light.

The images in this blog are the ones created by Lindsey Adler, one of the photographers with a mastery the art of Beauty Dish light. Adrienne is the gorgeous model.

With my first set of studio lights way back when, the Beauty Dish was one of my first lighting tools. It has been a joy to create with it.

When you do it right, the light of the Beauty Dish is amazing. Have fun with it.

Adrienne Studio Session-029 1100px

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *