Beauty Dish, an Interesting Modifier Light for Portraits

If you are interested in portrait photography studio, an interesting exercise may be contemplating photo portraits from other photographers and try to figure out possible lighting schemes, flashes, reflectors and / or switches that may have been used.

Well, there is a type of lighting used in portrait, which produces a hard and intense light in the center and loses intensity and hardness progressively with increasing distance from the center point. This is the kind of lighting generates a type of switch that is called Beauty Dish. In today’s article I’ll talk more in depth of this accessory and give you some guidelines that you can get the most juice.

What is a Beauty Dish?

A beauty dish is a light modifier that turns your flash into a hard light source in the center but is softened at the edges, often preferably used in portrait photography. This special feature is achieved by design shaped bowl. The beauty dishes are much wider than deep, so getting your flash has a wider coverage. The most significant of its design feature is the small dish in the center of the reflector that prevents light from reaching directly, bouncing it and creating that special effect of hardness in the center but soft at the edges.

You can find beauty dishes in different sizes. 40, 56 or 70cm are the most common, but the 56cm is for me the most useful because it gives me a balance that others do not have. Meanwhile the 40cm beauty dish is a very small light source and therefore its hardness before a person is quite strong. At the other end of the 70cm gives a fairly soft light for its size, it is a bit cumbersome and sometimes difficult to manage.

As I said, the beauty dishes are mainly used for portraits, and their hard light in the center adds a special dye to the skin which makes it very attractive, hence its name. The beauty dish does not give us much in other situations where their special feature may be more a problem than a benefit, so its use is limited to portraits in most cases.

How to take advantage of your Beauty Dish

A beauty dish is a very specific tool and if you use it be improper, loses its function. Bring paper and pen because I’m going to give some tips to take advantage of your beauty dish.

The first and one of the most important factors is to understand that the position of the beauty dish is key. As I mentioned one beauty dish has an area of hard light in the center and soft on the edges, so you have to put it at a distance where hard light illuminates the part of your subject that you want to highlight and the smooth transition of leaving that light will give importance to the rest of the scene.

Beauty Dish

A general rule that is often used is to put the beauty dish to 1.5 times the diameter of the plea to be photographed. For example, if you work with a 56cm beauty dish, it should make no more than 84cm (56cm * 84cm = 1.5) for your model and agrees that orients to the hard part of the light from the spotlight (usually will be the face).

If you put the beauty dish very close, hard light you will be the only model to hit your special effect and lose their smooth edges. If you put the beauty dish far, hard light cover a very small area and be too obvious.

A Supplement Ideal for your Beauty Dish

A beauty dish is complemented perfectly with Grid. A Grid is also known as honeycomb. It is a metal plate to provide direction to the light.

When combined with a Beauty Dish a directional light (thanks to GRID) is achieved but hard in the middle and soft on the edges (thanks to the beauty dish). This gives us control over the spectacular light and allows you to highlight parts of your image without creating harsh shadows.

Differences with Softbox

The main difference between a beauty dish and softbox is the hardness of their light. Unlike beauty dish a softbox is designed to maintain consistency throughout its coverage, and if you have a good softbox should be little difference in the softness of the light from the center to the edge.

When comparing modifiers, keep in mind that the apparent size of the modifier is what most affects the softness of the light, so we can not say one is softer than the other if they have the same size apparent.

Notice the difference in softness: the beauty dish gives a pleasing contrast but is a harder light. The absolute smoothness softbox is its enormous proportional to the model and the double diffusers cause light to scatter in all directions over the model involving size.

The paste and versatile little trick to get more juice

The beauty dish is a useful tool for portraits. Outside the world of the portrait beauty dish does not give us much, and a reflector or softbox will be more useful tools. One trick to getting everything from beauty dish in other scenes is to remove the center plate. This way, you get a large reflector with a huge coverage. If your beauty dish also came with a diffuser sock you can turn it into a round softbox 56cm in diameter, very valid to illuminate product.


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