Beauty Dish

Light modifiers come in all sizes shapes and functions, but none has a more intriguing name than “Beauty Dish”.  Conjured up in the 1950s, the Beauty Dish has remained a favorite with fashion, portrait, and glamour photographers.  Wanting to try it out, but not willing to invest upwards of $200 to see if I would like the effect, I decided to give building one myself a try.

Mixing bowl
20Q Mixing Bowl

There are lots of good articles on Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Beauty Dish projects on the web, with many good suggestions.  I elected to build a slightly larger one than the usual project calls for, opting for a 19″ dish compared to most at 15″.  The first task was to find a stainless steel mixing bowl of the right size.  None was available locally, so I looked on-line, finding a nice 20Q sample for about $12 (not including shipping) at http://www.webstaurantstore.com/.

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Cutting the hole

The next task was to cut a hole in the back to accommodate the flash.  The stainless bowl is sturdy, but not too thick, so a Dremel tool with an abrasive metal cutting wheel does the trick nicely.  Just use masking tape to layout the lines to be cut and watch out for metal fragments and sharp edges. After a few minutes and some work with a metal file, I had a nice hole just the size and shape for my Nikon SB-800 flash.

The next task was to attach the flash.  The stainless bowl alone was not sturdy enough for my liking, so I added a $4 toilet bowl flange on the back to stiffen the bottom, mounting the flange with 1/4-20 screws and nuts.  The flash was to be mounted on an L-bracket with a couple of screws.  I had to file out the flange to provide a sung fit for the bracket.

 

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Flange and mounting bracket

Everything was now ready to paint.  I used a flat white spray paint for the interior and satin black for the outside and flange.  After several thin coats and a day or so dry time, the unit was ready for the diffuser.

Employing a piece of scrap plastic, I cut out a roughly 6″ disk, just large enough to reflect all of the flash, but not cover too much of the dish.  The disk is mounted with three long 1/4-20 screws and nuts.

The flash unit is attached using an auxiliary shoe and attached to the light stand with a standard brass stud.  The position of the attachment to the dish is selected to allow the flash to just fit in the cutout.

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Diffuser

The whole unit looks great, but how does it work?  Well, the first trials were not too promising.  Taking a shot of the front of the disk using the flash at 1/128 power showed a rather non-uniform light pattern.  Not enough light was getting out to the rim, effectively giving a much smaller source.  The answer, after several trials was a diffuser around the flash.  I used a small clear plastic jar, with some tracing paper insde for a the diffuser.  Works great!  The light is reduced by about a stop, but since this dish is to be used very close to the subject, filling the dish with light is more   important than the amount of light.  Note the characteristic dark center where the round disk blocks the flash.  This light will give round catch lights (much nicer than the square softbox image), with a dark round circle in the center.  The source is large and softer than a simpler reflector, but harder than a softbox.

 

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Completed Beauty Light Rear View
_DS12377 _DS12378
Without Diffuser With Diffuser

Test with model – coming soon.

References

http://www.ishootshows.com/2010/02/09/music-photographers-diy-beauty-dish/
http://www.paulcbuff.com/beautydishes.php
http://www.adorama.com/alc/0013670/article/The-Secret-to-Using-a-Beauty-Dish-for-Flattering-Portrait-Photography
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-cQyJWNvLY
http://vimeo.com/9568754
http://www.apogeephoto.com/jan2009/adler12009.shtml
http://www.clickinmoms.com/blog/studio-lighting-softbox-vs-umbrella-vs-beauty-dish
http://phlearn.com/how-to-use-a-beauty-dish
http://shop.ppmag.com/blog/how-to-choose-a-beauty-dish.html
http://www.diyphotography.net/build-a-beauty-dish-from-an-ikea-lamp
http://www.youtube.com/channel/HCY9itsHTMjdM

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