Beauty Dish Lighting Tutorial & How to make a DIY Beauty Dish with an umbrella for less than $7.00

This is a beautiful dish. NO, NO, NO – this is a beauty dish! The irony of a beauty dish is that it makes
harsh light that is not really that beautiful – unless of course you use it properly. Stay tuned and I’ll break it down for you
and show you how to make your own very portable DIY Beauty dish for less than $7 bucks! Hey gang! My name is Joe Edelman and my mission is to
help photographers like YOU to develop a solid understanding of the HOWS & WHYS behind great
photography so that you can achieve your goals as a photographer. Go figure – a beauty dish doesn’t really
produce beautiful light. Kind of like the fact that an expensive camera
doesn’t automatically take great pictures. So don’t run out and buy a beauty dish thinking
that it is going to make your portraits or modeling shots better. The best time to buy a beauty dish is when
you reach a point where you feel you have mastered the basics of lighting and you are
able to create consistently good lighting and then you get a beauty dish as another
weapon in your lighting arsenal to give you the ability to create more dramatic lighting. You see, a beauty dish doesn’t diffuse or
soften light like a softbox or umbrella, instead it reflects light and helps you focus light
towards a specific point. A beauty dish is a parabolic reflector with
a flash mounted in the middle and a plate covering the flash head. This way when the flash is fired, the light
hits the plate bounces back into the parabolic dish and out the sides. Because of the size and curvature of the dish
– most of the light is directed forward. But remember – all light spreads – so generally
beauty dishes are used fairly close to the subject to create a semi-hard light without
a hot spot in the center. You can see here that with a flash placed
3 feet from a wall, there is a bright spot in the middle and an almost continual fall
off. Same flash – same distance with a medium softbox
– the center light is more even but there is still a gradual fall off. The beauty dish with the same flash at the
same distance provides a focused light with a very rapid fall-off. Beauty Dishes are a favored modifier for both
portrait and fashion photographers. When looking at photos, you can tell if an
un-diffused beauty dish was used by looking for a catchlight with a black center spot
in the subjects eyes. By comparison a softbox makes a larger rectangular
catchlight. And an octodome creates a catchlight like
this and so-on. Beauty Dishes come in a range of sizes usually
from 12 inches to 30 inches in diameter. My favorite is in the 21″ to 22” range depending
on the brand. They can be found with a silver finish which
definitely is brighter – but also more harsh, or a white finish which is a bit softer and
definitely my preferred finish for a beauty dish. These modifiers average three to four pounds
in weight and are priced anywhere from $35.00 to over three hundred dollars depending on
the brand and size. Many companies are now making portable – collapsible
beauty dishes which make it a lot easier to travel and work on location since these big
metal parabolic reflectors need fairly big cases to travel. To get a better understanding of portrait
lighting – there are four key elements. Color, Direction, Quantity and Quality. A beauty dish is a great tool to allow you
to control direction and quality. As I mentioned before – a beauty dish doesn’t
diffuse light – it reflects light. So what you wind up with is a persons face
being illuminated from all angles because of the parabolic shape. This also allows the light to wrap around
your subject and create good contrast.. There is a downside though… this type of
light is not forgiving. It will accentuate skin flaws much more than
a softbox or umbrella. It does create shadows. Not that shadows are bad – but you do have
to pay attention to them because they can ruin an otherwise great shot. One option for softening the shadows created
by the focused light of the beauty dish is to use a sock. A sock is simply a white diffuser that is
designed to stretch over the front of the dish. In the event that you want your light to be
even more directional, focused and dramatic – you can also add a honeycomb grid to the
front of the beauty dish. Keep in mind that a grid will take away some
light so you will need to increase your exposure slightly. So these modifiers for the modifier allow
you to create a range of lighting moods with just one light source. I frequently place my beauty dish just above
my subject and aimed downward to accentuate cheekbones. Since the light is somewhat harsh it is great
at sculpting your subjects bone structure and lips, nose and chin. Determining the proper angle of a beauty dish
is fairly easy. Aim the center plate directly at your subject. While you can create a lot of nice light by
feathering a softbox – not so much with a beauty dish. I rarely have my dish placed more than 3 to
three and a half feet from my subjects face – but remember – there are no rules – experiment
and build your own visual database of beauty dish options. If you have a silver beauty dish – they also
make great reflectors for rim lighting on location in bright sunlight. Remove the center plate and your beauty dish
is now a big – bright reflector. Beauty Dishes were originally designed as
modifiers for studio strobes. In other words – they were designed to be
used on a strobe head with a flash tube that sends light in all directions and the the
beauty dish shapes the light. You can also use a beauty dish on a speedlight
– BUT – a speedlight has a contained flash tube that is designed to push the light forward! So in a beauty dish almost all of the light
is hitting the reflector plate and then bouncing into the dish and being redirected out the
front. It is a different result. It’s not a matter of better or worse – its
a matter of different and which do you prefer – so experiment. Of course there are lots of videos that have
already been made where people have created a DIY beauty dish with everything from salad
bowls to plastic buckets. The thing is – most of the shots that new
and young photographers use a beauty dish for – don’t really need a beauty dish. They want the quick and dramatic light fall
off – they want a focused light – you don’t need a beauty dish to do that. You can create light that is almost identical
to a beauty dish with a $6.00 shoot through umbrella from Photoflex. Full disclosure – at the time I made this
video – Photoflex sells these 30” umbrellas for $6.00 on their website. I have a feeling that price won’t last forever. I put the link in the description below the
video. If they are sold out by the time you watch
this – you can go to and get a 30” off-brand umbrella for $18.00 which
is still a TON cheaper than a beauty dish. The off-brand umbrella isn’t going to be
as sturdy and durable as the Photoflex, but it will work fine for occasional use. So by now a lot of you are thinking that I‘ve
lost my mind. I am using an umbrella – a modifier – to create
the same kind of light that we get from a beauty dish which is a reflector. Well – I haven’t lost my mind – instead
I am embracing the Inverse Square Law that I talked to you about in this video… Remember if you want to master lighting – you
need to understand the Inverse Square Law. Here is my lovely mannequin – who by the way
is named Lola. I am using two speedlights here – one is on
the background to keep it bright white and the other is in my 21” Lumopro Beauty Dish. In this first set-up I have my beauty dish
set 30” from Lola’s face and the center of the dish is about 15” above her nose. The center of the dish is aimed right at her
eyes. I have my speedlight zoomed to 24mm which
is its widest setting. Now I am going to remove the beauty dish and
swap it with my 30” Photoflex shoot through umbrella. I am going keep it at the same distance but
because of the fact that the umbrella sits closer – the front of the umbrella is about
20” from Lola’s face at about 12 inches above her eyes and – because the umbrella
is 30” and the beauty dish was only 21” – I am going to move stand with the umbrella
about 10 inches to the left – this will lessen the amount of extra wrap-around caused from
the bigger umbrella. I am also going to zoom my speedlight out
to 105mm which is its most powerful setting – this will help cut down on the spread of
the light. I am also going to take a piece of black foam
core – you know the same stuff that I make the Walmart reflectors from… you can get
this at War-Mart or any dollar store for a buck or less – and I am going to cut a 12
inch circle. Poke a hole in the middle and just slide it
over the center of the umbrella. The is going to prevent a center hot spot
and give me the little dot in the middle of the catchlight – just like we see with a beauty
dish. Here are the results – on the left – the beauty
dish – on the right – the shoot through umbrella. If you look close you can see that with the
beauty dish the face has just a tiny bit more contrast and the shadow under her jaw is a
bit more crisp than the shot on the left with the shoot through umbrella. Here is the same comparison on a black background…
beauty dish on the left and shoot through umbrella on the right. How about a real life comparison – on the
left is the lovely Monae with a beauty dish – same distance and height as I used in the
shots of Lola. and on the right here is Monae with the shoot through umbrella. And if we take this set-up with the shoot-through
umbrella – and a rim light on camera right with an orange gel and then take some blue
tulle material – two fans and another strobe with a blue gel – on the floor behind Monae
and aim it up at the material – we can create a three light – one gel beauty shot with a
$6.00 umbrella! So for those of you just starting out or for
those of you that need an easy to transport and lightweight solution – that’s how you
create a beauty dish look with a simple shoot through umbrella. If you’ve watched many of my videos you hear
me talk about the shoot through umbrella a lot! They are without a doubt the most versatile
lighting modifier you can own. I hope you find this helpful. Please hit that thumbs up and subscribe so
that you don’t miss any videos and until next time go pick up that camera and shoot
something because your BEST shot – it’s your NEXT shot, so keep learning, keep thinking,
keep shooting. Adios!

83 thoughts on “Beauty Dish Lighting Tutorial & How to make a DIY Beauty Dish with an umbrella for less than $7.00

  1. I wouldn't have believed you could do that if I hadn't just seen it – awesome!

  2. It is the nature of my job to have to keep learning, but it is the nature of my job also that I have so very little time to do so. So these tidbits of information in the realm of ten minutes is great. But I have you know that I have not been able, for the nature of my job, to watch the live streams for they are too long. I do need my sleep and you and others are in competition for my time. So, for those of us that jobs where we at the job for ten to twelve hours a day, the shorter bits of info works out to be the best format.

  3. Great video Joe, Since i recently started exploring with my new dish loving the results too.

  4. It might have been interesting to see a comparison that included an image captured without the black foamcore circle in place.

  5. It's amazing you're able to invent this technique. By the way, would a small reflective umbrella emulate the beauty dish even more if you block the center?

  6. cool 😀 As you said, almost identical, just a bit more contrasty with the BD.
    But if you do a bit D&B in PS that will be very much alike in my opinion 🙂

    Time to get some foamcore.

  7. Definitely one of the best photography channels! sr Joe Edelman Muchas gracias! maestro! !

  8. How cool is this? I love using my shoot through and cannot wait to give this a try. Thanks, Joe!

  9. Joe, your videos are always great and packed with information I find useful. I love this idea with the umbrellas.
    I have a question on the Photoflex umbrellas. On your suggestion I followed the link you have posted and they still have the $6 umbrellas which I was pleased about. However when I went to check out the least expensive shipping charge is $12, making my cost for one umbrella $18. Did I miss something?

  10. You are my Photography Guru! I can't thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  11. Awesome video tutorial, You've saved the day by cutting expense from aquiring a beauty dish you only going to use occasionally when you already own a see thru umbrella that can do the same job! Great stuff Joe, you're 'AWESOME '! ? ?

  12. Awesome Mr. Joe I did the same few months ago with a small softbox and it works too, but the idea to use the umbrella is great, thanks for share.

  13. Thanks for this Joe. I really enjoy your tutorial videos rather than you live chats.

  14. You are a genius, Joe!!! I am using this trick next Mon on a boudoir shoot! Unbelievable….

  15. Great idea. Does the black disc ever fall off the tip of the umbrella?

  16. Hi Joe,
    As always great advice!
    How, when and where did you meet Lola?

  17. Very good video but that last part with the gel shot/blue background was going to fast. How many lights did you use to get that shot? 3?

  18. Thank you Joe. My DIY beauty dish will be my next project. Very helpful to know.

  19. I still like the catchlight of the metal beauty dish over the umbrella. I'd make the investment.

  20. I have been in photography a long time and I love this idea, the black cut out on the front never would have thought of it. Keep the great tips coming

  21. Just tried it and love the result. Will be experimenting with different sized circle and umbrellas. Thanks for the video!

  22. This should be a 'must watch' video for all budding flash photographers! Great work @Joe Edelman.

  23. Thanks for tips Joe. I wanted to ask, what's the minimum watt power strobe would you recommend for beginners on a budget?

  24. I have quite a few small shoot-thru umbrellas store away. Time to pull them out and put them to use again. Thanks.

  25. Pretty cool, Joe! I don't know if it's just me, but the light on Lola's face from the beauty dish just looks more luminous and has more pop. I think it's more, well, beautiful. The umbrella light, while still nice, looks relatively flat and uninteresting to me. Another great tutuorial!

  26. hello, thanks for the tutorial. could you kindly show how to mount a speedlite to the umbrella?

  27. Hey Joe,

    Great segment.

    I pickup the Wescott Rapidbox beauty dish I love that thing, it is amazing.

    If you get a chance can you review the new Adorama Orlit Rovelight 610 RT. I have had it for a few months and it is flipping amazing.

  28. Brilliant! Thank you for demystifying the beauty dish, and revealing the black foam core hack!

  29. Again, it's all about a skill, not an equipment. Great video, but your professional experience has definitely helped in this shoot! 🙂

  30. Thanks very much Joe. Articulate and to the point. Great explanation and advice. Very well produced. Kudos.

  31. Hi
    Was wondering where/how you hung the tulle for the shot you described

  32. Amazing how simple a simple solution can get you 95% of the way there. Thanks, Joe! I'm a Paul C. Buff customer, would a Soft Silver 64in PML also produce a similar Beauty Dish look? What about using the 51in White PML Shoot Through umbrella?

  33. Thanks for the video! I haven´t tried a collapsible BD, have to drag around a 30in/70cm BD around, it is a pain!

  34. Joe, you are awesome.
    Please, don´t forget the subtitles. The subtitles help us who do not speak English.
    Greetings from Argentina.

  35. You have great videos! I just got the Canon 6d and I'm trying to learn everything that I possibly can with photography! Your videos are helping me a lot! Thank you ?

  36. Thanks Joe, I made this into a little project and it works out great. I am new to OCF so your channel is fantastic for me.

  37. I noticed on beauty dishes designed for speed lights the target surface is the convex side vs the one for strobes is normally the concave side.

  38. Can anyone please recommend a good brand of shoot through umbrellas or soft boxes? I don’t have faith in the numerous brands off of amazon.

  39. Great idea! I think the $7 "shoot through beauty dish" looks better than the other "real" beauty dish.

  40. Oh my god, socks are knocked off and flying across the room. I'm just switching from natural to studio lighting, and my wallet can't thank you enough. You're an angel for sharing this information. New subscriber here. Have a great day!

  41. One thing is for certain a masked quality umbrella would be nearly impossible to differentiate from a typical beauty to a typical viewer. Why pay hundreds for a Mola or other. In fact, if a person did the same comparison with a foldable BD like Brons Beauty 65 I doubt there would be any appreciable difference. Obviously this umbrella method is not comparable to a silver BD BD. Another option is a socked large reflector (sports reflector or similar) with a central mask.

  42. Thank you Joe. You are so good at understanding how things work, find a way to work around it with less expense and the ability to break it down and teach other people. Sometime I wonder if you have a degree in engineering somewhere before you do photography lol

  43. Appreciate your professional delivery and personal style. Informative and entertaining.

  44. absolutely the boss love the way you keep it simple and also show alternative ways to save some dosh, cheers Joe.

  45. IMPRESIONANTE!!!! ha resuelto muchas dudas que tenia sobre el beauty dish
    AWESOME!!!! has solved many doubts I had about the beauty dish

  46. A great tutorial I have watcher several times! Still not clear to me when and why using a beauty dish instead… Can you help me Joe?

  47. It's nice to see such positive person! You are a reflector of positivity! Thanks for the video! ?

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