A Deep Dive Into Beauty Dishes

Understanding how to use beauty dishes is key for portrait photographers seeking close-up shots. This fantastic video tutorial will show you the ins and outs of using them for optimal results. 

Coming to you from John Gress, this insightful video dispels common myths about beauty dish output. Contrary to the assumption that light emanates in a cone shape, Gress discovered distinct patterns emerging from the dishes. Cross-section photos revealed the convergence point of diagonal light rays, validating the "diameter equals distance" rule for positioning beauty dishes based on size. However, results showed nuances depending on dish properties and facial contours, indicating flexibility around the guideline. 

Debunking other misconceptions, Gress explores adding grids and socks to the beauty dishes. While grids intensely confine beams, hindering performance, socks effectively scatter light. Comparisons with a softbox demonstrate beauty dishes’ faster falloff yet similar brightness past 30 cm. Through model portraits at incremental distances, Gress determines ideal ranges for natural dimension versus dramatic shadow rendering based on needs.

Providing real-world context, Gress tests dishes in a constructed “room” with a model. Results highlight extremely focused directional quality, concentrating illumination on the subject. Positioning impact on background brightness is also shown. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Gress.

If you would like to continue learning about how to light a portrait, be sure to check out "Illuminating The Face: Lighting for Headshots and Portraits With Peter Hurley!"

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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While one beauty dish can vary from the look of another by a small degree given all other things being equal . That difference can be annihilated and rendered to naught by any post processing that is carried out. Its that ultimately will decide on the eventual look of the image and not the nature of the coating on the inside of the dish.