Lighting modifiers: The beauty dish

Lighting modifiers: The Beauty Dish

“The beauty dish is often a popular lighting modifier among fashion and beauty photographers because of its versatility and unique light.  In this recording of a recent Beauty Dish Lighting workshop I show you exactly what you can achieve with the beauty dish light and demonstrate how you can modify it even further."

Beauty dish for speedlight or studio lights

Often used for head and shoulder portraits, the beauty dish offers far more versatility than what one might initially think it’s capable of. Similar to a shallow dish in shape, the beauty dish is a metal reflector that can be attached to a studio light or speedlite. Light fired into the dish hits a reflector directly in front, bounces back and then off the curved metal surface towards the subject.

Beauty dish example: A portrait shot with a beauty dish.
© Karl Taylor

The effect results in a light that is considered “hard-but-soft” or “semi-hard” and is comparable to a mixture of a softbox and direct flash. The shadows from the beauty dish, while fairly soft, have a rapid transition from light to dark, which can result in quite a dramatic effect.

You can see the results of a beauty dish in this video here where I demonstrate the effects of various modifiers in this Beauty Lighting Comparison Tests video.

    Usually available in white or silver coatings, the effects of different beauty dishes can differ. Silver coated beauty dishes offer more specular, hard-contrast light while white coated dishes result in somewhat smoother, softer light. However, both coatings offer even, flattering light that is ideal for highlighting the shape of a model’s face.

    Beauty dish vs Softbox?

    It is this versatility that is one of the main advantages of the beauty dish. Other modifiers such as softboxes or umbrellas offer very little in terms of further modification which means the results are generally limited.

      A beauty portrait demonstrating the effect of a beauty dish.

      “In the live show I’ll be showing you exactly how you can modify a beauty dish, but I’ve included a brief explanation of the options below: ”

      Beauty Dish Color

      The interior color of the beauty dish, as explained above, plays a major role in the resulting light. By changing the interior color, you can affect the softness and overall feel of the light.

      Beauty Dish Grids

      Grids that attach to the inside of the beauty dish work similarly to honeycomb grids you would use for standard reflectors. They control the direction and spillage of light but remember — grids also cut out some of the light so you’ll need to adjust your settings.


      A sock is a piece of diffusion material that attaches over the front of the dish. It diffuses the light and results in a softer light, almost like that of an octabox. It can also be useful for reducing shiny spots on the model’s face.


      The law of physics states that the bigger the light source, the softer the light and the beauty dish is no exception.

        Versatile results make beauty dishes very popular.
        Beauty dishes offer unique, versatile results.

        I’ll be demonstrating the effects of some of these as well as showing you a number of popular ways to shoot using the beauty dish. I also demonstrate a two-light setup typical of magazine cover images in the “Mastering the Beauty Dish” class in our Fashion photography courses section.

        "A further advantage is that beauty dishes can be used on both studio lights and speedlites. Available in different sizes, they are also more budget friendly than modifiers such as parabolic reflectors."

        Now that you understand the theory and effects of a beauty dish, make sure to watch the live show where I’ll be demonstrating a number of different shooting positions to achieve various results. You’ll be able to see the results live as well as ask your questions throughout the shoot.

          Broadcast: August 2nd 18:00 BST / 13:00 EDT

          Mastering the Beauty Dish

          In this LIVE show Karl will demonstrate one of the most popular lighting modifiers; the Beauty Dish.

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          1. Karl, in your recent beauty dish show you said that you used a 3rd party beauty dish. What brand is it? How do you get it to mount onto a Broncolor light since Broncolor uses their own proprietary mount system and I’ve never seen a beauty dish adapter for Broncolor lights, nor have I ever seen a generic beauty dish advertised anywhere that adapts to Broncolor lights. I do have adapters for my other Profoto modifiers so I can use them on my Broncolor lights. I have a Profoto beauty dish but can only use it with Profoto lights. And although I couldn’t say for sure but your beauty dish looks larger than the one made for Broncolor.


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