The beauty dish is an important piece of lighting gear for portrait and beauty shots. Joe Edelman will show you how to make a DIY beauty dish for less than $7 using a white umbrella.
Since beauty dish reflects, and umbrella diffuses the light, maybe we can’t really call this build a “beauty dish.” However, it gives the same results. So, in terms of the light quality, this DIY version will give you the same light and catchlights like the standard beauty dish. It costs less, it’s easy to make, so it’s definitely worth the shot no matter how we call it.
Beauty dish produces semi-hard, reflected light and accentuates the subject’s facial features. The catchlight it creates has a black center spot in the subject’s eyes. So, Joe aimed to achieve the same results with his DIY beauty dish, both in terms of the light quality and the shape of the catchlight.
You will need
- A white umbrella (Joe used Photoflex 30” umbrella that cost $6 at the moment of filming. If the price rises or it gets sold out, you can find white umbrellas on Amazon for about the same price)
- Black foamcore (cut out a 12” circle and poke a hole in the middle)
Setting up the umbrella
Relying on the inverse square law, Joe places the conventional and the DIY beauty dish so that he achieves the same lighting for his subject. He uses one speedlight in a beauty dish, and another one pointed at the background to make it bright white. Here’s the setup with the standard beauty dish, 21” in diameter. The speedlight is zoomed to 24mm, which is the widest setting. The dish is placed 30” away from the subject’s face, and 15” above her nose, with the center piece pointed straight at the eyes:
And here’s the setup with the 30” umbrella. He moves it a bit closer to the subject (20” from the face, 12” above the nose), and a bit to the left. He zooms the speedlight to 105mm to minimize the spread of the light. He takes the foamcore circle and adds it to the center of the umbrella. This will create a similar catchlight like the one of the beauty dish, and prevent the hot spot in the center:
There’s a great extra tip for determining the look of the catchlight: you can use a black marble:
Now, here are the results compared, with beauty dish on the left and the umbrella on the right:
Even though the principle is different with the beauty dish and a shoot through umbrella, it’s amazing how similar the results are. So, if you still can’t or don’t want to buy a beauty dish, I believe this setup will do just fine. After all, it’s the final result that counts, right?