A beauty dish is a large, bowl-like reflective circular dish which ranges anywhere from 16 to 30 inches in diameter and is mostly used when shooting portraits and glam-style imagery.
“FAST GLAM” Photo Shot feat. Melisa Mendini
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Creating a generally softer light is one of the functions of a beauty dish. Its coated interior which reduces basic highlights is what causes the light to appear softer in the first place. But if a dish has a silver coating, it will make light “edgier” and shadows more defined. Nearly all beauty dishes have a little panel that “floats” over the flash tube so that no direct light can be emitted from the reflector. All (scattered) illumination comes from the silver or white bowl of the dish.
The beauty dish has long been the primary modifier in the glamour photography industry. The light that this vital modifier creates is a mixture between a softbox and a parabolic reflector, though it does sit much closer to harsh light on the spectrum.
The shadow transitions and high-lights have all rather sharp, high contrast qualities and because of this you will recognize that beauty dishes tend to accentuate every detail of your subject (model’s flaws included…). You will need to pay extra
attention to the placement of your model in correlation to your lights in order to hide any flaws that a beauty dish may bring to light.
The best distance to use a beauty dish at is around eight feet (2.5m) from the subject. Placed at closer distances, four to six feet, the beauty dish can create what many refer to as the “liquid wrap” effect. If placed at farther distances, over eight feet, the overall effect of the beauty dish is more comparable to a “hard” reflective umbrella. The effect you are looking for with a beauty dish is a circular catchlight, which is a highly desired look both in beauty and fashion photography.
The Beauty Dish’s “Sweet Spot”
As mentioned before, a liquid wrap effect appears – which many photographers try and avoid – if the beauty dish is placed at a distance of four to six feet (1.2 – 1.8m).
In addition, the contrast increases as well as the saturation on the subject’s skin. Placed in the right distance – around 8’/2.5m – a crisp but yet appealing light is created which highlights the finest of details. The sweet spot can easily be recognized once you achieve the incomparable look this modifier is known for: soft, sparkling light yet with edgy shadows and more visual depth structure than a regular softbox.
When the beauty dish is between six and twelve feet (2 – 3.5m) from the subject, it has a very soothing and tanning effect (one could say the light gets “boring”). You will still enjoy a higher contrast and saturation just as you would if it were closer to the model but this time without the unpleasing hot spots.
The Results of the Shooting:
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About the Author: Dan Hostettler
Dan has been a professional beauty and nude photographer for more than 15 years.
He is Swiss born and currently living and working in Prague (Czech Republic). Dan founded his flagship business, StudioPrague, which includes a dedicated production company that has received international recognition and offers private, high-end workshops. Dan has had the pleasure of photographing some of the world’s most beautiful female nude models and he always strives to capture that “bold sexy moment”, both in the studio and on location.
Aside from his own creations, Dan has been internationally published and featured among others on and in GQ Online, The India Times, FashionONE TV, GoodLight Magazine, MUZE Magazine, FOTOdigital.
Dan’s passion for traveling, cinema and visual adventures translates into a high degree of skill and creativity. Inspired by the world’s top magazines and brands like Playboy, Maxim, FHM, Vogue and Victoria’s Secret amongst others, Dan continues his pursuit of being the best in his field.
This post is also available in: German