The Difference Between a Beauty Dish and an Octabox

The beauty dish and the octabox are two of the most fundamental lighting modifiers out there, but they have properties and ways of rendering your subjects that are appropriate for different circumstances. If you are new to lighting, this fantastic video will show you the differences between the two with a lot of example photos. 

Coming to you from Kayleigh June, this helpful video will show you the difference between a beauty dish and an octabox. Both modifiers are highly popular with portrait photographers and can provide fantastic results depending on the sort of look you are going for. Generally, an octabox will give you softer light that makes for a good, general flattering look. On the other hand, a beauty dish offers a more contrasty look that tends to really sculpt the face and bring out texture and detail, which can be great if you are looking to show off your subject's facial structure or bring out the detail of something like intricate makeup work. Check out the video above for the full rundown from June. 

And if you would like to continue learning about lighting for portraits, be sure to check out "Illuminating The Face: Lighting for Headshots and Portraits With Peter Hurley!"

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Dan Jefferies's picture

Or take your regular softbox and attach a circle cut out for "round" light. Add or subtract diffusers, reflectors, and grids as needed on your regular softbox and all the looks these two give can be yours no new gear needed.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

I have an old Broncolor Hazylight that I partially cover from time to time as needed, just as you discribe. For a few years no one wanted those and the price was incredibly cheap (costly to ship I believe), but they are totally flat and that allows for easily taping anything on temporarily. For indoor use only as they are not foldable.

Dan Jefferies's picture

North of a $1000 even used. That's a serious light.

derek j's picture

Thank you for this insight. I wondered if that would work, but figured it was too easy

Alexander Petrenko's picture

Elinchrom XLite? Does it exist?

Mike Ditz's picture

This is the second BD video that I have seen lately. I hope that some day there will be a video about how to use a beauty dish as it was intended, instead of just as a sort of bigger reflector.
The magic in a beauty dish happens when the edges of the light pattern are used usually very very close to the model from a different angle, not directly at the model from 4 feet away.
It is a very hard modifier to master and it takes a great model with great makeup to make it work.
When used correctly there is an extra 10% difference of 'wow" that I could never get to work, but my former studio partner could. He shot a lot of fashiony stuff.
Putting a diffusion screen on it dulls the BD magic.

It's a tricky light

Dan Jefferies's picture

Fstoppers always needs good content. Write it up; showcase your buddy. I'll be first in line to read it.

Mike Ditz's picture

I lost contact with him decades ago. A few years ago I saw a good youtoob explaining how to get the best out of a BD, but today came up empty on google.
The thing is yes you can make a BD look like a Octobox, and that's pretty much what I'd use mine for and it was ok. With the deflector disc and with some different shaped BDs (like mola) there is something else going on in the light pattern...there is a small difference that when used by some photographers with the right touch and with the right subject that makes a's hard to describe small difference. Sort of like a chef's secret ingredient.
A the end of the day, 98% of the time Octobox good, Softbox good, Beauty Dish good.