For photographers just beginning to invest in studio equipment, a beauty dish probably isn’t too high on their wish list of light modifiers. They can be expensive, and are not as versatile as softboxes. In this video, Joe Edelman breaks down the beauty dish and shows how to create the beauty dish look on the cheap.
Edelman compares the pattern of light falloff created when using a bare flash, softbox, and beauty dish, and covers how various finishes and modifiers of a beauty dish can change the light. He also points out a common misconception about beauty dishes: the light they produce isn’t actually that beautiful. Beauty dish light is harsh and creates strong shadows, creating high contrast, and exaggerating skin flaws.
Edelman shows how to mimic the look of beauty dish lighting using an inexpensive shoot-through umbrella and some black foam core. He uses foam core to block the center hot spot, and positions the umbrella farther away from the subject to minimize wrap-around light. He compares this makeshift modifier to that of a professional beauty dish, and definitely produces very similar results.
If you are thinking about adding a beauty dish modifier to studio toolkit, this quick and inexpensive substitute might help you to see if you like the look you create in your portraits before you invest in something more professional.