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3 Different Ways to Use a Beauty Dish for Portraits

Much of great portraiture — particularly in a studio — is the art of great lighting. However, you don't need a 5-light setup and an elaborate scene to create great images, and the beauty dish is far more versatile than its name might imply.

I've bought and used a lot of lights over the years. Some of them I've been disappointed with, some have stood the test of time, and some have become staples for years. One I've always enjoyed using is the beauty dish, but it can take some practice to learn how to use such direct and rather harsh light, and when it's best to use it.

One tip I would add for anyone looking at trying a beauty dish — really any artificial light — is the size of it matters. That isn't to say that a little flashgun can't be used to create great light, but housing it in a large modifier can get more out of it. Whether I'm using a simple softbox, a beauty dish, or my octabox, the bigger the better within reason. For headshots I am now using a 100cm octa which might seem like overkill, but I love the look it gives. If anything, I'd like my beauty dish to be nearer that size and the one in this video by Westcott appears to be 60cm or more.

In this video, Manny Ortiz teams up with Westcott to take you behind-the-scenes of a portrait shoot using a large beauty dish, and shows you how versatile it can be.

Robert K Baggs's picture

Robert K Baggs is a professional portrait and commercial photographer, educator, and consultant from England. Robert has a First-Class degree in Philosophy and a Master's by Research. In 2015 Robert's work on plagiarism in photography was published as part of several universities' photography degree syllabuses.

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Classic lighting techniques...the way we did it in the 80's. What cameras synch at 1/400th other than leaf shutter...mirrorless may be (I'm out of touch!!)?? Either way, can't see the point of such a high shutter speed with studio flash, which at low power settings will only be in the 1,000ths of a second bursts and is the primary...indeed only, relevant light source?