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How to Use a Beauty Dish

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Feb 09

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Hard and Soft Light

A beauty dish is unique in that it creates a hard light that has soft edges. It does not have a “hot spot” in the middle of it like most reflectors, and can be used to make portraits very compelling.

What’s covered

  • 0:30 Congrats to Dave for winning the Phlearn PRO contest!
  • 1:16- Using our shotgun mic
  • 3:10- Why relative size is important
  • 4:00- When to use a beauty dish
  • 4:40- When to not use a beauty dish
  • 6:00- Making a DIY beautydish
  • 6:45- balancing a boom
  • 8:00- Best postion for a beauty dish
  • 10:00- placing a beauty dish too far from your subject

Why Distance Is Important

Beauty dishes have a “Sweet Spot” where they work the best. The reason this modifier exists is to create a hard light source with semi-soft edges, and no hot spot in the middle of the light. Perfect for portraits.

That being said, these are pretty much only good for portraits. You won’t get the benefits of the light if your beauty dish is too far from your subject, it will just appear to be a small light source.

For most beauty dishes, you want to place them from 6 inches to 2 ft from your subject’s face.

  • Dan Hashemi

    Excellent videos! Try looking into wireless lav mics…they pin onto your shirt and work great :)

  • Dan Hashemi

    As for the distance of a BD, wouldnt you say they are a good light source for on location work? Emily Soto for example uses a BD for most of her fashion work and rarely very up close…they are less prone to falling over in wind, and with the fall off of the light you can effectively light a subjects full body.

  • Epiphany_media

    Paul C Buff transmitter/receivers are way smaller and a lot cheaper. Beauty dish is right above camera on center axis actually

  • Epiphany_media

    Mola makes the best dishes…and their grids are white which softens the look perfectly.

  • Anonymous

    It this Phlearntraining? Love the video.  Thanks for explaining how to use the BD and making it so simply.  I will use it with my models who are 50 and younger (love it).

  • Caroline Southpaw Glabik

    Thank you so much for this weeks studio episodes, I love them!!

  • Artosthebear

    Very informative!  Is there a way to see all three portraits side by side, so we can really see how it changes each time?

  • Jonathan Westra

    Not sure how practical this but try hang some thick curtains some where in the room if you want to control the echo.

  • Michael Anthony

    How does adding the diffusion sock change the light?

  • Al Cruz
  • Karl Filip Karlsson

    These are really good! Used them all summer on a documentary television series we recorded this summer where we followed the artists on their tour. If you have XLC contact ofcourse! or also get adapt between. :)

  • Aaron Nace

    just uploaded that for you guys, its right below the video

  • janiecakes

    LOL! Aaron, take it from an old, wrinkly photographer….I didn’t think you were being an asshole :)

  • Bryan Dockett

    I actually made a DIY beauty dish this past weekend mainly because I was bored ;) Like Aaron said in the video there are tons online. Here’s a pretty good one but I wanted to do one that took the least amount of work, cutting and drilling so I did this one: 
    I used all glue and a utility knife 
    Mine came out pretty well and I spent about $15 (would have been less but I got extra stuff) 

  • Hurricane Graphics

    Great episode! Loved when you smashed your pinky too. I have a case of boom envy. I cannot afford the cure, however. Seems like the beauty dish is the go-to modifier these days, but I wonder if it’s more because it has the word ‘beauty’ in it. 

  • Hurricane Graphics

    Oops, I meant to switch the word “loved” with “liked” when I commented about how much I loved when you smashed your pinky. I liked it a lot.

  • Hurricane Graphics

    Oops, I meant to switch the word “loved” with “liked” when I commented about how much I loved when you smashed your pinky. I liked it a lot.

  • Matthew Shuck

    I love me some BD action

  • Sebastian Ortiz

    Bro, I told you before invest in Lavalier mics, now that you’re doing studio video’s, they’ll be even better, echo is nil… I noticed how you got more echo as you moved away from the Rode mic you don’t have to worry about walking around, especially if you get the wireless kit, pin the mic to the collar and you’re set.  You can also get multi mic kits, so when you have a special guest or interview…   

    linked a set below…

    hope that helps…. Oh by the way…. anyway, you can weigh that beauty dish and let me know how much it ways?, I’m in the process of making one, and will be posting a tutorial video of it… Thank You kindly, my man! 

  • Nicolas

    Thanks for these “lighting tricks” episodes, very usefull. I’ve recently purchased an air suction boom stand (it is what we say in english ?) and it’s very safe for your lighting gear, even if I don’t put a lot of weight on it, when I extend my stand, up or down, I’m not afraid anymore to see all my gear fall in brutal way. Worth the $ in my opinion !

  • Katriena Emmanuel

    I’ve noticed when you use your light meter to take a reading, you face the meter towards the light, I thought I had read somewhere, you face the light meter in the direction the camera will shoot the subject from, in order to get an accurate reading of the light falling on the subject at the point the camera is aiming at.  Or does it really matter how you point/ direct the light meter, whether to the light source or facing the direction the camera is pointing

  • David Mountainlake

    Hey, very shortly about sound, of which i have been doing quite alot of. The more you have to amplify the input signal, the more echo you will get, so to eliminate og minimize, you have to be close to the mic – with that said – Lavalier ;-)
    Sennheiser MKE-2 lavalier mic on a wireless system, and you will sound like you were standing in peoples livingrooms.

  • Ben

    Great informative tutorial!! Could you please tell me what size beauty dish and softbox you are using?

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