Using a Beauty Dish for Soft Lighting in Portraits

The use of a beauty dish helps to simplify the sometimes difficult task of using lighting to even out imperfections and skin tones. In addition to the appealing soft lighting the modifier produces, you can also get the added benefit of creating attractive catch lights in the eyes. As Joel Grimes explains in the following video, even slightest change of distance can make a drastic change on the way your subject is lit and the location in which you place the dish will vary depending on the facial structure of the subject. Here is how Grimes does it:

A few key points to remember:

  • Place the beauty dish on boom arm so you will be able to shoot from underneath it.
  • Raising the dish away from the model will darken shadows. Use a reflector to bounce some light back and soften the shadows to give a hollowed look on the cheek.
  • When lowering the dish, lower your camera position with it.
  • Back your camera off the model to pick up the natural vignette often caused from the beauty dish.
  • The light will fall off faster the more distance you have between the dish and the model.

beauty dish for portraits

“I recommend using some kind of wall to have the model to lean up against. If you don’t have a beauty dish, keep in mind you can use a small umbrella. The small umbrella will be a little bit harsher, but you can also manipulate that to get the softness you need.”

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