Of the lighting modifiers I use on studio, I normally juggle between the venerable softbox and the ol' reliable umbrella (shoot-through and reflective). Depending on the situation, I like to use either of the two because of the soft and flattering quality of light they produce with my strobes, and my subjects would come out nice in the shots. The thing though is that these produce mainly soft lighting with a very gradual light-to-shade transition. I wanted to try something else, something that modifies the characteristic of the light into something that's not that soft, but not that hard either (as opposed to using direct flash). Something that produces a dramatically distinct yet still flattering lighting effect that boxes or umbrellas couldn't (arguably) deliver. So after searching online I came across a 22-inch pre-owned beauty dish: a bargain for only less than $50.
So how does it fare?
Originally the inner surface of the beauty dish was silver-painted. I didn't really like it that way so I pulled out a paint spray can and repainted it into a glossy white. The reason I preferred a white coat over a silver one is that the former gives a somewhat softer tone on the reflected light than that of the latter. At this point though it's merely a personal preference since the differences of effects between the two coats are barely far from each other.
As for its performance, think of it as a cross between a softbox and direct flash: soft light with a slightly higher yet still flattering gradient contrast, and sans a hot spot. All the same, as I've expected from a medium beauty dish, the results are dramatically beautiful...
Here (as with all the other photos in this writing) I placed the dish just above and to her right, roughly a foot away from her face. This is so I can isolate the light mainly on to her and avoid any unnecessary light spillage to the background. Unfortunately there was barely enough space in the room I used for this session so I couldn't pull her away from the wall behind her. The end result is still good though, and I like how the light fell on her facial and body features: not too soft, not too hard.
Here's a pull-back shot, showing the spatial limitations of the room. Oh, and my back was nearly against the opposite wall as I took this shot. ;) A second strobe outfitted with a snoot is also present, but I eventually turned it off to allow more emphasis to the distinct light that a beauty dish offers.
Monochrome photos go even quite well when used with a dish, as seen in this example:
And if you move the light to one side, the change in position creates an even greater visual impact to the photo:
Overall, I'm sold to what the beauty dish provides for me and my shots. Yes, it's bulky, it's heavy, and it's prone to being dented (by dropping it, for example). But the quality of light it produces is simply wonderful. Buy one, preferably a big dish. You won't go wrong with it (as long as you use it properly).
Special thanks to Mr. Paulo Raval for the dish. :)
Other photos can be found here.
Camera Settings for All Photos:
1/250th of a sec., at f/8, ISO 100, varying focal lengths
AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 18-105mm. f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED VR Lens
JTL Versalight 250W and 360W Strobes
Pixel King TTL Flash Trigger Set