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DIY Beauty dish

Ever since I discovered what a beauty dish was, I’ve wanted one. The problem is that I don’t have any strobes to use one on. My lighting is limited to a single Canon Speedlight (shoe mounted flash).

How could I produce the look of a beauty dish with my one Speedlight?

Simple. Build a beauty dish to fit.

I’m not the most handy of the handymen. Therefore, instead of designing the dish on my own, I Googled other peoples designs and copied it. I ended up using the one I found on David Tejada’s blog. His looks better (and probably works better too but that is yet to be determined) but I gave it a good effort.

To get most of the parts, I visited Home Depot. The main “dish” is a plastic terracotta planter. I wanted to find a relatively shallow one that was 14″ across but they didn’t have any that size. I ended up getting a deeper one that is about 12″ across.

Next, I headed over to the gutter section. I was looking for what is called a drop out or outlet (I think). While David used a metal one, the only one that fit my Canon 550EX was a plastic one. It doesn’t really make much difference. If you are planning on doing this, bring your Speedlight with you to check the fit.

I then headed to the paint section. I bough a can of flat black spray paint and a can of glossy white spray paint. I figured the gloss might help the light reflect. Maybe not.

After leaving Home Depot, I went to the auto parts store and got a 3 3/4″ blind spot mirror.

When I got home, I began building. I traced the outline of the gutter outlet onto the bottom of the dish. I used a Dremel to cut it out because I could. I imagine a sharp knife would work just as well.

I then also cut the same shape out of the bottom of a CD spool. A little bit of hot glue later, and the dish, the bottom of the CD spool and the gutter outlet were one.

I then spray painted the inside of the dish white and the outside black. I didn’t want an orange dish.

I glued a CD to the inside top of the CD spool. On top of that, I placed that blind spot mirror.

The light will be firing through the back of the dish, which is also firing into the bottom of the CD spool. The light shoots straight at the mirror which spreads it back around the dish which in turn lights the subject.

The beauty dish as seen from the front.

The beauty dish as seen from the front.

A rear view showing the mount for the Speedlight and also the depth of the dish.

A rear view showing the mount for the Speedlight and also the depth of the dish.

The interior of the dish with the reflector off and set to the side.

The interior of the dish with the reflector off and set to the side.

I haven’t had an opportunity to test it on a person yet. The one thing I am concerned about is the direction of the light. This is what I would describe as a “shotgun beauty dish.” Its depth makes it a directional light modifier. I am concerned that it wont wrap a subject with light as beauty dishes are known to do.

Just from popping off a few test frames, I have noticed that I do lose about two stops of light.

Hopefully this weekend I will have an opportunity to further test it and see if this is something worth keeping. As soon as I find a wider and shallower planter, I will probably build another one.

This entire build cost me just over $20 but I already had a CD spool.

My DIY beauty dish works like a charm
Portraits of Gavin Culbertson
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7 Responses

  1. Max, I will be trying this very soon, because I have some portraits to shoot for the RFT… if successfull I will repost on my blog, one question though, how did you secure the flash head to the dish?

    • Stew,
      I know I talked to you on the phone about this already but I will respond here just in case someone else has the same question.

      My 550EX seems to fit very snug into the gutter outlet. I have held it with the beauty dish facing directly down and it holds on fine. I have seen other people’s version with a velcro strap that holds the flash in more securely but I haven’t run into a issue.

      If anything, I would build a tripod/light stand mount on the dish itself to take a majority of the stress off of the Speedlight itself.

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