Beauty is in the eye of the beholder—but smart lighting helps, too. See how you can use a beauty dish to get just the right balance of softness and structure.
What do you need?
When you’re shooting a model in a studio, you want to make sure your subject looks his or her best, and sculpting with light is essential to getting a great portrait. Impact’s Folding Beauty Dishes are a unique tool that combines the portability of an umbrella with the light quality of a traditional beauty dish. It’s compatible with most flashes, and its octagonal shape gives great catchlights.
Why a beauty dish?
Why a beauty dish over an umbrella or softbox? While almost any portrait would benefit from a light source with a large surface area and soft, generous light, light that’s too soft can flatten your subject in a way that’s unflattering. This is especially true when photographing more youthful models. That’s when a beauty dish comes in handy, because it uses indirect light to soften shadow transitions rather than filtering the light through a diffuser. This provides just enough punch and contrast, highlighting the structure of the face, adding depth, and bringing out the details of the makeup and clothing.
When positioning the light source, it’s best to start off by placing it at a 45-degree lateral angle. You should also start by elevating it by about 20 degrees, because humans by instinct are accustomed to seeing the world lit from above. This will give you a flattering and natural-looking starting point. From here, you can start to experiment by playing with positioning. You can also experiment with using a reflector as a fill if you want to reduce some shadows.
It’s best to turn down all the other lights in the room so that you have full control over your lighting. As far as aperture goes, the f-stop for portraits can be anywhere between f/2.8 and f/8, depending on how much depth of field you want. A light meter is also a crucial tool for good lighting—invest in one! Beyond that, keep experimenting with light positioning, intensity, and shutter speeds, and never be afraid to shoot until you find that right combination of light and pose.