A beauty dish is a photographic lighting device that uses a parabolic reflector to distribute light towards a focal point. The light created is between that of a direct flash and a softbox, giving the image a wrapped, contrasted look, which adds a more dramatic effect.
There are two main differences between a beauty dish and a normal reflector. First, beauty dishes are inevitably larger than normal reflectors. For example, in one equipment line, reflectors range from 7 to 16 inch diameter, while the beauty light is 22 inches in diameter. From another manufacturer, their normal reflectors range from 7 to 13 inch diameter, with an approximate 21 inch diameter beauty dish.
Second, virtually every beauty dish has an opaque cover directly over the front of the light source in the center of the beauty dish, preventing direct light from hitting the subject. Thus, all the light that emanates from the beauty dish has bounced off the interior wall of the beauty dish, resulting in softer light than obtainable from a standard reflector.
There are many uses for a beauty dish, but its basic function is to provide a focused source of light for photographers. The beauty dish is used in portrait and fashion photography, because it is the best modifier for concentrating light on a subject and creating a better image than other modifiers. Because the beauty dish wraps the light around the subject it gives the image a better contrast and highlights angles that other modifiers wouldn't be able to highlight, which is why most fashion photographers use them for their models.
In portrait photography, the beauty dish is used a lot more because of its ability to capture a more high quality version of the model's beauty. With the way the beauty dish creates certain shadows in the "portrait" of the model it basically sculpts the face of the model, so that her beauty is captured in a more unique and high-profile way.
The beauty dish is also used in sports photography, because of the same reasons it is used in portrait and fashion photography. The way the beauty dish reflects the light allows it to accentuate and highlight the muscles and textures of the model, which is very important when a photographer's goal is to make a model look as if they are athletic even when they may not be.
The beauty dish comes in many different forms and each one creates a different effect on the model/subject. A few different designs include:
Although the designs do not vary all that much, the differences give photographers room to see what works best for them and for their models.
The different uses of the beauty dish are: