They’re ubiquitous tools for studio lighting but how often do photographers stop to consider beauty dishes? We’re guessing pretty rarely, which is strange since beauty dishes are downright indispensable lighting accessories for portrait and fashion photography.
Serious pros don’t skimp on their cameras or lenses so why buy a cheap beauty dish from a manufacturer with no track record of making modifiers just to a save a few bucks? We guarantee you’ll regret it in the long run, which is why we’ve created this product guide to our five favorite beauty dishes for studio photography.
If you want to please your clients by capturing striking portraits with flattering and/or dramatic lighting, you should strongly consider trying (and buying) a beauty dish from our list. You should also check out this recent tutorial with five classic techniques for using a beauty dish in the studio.
Editor’s note: If you’re looking for more lighting gear buying advice, read our recent guide to the best strobe and LED continuous lights on the market.
Profoto OCF Beauty Dish
Profoto is a storied name in studio lighting so it’s no surprise that two of their beauty dishes make our top five. Designed for Profoto’s B1 and B2 OCF heads, the Profoto OCF Beauty Dish ($199) is a 24-inch beauty dish that comes in white or silver interior colors. What we like about this dish is that while it provides ample reflective area when fully open, it’s collapsible and lightweight so it’s easy to transport if you’re shooting at a client’s space. (It literally takes up no more room than a folded umbrella and comes with a carrying bag.) When in use, this Profoto dish creates a classic beauty light effect, with crisp but creamy illumination for eye-catching portraits. The dish comes with a deflector plate, which bounces the light and directs it to the edges, and a front diffuser for softening the light. When used with the separately purchased OCF speed ring, set up is a breeze: just pop the rods in before they are tensioned and then snap them into place.
Broncolor Beauty Dish Reflector
If you want top-of-the-line quality in your beauty dish and don’t mind spending a little extra, the Broncolor Beauty Dish Reflector ($560) is about as good as it gets when it comes to this type of light modifier. With a 20.4-inch diameter and a depth of 7.7 inches, the interior of the Broncolor Beauty Dish Reflector is coated with a deep white color that’s designed to reflect light evenly on your subjects while producing deep shadows with soft edges. Add in the counter reflector on the interior, and you’ll be able to sculpt a person’s face with light while defining specific features such as the chin, nose or forehead. Designed for portrait or beauty photography, the Broncolor Beauty Dish Reflector is a good alternative to softboxes, providing light that’s more directional but still soft and flattering. For additional softening, a ½-stop fabric diffuser sock that flips over the front of the dish is included. The Broncolor Beauty Dish Reflector works with any Broncolor flash or monolight including the two we mentioned in our guide to the best strobes and LED continuous lights you can buy.
Westcott Switch Beauty Dish
The “Switch” in the Westcott Switch Beauty Dish’s name is for how quickly you can set it up whether you’re using studio strobes or portable speedlights (even if they’re made by different brands). Designed by pro photographer Joel Grimes, the Westcott Switch Beauty Dish ($290) works with dozens of “inserts” (sold separately) that are compatible with a range of strobes and speedlights, letting you switch rapidly between them for different looks and increased mobility. Speaking of mobility, the 24-inch Westcott Switch Beauty Dish weighs just under two pounds and is collapsible, folding down in seconds like an umbrella. At the same time, it functions like a traditional beauty dish when opened fully, producing soft but crisp reflected light that’s ideal for beauty or portrait photography. Meanwhile, an interior deflector plate bounces the light backward and distributes it throughout the dish to prevent hotspots while producing natural catchlights in your subject’s eyes. It comes with a slip-on front diffuser to further soften the light if needed.
Profoto White Softlight Beauty Dish Reflector
Another premium light modifier from Profoto, the 20.5-inch White Softlight Beauty Dish Reflector ($465) is designed to produce wide, balanced, and soft light along with crisp shadow definition when mounted to a Profoto flash head. The gradual and smooth fall-off of light generated by the dish is particularly suited for close-up beauty shots. A classic beauty dish that creates a classic look for portrait photography, the Profoto White Softlight Beauty Dish Reflector features a center disk that blocks out the direct light to prevent hot spots. For a different look, it can be replaced by a semi-opaque opal glass disc to create a center hot spot that eliminates a donut-hole effect in specular highlights. While it costs more than some similar products, the Profoto White Softlight Beauty Dish Reflector is extremely well made and will likely become your go-to light shaping tool for decades to come.
Godox Beauty Dish Reflector
If you’re on a budget and don’t need the surface area of the larger modifiers in this guide, the Godox Beauty Dish Reflector ($44.70) is a solid, affordable option. This 16.5-inch beauty dish comes in silver or white interior versions and produces a soft look with just a touch of crispiness for fashion and portrait studio sessions. The Godox Beauty Dish Reflector bounces light off a central deflector and then distributes it evenly across the full interior for smooth and pleasing illumination. This is a great beauty dish for getting hair and makeup to look right so don’t be afraid to use it to prep your model before a shoot. When it’s go-time, you’ll love the natural catchlights the Godox Beauty Dish Reflector produces in your subject’s eyes. A diffusion sock is included if you want to further soften the light. And of course, the price for a quality beauty dish like this really can’t be beat.