5 Classic Techniques for Using a Beauty Dish in Portrait Photography

Screenshot of beauty dish tips

We recently published our guide to the five best beauty dishes you can buy, so we thought it was a good time for a quick refresher course on some classic techniques for using this type of light modifier in portrait photography. In the below video, portrait pro Miguel Quiles shares five ways he uses a beauty dish to take studio-style portraits.

While many studio photographers might already be familiar with some of these beauty dish setups, others may not, particularly portrait photographers who shoot mainly in natural light and might be considering trying strobes for the first time. Also, it’s always good to revisit classic lighting techniques to help get the creative juices flowing again.

Here are the five methods for using a beauty dish that Quiles demonstrates in the video while photographing model Krystina Fernicola in the studio. (It’s worth noting that the Profoto beauty dish Quiles uses in the tutorial is one of our five favorites from yesterday’s buyer’s guide.)

Setup #1: Clamshell without Diffusion
“This is super nice for creating this really contrasty light to bring out skin texture,” he says.

Setup #2: Clamshell with Diffusion & Reflector
“All that I’m doing with this set-up is creating that little extra catchlight on the bottom of the eyes that just draws more attention to the face.”

Setup #3: Fill Light
“In this particular setup, I’m going to have [the beauty dish] below. This is going to be acting somewhat like the reflector we were using in that second setup except a lot better because I can actually dial the power up or down in order provide more or less fill depending on what my needs are for this shot.”

Setup #4: Hair or Kicker Light
“What I’ve done for this setup is I’ve taken the beauty dish and I’ve put it behind the background. So that beauty dish is acting as a hair light or a separation light.”

Setup #5:  Main Light Punch
“In this case I’m using a 5-foot octa from Profoto as the main light, and what I want to do is have the center of the light be a harder light source to spice up the shot a little bit. So, I have the Profoto beauty dish here without the diffusion with the silver interior, and this going to reflect and give a lot more light and it’s going to be a little bit more contrasty than without the 5-foot octa.”

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