5 Jun 2012

DIY Beauty Dish - for £1

I don't really need a beauty dish as I rarely shoot in studio mode or even with a flash, if truth be told.  I like the idea of them but I'm not going to part with £80 upwards when all I want to do is use one for fun.  So I made my own and was utterly delighted with the result.  If you have an external flash and like to shoot your subjects with a soft light and capture that amazing "lifebuoy" style catch light in the eyes and immediate glow.....read on.

I had these ideas running through my head all week to make one and thought my experiment would turn out to be utter horse crap and in a funny old way, it still looks like utter horse crap but it performs like a fine filly at the 3.15 at Chepstow.  Please bear with me and hold onto your initial thoughts until the end....so no scrolling down, ok?!

To make this beauty dish (which, for a homemade one is ok to use for your own pleasure and not in a profesh studio because those cocktail sticks look nasty and honestly, you don't want to look a complete twonk in front of clients)...................



you will need:

2 x polystyrene dishes
2 cocktail sticks
A small piece of foil
Double sided tape
A cutting knife
A pair of scissors

I know - its freaking crazy, right?  Such flimsy, cheap and readily available little oddities........ but be patient and trusting, all good things...........

First off, grab your external flash head and make an impression in the rear of the dish (polystyrene is perfect for this as its soft - or you could just mark around its edges with a pencil).  Cut around the impression or pencil lines with a cutting knife.  As this is polystyrene, you will love how simple and soft the surface is to slice.


Pop out the bit you just cut and revel in your marvellous cutting skills, like i did.  I just went "ooooh!"


Slot your external flash in through the rear to ensure a snug fit.  No prizes for yours if its not as raggy as mine.  I like a bit of a rustic finish.


Now take your second bowl and cut out the entire flat bottom of the dish



So that it looks like this


Next, line the bottom of the "was a dish" piece with double sided tape


And then adhere a piece of foil, rubbing down firmly for a strong adhesion


Then trim off the edges like so


Turn the piece over and insert two cocktail sticks - one at 12 o'clock and one at 6 o'clock.  Polystyrene, on this instance, is a magical place to house a cocktail stick or two for a secure fit.


Transfer your antennaed piece to the dish, with your flash still inserted.  Affix centrally to the dish and over the flash head.  Leave a gap of about 2 cms between the flash head and your foiled, antennaed piece.


Congratulate yourself on building yourself one hell of an ugly looking beauty dish.
But fear not, my untrusting friend, for the magic will happen once we start taking picture.

Now, grab your subject and ask them, first, not to laugh at the hideousness of your invention.  Suggest for  them to recall the story of the ugly duckling so that they get the general idea of what is about to unfold.  In my case, I asked hubby to model for me.  Not only was it a laborious task but one out of pained necessity for me.  Excuse his obvious lack of enthusiasm for this experiment.

The experiment in action
Using an aperture of F5.6 (my lower end choice for portraits), I selected a beam of 1/8 for this trial.  The angle was 45 degrees (head on) which is generally too harsh for indoor, non studio portraits. But as you can see, with a beauty dish used in this fashion, its offered a soft and shadowless finish.  RESULT!  However, there is nothing that can be done for reflections in spectacles (and his are anti glare, hence green orbs) although you can see the beauty dish "works" by noting the "Lifebouy" catch light.    What a fine figure of a man, right?


Now without his spectacles, you can appreciate how bloody fantastic this cheapo beauty dish can work in your favour.  I love the immediate lighting and the obvious lack of shadows from the flash.  Normally you would have to bounce the light off the wall or ceiling for this effect.


 Here, I experimented with moving the antennaed piece closer to the flash head.  You will note its made hubby's face slighter shaded and his arm more illuminated.  Not so good but worth experimenting with.  At least my invention has that capability.


And for  a further show of how amazing this homemade beauty dish is, I took the whole thing off and fired the flash directly in hubby's face.  Not a good look whatsoever.  Which means its a big hurrah for the beauty dish and its offer of a soft, even glow.


And to prove how delicious this homemade contraption really is, I tested it on my Belle la Belle which proves how wonderful the light really is.
**Love the catch lights in her eyes**


In sum, although my beauty dish is somewhat smaller (and uglier) than your average dish, its worth playing about with a homemade one until you can appreciate what size you want to work with and whether you like the results to warrant buying the real deal.

I'm on the look out for larger polystyrene dishes to broaden the area I want to work on but in the interim, I'm happy to faff around with my little creation until I decide whether to spend the big bucks or not.  Or maybe just continue using this monstrosity and fake it until someone can convince me otherwise.

28 comments:

Pete Hux said...

I cannot believe my luck. I've been checking out DIY beauty dishes over the past month but yours is not only the cheapest, it is also explained in simple, easy terms with photos to accompany each step.
I hope you are ready to be bombarded with gratitude. Well done! I'm impressed.

Anonymous said...

I have a bridge camera, so no separate flash, but would defo make one of these if I had an DSLR. It has made me wonder if I can experiment in some way with the flash on my camera though... Off to dig out the Duck tape! :-) Jude.x

Judi said...

Wow Kirsty, what a neat idea. I had an external flash for my birthday so will definitely be trying this - thanks for sharing your invention! Off to source some polystyrene dishes. xx

Bumblebee said...

I had no idea what a beauty dish was Kirsty, but now I do, and would feel happy to make my own if I ever needed one!! Thanks for the tutorial!x

Anonymous said...

how does it work with glasses on please? would be good to see the same shot with the glasses on as some people need to wear them all the time. thanks for sharing this idea which costs a lot less than a £1 !

Kirsty Wiseman said...

Dear anon, above
Just get them to tilt their head a little to avoid the reflection. I wanted to display the lifebouy effect to share how effective the catchlight is. Hubby just wears his glasses for reading.
Kirsty

Di said...

Amazing invention Kirsty. Am snorting with laughter here though about 'looking a complete twonk in front of clients' :)

Now, I don't have a fancy camera, so sadly won't be making one of these - but I know how to now :) Anyhow, if I had a fancy camera I'd be trotting along to your Southampton class, which I'm not, 'cos I haven't but it's almost enough to make me splash out. Betcha it'll be a blast - esp. with your fabby beauty dish :)

Di
xx.

jerseytjej said...

This is the most awesome idea ever! Props for saving £80 and thanks for sharing the idea. Belle is a cutie for sure, with or without a dish! :)

Louise said...

Going to have a go - picked up some poly plates in Wilkos this afternoon!

Louise said...

it worked!
http://www.flickr.com/photos/29195036@N02/7181224023/in/photostream

http://www.flickr.com/photos/29195036@N02/7366450042/in/photostream/

Thanks x

GWG said...

Wow, awesome idea and execution! Will give that a try myself - now just got to find those kind of dishes! Thanks for the great article!

Michael R pdx said...

Hey Anonymous, if your bridge camera has a flash a separate flash can be triggered from the on board one.

You can still make and use this wonderful beauty dish variation.

Chuck Baggett said...

What do you mean by "lifebuoy"?

Kirsty Wiseman said...

lifebouy as in life ring - the shape of a donut device that you chuck to a drowning person!

James Gu said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful idea!

Although I haven't tried it yet, I see that your foil is taped on the concave side of the second plate. Wouldn't that reflect some light back to the flash head?

1. I tried shooting a bare flash beam directly at a photocopy, and the flash had enough power to make the toner on the paper smoke. I wonder if, at suck close distances, the reflected beam would damage the body of the external flash?

2. What if you taped the foil to the convex side of the second plate? This would probably prevent the potentially damaging beam from concentrating back onto the flash head. In addition, it would direct more light into the catch of the first plate, making the overall output brighter.

Just a few thoughts. I'm going to test if my theory is correct.

Thanks again for the idea!

James

James Gu said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful idea!

Although I haven't tried it yet, I see that your foil is taped on the concave side of the second plate. Wouldn't that reflect some light back to the flash head?

1. I tried shooting a bare flash beam directly at a photocopy, and the flash had enough power to make the toner on the paper smoke. I wonder if, at suck close distances, the reflected beam would damage the body of the external flash?

2. What if you taped the foil to the convex side of the second plate? This would probably prevent the potentially damaging beam from concentrating back onto the flash head. In addition, it would direct more light into the catch of the first plate, making the overall output brighter.

Just a few thoughts. I'm going to test if my theory is correct.

Thanks again for the idea!

James

James Gu said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful idea!

Although I haven't tried it yet, I see that your foil is taped on the concave side of the second plate. Wouldn't that reflect some light back to the flash head?

1. I tried shooting a bare flash beam directly at a photocopy, and the flash had enough power to make the toner on the paper smoke. I wonder if, at suck close distances, the reflected beam would damage the body of the external flash?

2. What if you taped the foil to the convex side of the second plate? This would probably prevent the potentially damaging beam from concentrating back onto the flash head. In addition, it would direct more light into the catch of the first plate, making the overall output brighter.

Just a few thoughts. I'm going to test if my theory is correct.

Thanks again for the idea!

James

James Gu said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful idea!

Although I haven't tried it yet, I see that your foil is taped on the concave side of the second plate. Wouldn't that reflect some light back to the flash head?

1. I tried shooting a bare flash beam directly at a photocopy, and the flash had enough power to make the toner on the paper smoke. I wonder if, at suck close distances, the reflected beam would damage the body of the external flash?

2. What if you taped the foil to the convex side of the second plate? This would probably prevent the potentially damaging beam from concentrating back onto the flash head. In addition, it would direct more light into the catch of the first plate, making the overall output brighter.

Just a few thoughts. I'm going to test if my theory is correct.

Thanks again for the idea!

James

James Gu said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful idea!

Although I haven't tried it yet, I see that your foil is taped on the concave side of the second plate. Wouldn't that reflect some light back to the flash head?

1. I tried shooting a bare flash beam directly at a photocopy, and the flash had enough power to make the toner on the paper smoke. I wonder if, at suck close distances, the reflected beam would damage the body of the external flash?

2. What if you taped the foil to the convex side of the second plate? This would probably prevent the potentially damaging beam from concentrating back onto the flash head. In addition, it would direct more light into the catch of the first plate, making the overall output brighter.

Just a few thoughts. I'm going to test if my theory is correct.

Thanks again for the idea!

James

James Gu said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful idea!

Although I haven't tried it yet, I see that your foil is taped on the concave side of the second plate. Wouldn't that reflect some light back to the flash head?

1. I tried shooting a bare flash beam directly at a photocopy, and the flash had enough power to make the toner on the paper smoke. I wonder if, at suck close distances, the reflected beam would damage the body of the external flash?

2. What if you taped the foil to the convex side of the second plate? This would probably prevent the potentially damaging beam from concentrating back onto the flash head. In addition, it would direct more light into the catch of the first plate, making the overall output brighter.

Just a few thoughts. I'm going to test if my theory is correct.

Thanks again for the idea!

James

James Gu said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful idea!

Although I haven't tried it yet, I see that your foil is taped on the concave side of the second plate. Wouldn't that reflect some light back to the flash head?

1. I tried shooting a bare flash beam directly at a photocopy, and the flash had enough power to make the toner on the paper smoke. I wonder if, at suck close distances, the reflected beam would damage the body of the external flash?

2. What if you taped the foil to the convex side of the second plate? This would probably prevent the potentially damaging beam from concentrating back onto the flash head. In addition, it would direct more light into the catch of the first plate, making the overall output brighter.

Just a few thoughts. I'm going to test if my theory is correct.

Thanks again for the idea!

James

James Gu said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful idea!

Although I haven't tried it yet, I see that your foil is taped on the concave side of the second plate. Wouldn't that reflect some light back to the flash head?

1. I tried shooting a bare flash beam directly at a photocopy, and the flash had enough power to make the toner on the paper smoke. I wonder if, at suck close distances, the reflected beam would damage the body of the external flash?

2. What if you taped the foil to the convex side of the second plate? This would probably prevent the potentially damaging beam from concentrating back onto the flash head. In addition, it would direct more light into the catch of the first plate, making the overall output brighter.

Just a few thoughts. I'm going to test if my theory is correct.

Thanks again for the idea!

James

James Gu said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful idea!

Although I haven't tried it yet, I see that your foil is taped on the concave side of the second plate. Wouldn't that reflect some light back to the flash head?

1. I tried shooting a bare flash beam directly at a photocopy, and the flash had enough power to make the toner on the paper smoke. I wonder if, at suck close distances, the reflected beam would damage the body of the external flash?

2. What if you taped the foil to the convex side of the second plate? This would probably prevent the potentially damaging beam from concentrating back onto the flash head. In addition, it would direct more light into the catch of the first plate, making the overall output brighter.

Just a few thoughts. I'm going to test if my theory is correct.

Thanks again for the idea!

James

James Gu said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

this is cool, def'ly will try this myself.
Also might be worth trying with shiny aluminium baking pans.

Stuart Halliday said...

Have you tried it without the foil?
You may get softer rings...

Anonymous said...

WOW!! What...Fabulous little DIY Beauty Dish....You explained it so simply and I had mine together in no time...Awesome!! Thank you so much Kristy...
Blessings :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, I made in the past a similar dish very cheap too with good results: http://www.fotoclick.com.br/eliminando-sombras-de-flash/