Hold the presses!! Update to the Beauty Dish

I proudly posted the results of my beauty dish below on the Strobist thread and some folks who clearly know more about the quality of light than I do ask some questions… First they said well show me some pictures of how the light spread out on the wall?  So I took some pictures… I wasn’t real happy and the results shown here.

DIY Beauty Dish Test @ 2 feet

So I listened to what they had to say and I made adjustments… I changed the CD cover that was holding my convex mirror to one that was about 2 1/2 inches longer.  The difference was striking.  Just not good.  The new version of the mirror holder made the center circle more pronounced.

The answer to all of this was to create and adjustable mirror mount.  It’s funny because that’s what I had on the old plastic dish I tried a while back – not that I adjusted it but it was adjustable.  So I pulled it off the old one and move it to the new better dish and flash mount.  The new old mirror was just mounted on the bolts through the same type of door guard with a CD.  Once I moved it to the new dish it was just a matter of moving it in and out until I found the sweet spot for my dish.  turned out to be way closer than I would have guessed – only about an inch from the flash.  But the result looks way better – no dead spot at all.  Here it is.

So the bottom line with the beauty dish – never mind what I said the previous post… there should be no dead spot and who ever told me that was an idiot – the light should be smooth as eggs!



  1. says

    Great article, thanks for the update! So if I’m getting this right, you’re saying that if you move the mirror in closer to the light source, you get a nice fuller light? I just recently made a beauty dish but haven’t tested it that thoroughly yet.

    @John: Yeah, it was completly counter-intutive to me. I wanted to push the mirror out but it worked WAY BETTER with the mirror close in. I suspect though it depends a lot on the shape of the bowl. Test, adjust, test, adjust… Tom

  2. says


    Thanks for the great DIY! I’m gonna try to get this going possibly this weekend. The only thing that I’m curious on is how you made the adjustable mirror mount. I didn’t quite follow that part. I guess I just do better with pictures. Any way you could send some? Or even give a description of how you did it?



    @Matt – Coming right up! Tom

  3. Stargate001 says

    Hey Tom,
    Congrats on the link up from Strobist blog, well deserved :)

  4. Jeroen says


    A rule of photography – break the rules! If you want/need a blind spot in the middle you can have it!


  5. says

    Hello all.
    This “Beauty Dish” is wonderful (and beautiful). I used white Sterilite bowls (made in USA) so I didn’t have to paint anything. The color balance seems really nice for portraits. There were four in the pack so I can make a big light and a small light. Trimming the inner bowl is a lot easier and neater if you have a large band saw (or your friend has) and a tall fence.
    Anyway, I’m really writing about the reflector. Unless I’m missing something from another post, I found a way to use the CD case and still make the reflector (a CD) adjustable without having to use the three mounting bolts. I drilled a hole through the center of the inner reflective dish and then through the center of the CD case. Install the bolt from outside through the inner dish and the CD case, slip on a washer and then a nut and tighten up a bit. Then do as Tom did… on with a nut, then a washer, then the CD, another washer and another nut. The bolt obviously has to be long enough to allow for whatever adjustment you might need. I put the CD about 1.25 inches from the flash and tested it on a black cloth. Beautiful soft light side to side.

    From the land of the great Canuck
    Thanks again everyone :-)

  6. Shane says

    Hey Tom,

    Nice work on the BD. My observation (without knowing the settings that you used on your test shots) is that you now have a nice even light with no dead spot, but yu appear to have lost a lot of light between pictures 2 and 3.

    Is this true? And if so, have you tried different combinations of zoom setting and mirro distance?

    And one more observation, your light source now seems to have more spread / spill. Are you happy with your results?



  7. says


    It has been a while since I did the photos and I really can’t remember what the camera settings were on. I’m pretty confident that they were not all the same because they were taken over a period of time. It would have been smart to do so, but I’d bet they weren’t.

    There is a loss of light but probably not as much as you might think. You are correct moving the mirror around changes the quantity and quality of light. the point for me is that it can be changed/adjusted.

    I am happy with the results. The dish was a fun project and I’ve gotten lots of requests to make them for folks that don’t have the time, tools, or know how to do it themselves. When the weather warms a bit I’m going to try a few for folks and see if they like them too. If I can help out someone and make a buck or two to pay for some camera gear we’re all winners!

    Thanks for watching LightandPixels.com. Be sure to visit often. I’ve just posted my first videos – a review of the RadioPopper PX system.




  1. [...] How does that beauty dish adjust anyway?  That’s the big question and it’s the thing I did not explain it very well.  So here goes.  Really, it is just a built up mirror on three bolts that can slide in and out of the dish.  The big thing is that each dish is likely to be different and you’ll have to find the sweet spot for your mirror/dish combination by adjusting, test shooting, adjusting and test shooting until you’ve got it working the way you want. I was surprised at how close I had to move the mirror (about 1 inch / 10 cm) out was the final resting place.  I found that to be very counter intuitive.  I really wanted to move it out further, but closer in was the right answer.  You can see the results of the testing this earlier post. [...]

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