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.
Also, before I go much further I want to give credit to Flickr users Jon_Senior and Stargate001 for helping me get this right. They and others were key in this Strobist discussion thread to helping me get this dish working well. I really believe in the Strobist community. It is by far the most giving group I’ve ever encountered - YOU STROBISTS ROCK!
Alright, before we go too much further, I need to clear up one little question that keeps coming up.
The question is – does the thing in the front diffuse the light? The answer is, no. This dish is all about the reflector. The thing in front is actually a 5″wall door stop that mounts the mirror/reflector. I got mine at Walmart.
How it was put together:
The wall door stop has it’s own adhesive to attach itself to the wall. I used that adhesive and some silicone caulking to attach a blank CD (make sure you’ve got a plain silver CD not one of the purple or blue ones) and then a 3 and 3/4″ convex mirror (The ones pictured are actually from different attempt at a beauty dish that didn’t turn out as well). By the time I put this version of the dish together I had removed the black plastic backing on the mirror seen in this picture because I thought it might make some kind of weird shadow or something.
Once you’ve got the wall stop, the CD, and the convex mirror attached together with the silicone it’s time to drill holes for the mounting bolts. I used three bolts. Be careful drilling the holes. Sometimes the CD wants to shatter and you should wear eye protection just to be safe. Once the holes are in place, run the bolts through some washer and put nuts on the CD side to hold them in place. I then put another set of nuts on to act as adjustment stops.
Once it’s all built up the reflector looks like this.
The dish with the reflector removed looks like the picture below. Note that the base of the CD case is still in place as is the gutter downspout. I’ve bolted the downspout in with small bolts and covered it all with reflective tape that came with my Strobist kit from MPEX. You can see the holes where the three bolts go through the base. I don’t know that you need the base, but I was there when I backed out of using the plastic CD case because it was making some ugly light. Really, the adjustability of this dish is all about quality of light.
Okay, here is the back side of the dish with the bolts sticking out and locked into place after adjustment.
I hope this has been helpful to those of you building one of these in the future. Things I learned that others may benefit from:
- The bamboo bowl is a really nice choice for the bowl. Light, strong, big, cheap, and takes the paint well.
- Don’t use gloss white inside the bowl – use a flat white paint. I like spray paint though.
- If you can thread the metal it’s the best way to mount the spigot.
- The CD case is not a really good way to go. It dims the light and most importantly it can’t be adjusted to your bowl.
- A good place to get parts for the mounting bracket (spigot and shoe) is from Lon at Flashzebra. He’s amazing good, fast, and helpful.
Thank you all for taking time to look. I hope you’ll keep watching the blog and giving me tips when you can. Please look for me on Flickr as Sportrait – I really like sports portraits and they were the reason I built this dish in the first place. There are a few sports portrait examples posted on my Flickr page and several more here on Light and Pixels too. Thanks again and keep in touch I’ll be posting some really nice stuff over Christmas so keep an eye out for that.