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Review: The Chris Gampat Beauty Dish Hack for your Speedlite

by Chris Gampat on 04/17/2011

I’ve grown smitten with Beauty Dishes as of late. For those of you that don’t know, a Beauty Dish is a light modifier that takes light firing into the back of the dish, reflects it against a plate, and then reflects it against a white dish to spread the light out evenly. When I tested out the Strobros, I knew that I had to have more. So with some inspiration from Todd Owyoung and DIYPhotography‘s Editor Udi Tirosh’s book previously reviewed here, I set out to use existing items to make a Beauty Dish work with my Canon speedlite on the cheap.

Gear Used:

Canon 580 EX II

Gary Fong Lightsphere Collapsible (reviewed here)

430 EX II

Interfit Beauty Dish

Impact Powersync16 DC Kit

Canon 7D

Construction

For this DIY Project, you’ll only need the above items, but for some of the photos taken I didn’t even use the Powersyncs.

First put the Gary Fong Lightsphere collapsible around the flash head. Make sure it is collapsed.

Then, pop it up into shooting configuration. Ensure that there isn’t a lid to close the Lightsphere.

Next, fold the Lightsphere in to become more compacted. Don’t worry about it falling off of the Speedlite because it has such a tight grip around it to begin with.

Next, shove it into the back of the Beauty Dish until the majority of the Lightsphere is through.

Pull the Lightsphere through the front and flatten back out into its original shape, or the closest that you can get it.

Then you’re pretty much ready to shoot. As you can see, the connection is very tight and it’s a bit difficult to separate the units unless you really try.

And that’s what makes this combo so great—especially for wireless transmission shooting!

Results?

The photo on the left shows the use of bare flash. The photo on the right is what the Beauty Dish does to the flash: softens and disperses the light in a flattering way. If you click on the photos to view them larger, you’ll also see a great catchlight in Matt’s eyes.

Strobist style lighting for the win!

In each photo, the Beauty Dish is anywhere from one foot to three and a half feet away from my subjects and I’m usually shooting in manual flash mode and set the flash to 1/4 output because I’m either indoors or totally trying to kill the ambient lighting for the effects I want to achieve.

The reason why I’m shooting in manual is because of the fact that it gives me the most control over the light output as I’ve become more and more of a manual control freak.

Here’s another view of that gorgeous catchlight highlighting Lauren’s wonderful eyes. Yes, the left one is actually two colors.

Using this with wireless flash control only allowed me to sync my shutter speed up to 1/250th, which isn’t always enough to totally kill the ambient lighting in the photos. If I had connected my 580 EX II to the camera and then put the 430 EX II into the Beauty Dish, this would have been possible. As it is, the Powersyncs only allow a sync speed of 1/250th but do a damn reliable job for what they do.

Notice how soft the shadows are and how even the lighting is in these photos. I usually like to have my subjects looking into the Beauty Dish because of the specific look it gives off. In this photo above, the dish is camera left and above. In fact, John is looking right into it.

Unlike my ring flash modifiers, there isn’t a tremendous amount of light loss at all. With that said, I can often shoot down to F/5.6 or even down to F/8.

I advise being careful with the placement and output of the flash though because it can sometimes create hot spots like on Kelly’s elbow above.

And finally, I’ve also used it with an Olympus XZ-1 with the Impact Powersync16s and the 430 EX II. The combo was able to help me create some really wonderfully lit portraits.

I encourage readers to go ahead and try this out for themselves because you will have so much fun. The Beauty Dish has become my new favorite flash modifier/toy.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Is this something that you’d want to try since it really isn’t very complicated at all?

Once again we used the:

Canon 580 EX II

Gary Fong Lightsphere Collapsible (reviewed here)

430 EX II

Interfit Beauty Dish

Impact Powersync16 DC Kit

Canon 7D

Olympus XZ-1 (reviewed here)

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