Portable Beauty - With Elinchrom
Some of our readers are new studio shooters who have purchased D-lite and BXRi outfits. These feature two heads and soft box or umbrella light shapers - they are an ideal way to start to learn studio lighting. Endless experimentation is possible as you mix and match the modifiers.
Some of the new shooters may be ready for the next step - the beauty dish. That's an Elinchrom 44 cm beauty dish at the top of the header - standard fitting and it slots directly into the D-lite or BXRi heads. It's a metal dish with a soft white inner coating and a strange little plate on a stick balanced inside.
The strange little plate is a blocker that prevents the direct blast of the flash tube from coming out forward at the subject - it deflects it to the side evenly into the big dish. You'll see four separate deflectors on the next image, and note that there is a silver, a gold, a white, and a translucent one.
These provide varying degrees of modification to the light blast - in the case of the translucent or the white one, allowing some degree of it to go forward directly. the gold one warms up the light considerably.
So what does the beauty dish do? How do you use it?
The best way to think of it is as a one-light portrait solution - when you do not want to use the traditional two-light hard and fill lighting scheme but still want to get soft modelling on the human face. You can sometimes go and do an entire job with just one light.
The secret is to bring it in close to the subject - even closer in some cases than the softbox. The shape of the beauty dish means that the front of light that strikes the facial planes come at it from a number of angles and fill in as well as provide the main illumination. You can feather it but directing it away from the main subject and modify this as well, but you must be close to get the effect.
I love my 44 beauty dish in the studio. The one pest I have found with this is that, unlike a soft box or umbrella, it cannot be folded up to take to an outside job - you are going to be walking through the crowd carrying the equivalent of a small wok. Expect Chinese food jokes...