Saturday, September 20, 2008

Beauty Dish Grid Review

So if you don't know what a beauty dish is - it's one of many ways to attach something to the end of a light to make it look a certain way. It's traditionally used for things like black and white headshots of actresses. They went out of fashion at some point but are making something of a comeback. To see one, check out this one.

They produce a very useful light but have some disadvantages. When the fashion became to use huge but portable softboxes the idea of rolling around a 6' tall beauty dish, well, just not going to happen. But for a smaller space, with the lights close, they produce a very nice light, and they're actually very useful outdoors where large cloth modifiers tend to turn into a giant sail and carry away your gear.

I haven't used mine much because of a few reasons - they made a weird color choice on the white paint and it produces a fairly yellow light. This is fine by itself (easy to correct out) but it doesn't play well with my other modifiers in terms of color (although as noted in the comments, yes, you can always use gels to correct that sort of thing although I don't think I should have to). And it spews light around a small space - often fine for a headshot but if you want to get creative and use it for something else often it would cast a very ugly line of light out to the side onto the paper (just has to do with the light hitting the rim as it goes sideways). The first thing you can't do much about other than use it by itself or in black and white, but the second is quite fixable with a grid which is a honeycomb material that snaps onto the front of the dish. I use grids all the time - they kind of make more of a spotlight while basically retaining the character of whatever light they're on. In a small space like mine it gives you quite a bit more control. So I use reflectors with grids and octaboxes with grids.

The problem? They don't make a grid for that beauty dish. You can get one that sort of fits for other beauty dishes of the same size, but they're expensive and it's a bit cheezy. Also if you're using them outdoors it's good to have a case to carry the unit, and that's extra true if you're carrying this grid as well, which isn't something you want to have banged around.

Well, luckily somebody spotted a market opportunity, and started selling grids and cases. I got both. The case appears to be well made and tough - I'll talk about it more next time I drag a strobe outside. The grid fits very tight on my dish - even more so than on the video on that site - partially because my dish has been banged up a bit and isn't quite round.

It works great - it does exactly what I wanted it to, and it adds a lot of flexibility so that I can do things with a beauty dish that weren't originally intended.

In that standing frontal shot, you can see how it looks pointing right at her - the dish is just above the camera. You can see from the background how it produces a kind of spotlight effect with a nice falloff. In the one where she's crouched the light is up high and pointing down, and in the one with her back it's behind her and to the side.

Some of the stuff I tried worked, some didn't, but that's more a question of me experimenting than anything with the grid - beauty dishes generally have a sweet spot - a distance where they produce the best result - and it's just going to take some playing to totally dial in its full capabilities. But the grid and case themselves are very nice, and he shipped them well and fast, and so far I can highly recommend the combo. Hopefully that will still be the case after I try them out in the field!

Update: I did a quick outdoor shoot and commented on the case.
Update2: If people are commenting on this a year later perhaps I should mention that the manufacturer sells grids now, although not cases, and the specific grid I talk about above appears to be discontinued. This is a shame because as far as I can tell the one from the manufacturer isn't as nice.


Anonymous Marco said...

A yellow-ish light, can easily be corrected into a more neutral white by using the appropiate color-correction gel.
In your case some degree of blue/magenta would be useful.
It's cheap, and really a piece of cake ;-)


3:52 PM  
Blogger San Francisco Nudes said...

Well, you're right of course, although the way everything attaches it's not as trivial as all that, and then of course there's the issue of how close does the gel color have to be to be good enough. As a practical matter I just don't mix this particular beauty dish with other modifiers if I'm shooting color (which is fine for what I use it for but it's still a weird choice on the part of the company).

3:58 PM  
Blogger San Francisco Nudes said...

I should maybe clarify - may not may not be easy to attach depending on what you're doing with the dish. With the grid it wouldn't be so bad, but without and say with a sock there's going to be some cutting and tape involved. A solvable problem of course, but still, I shouldn't be having to correct their bizarro color choice. Their ad still states "warms the skin tones for a pleasing effect" which is a joke - it makes everything kind of a jaundice color.

4:07 PM  

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