Master Beauty Dish Lighting

In this recording of a LIVE photography workshop, Karl once again proves exactly what, with precise control and in-depth knowledge, can be achieved in camera.

Here he guides you through the highly popular lighting modifier that is the beauty dish. Shooting live, he demonstrates some of the most effective ways to use the beauty dish and also provides comparisons between that and other popular lighting modifiers.

This step-by-step shoot provides clear explanations of how the beauty dish works, the best ways to use the beauty dish and common modifiers that could be used instead. It’s an insightful show that sheds light on a commonly misunderstood yet popular modifier.

In this live photography workshop we cover the following:

  • What is a beauty dish
  • How to use a beauty dish
  • How to modify a beauty dish
  • Using a beauty dish in a multiple-light setup
  • Lighting modifier comparisons: Beauty dish vs umbrellas

You can read more about the beauty dish here, and you may also find this beauty dish lighting for fashion photography interesting.

Use the comments box below to ask Karl any questions you may have from this shoot.


  1. Hi Karl, it was a great video as usual.
    Just for my reference, which brand’s beauty dish are you using? I know you mentioned about it as an independent brand.
    But there are numbers of different options in a market with slightly deeper version, different in shapes, and centre column is longer or shorter…
    As I’ve seen the results on your video, I’d like to know the benchmark for the construction of beauty dish and its effect.
    Thank you in advance.

  2. Hey Karl,

    Do you know of good websites to purchase unique materials like different diffusion materials/fabrics

    1. Hi Adam, Lee Filters for 216 diffusion material. If you’re in the UK then Robert White Photographic if in the USA then most movie suppliers stock 216 in wide rolls for the film industry. Other materials like acrylic/plexiglass can be found at your local sign service companies or plastic suppliers.

  3. Great video Karl. I am so amazed how you use the proper amount of light to achieve your results. I can see why it is so important as a beginner to keep watching the essential videos and the way you refer to the basics with all your classes that I have seen so far.
    Thank You !


  5. Hi Karl, new student here. I’d very much like to buy this triflector, but can’t seem to find that exact model. Could you offer me a link? Thank you. Great lesson!

  6. Karl, Hi, do you recommend that the beauty dish be an arm’s length from the model? I t looks like it is more than a arms length in the video, but I could be wrong.

  7. Hi Karl. First time commenting here. First of all, let me say how pleased I am with your content – I had high expectations and they were completely exceeded. KTE is far and away the best educational value on the net.

    I would love to see this exact same class done with a more mature female model (45+), to see how the different modifiers look and what your preferences would be with someone like that, and what, if anything, you would do differently to render the most flattering image.

    Thanks again, keep up the great work.

    1. Very kind of you to say so Scott, thank you. We have plans for the new year for an over 40s set of portrait tutorials so watch this space. Cheers Karl.

  8. Hello
    i am pretty new in photography(3 months on M manual) ( sorry for my bad English)
    but i have a question always like to learn
    in the pdf you using 3 lights and polyboards etc ( alot )
    maybe it will be good to set a exsample photo aswell in the pdf so i and others can compare result. But i use 1 dish and 1 backlight and no reflectors
    so why do you use so many lamps and polyboard etc
    as told i can not compare my result with your setup .

    1. Hi Harm, I am only using one light on her and 1 on the background. The polyboards are negative fills (blacks) to stop the light bouncing off the walls from hitting my model. The reflector is an essential part of the set up.

  9. thanks again , great show pick up a lot tips next week end I hope to use my dish
    thanks to your model ,yourself for the show I will use 85mm lens on eos 5d mk. 4

  10. HI Karl, great course full of infos.
    What was the white balance you were shooting at before using the card?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Aby, I think it was 6000K not sure, I’ll have to check the files but I’m currently on holiday 🙂

  11. Karl – I’ve seen some product photographers use a beauty dish as a top light for beverage shots. Do you do that as well? I don’t recall seeing that in your product shoots.

    Thanks as always,

    1. Hi John, I do use a Parabolic reflector as a back/top light on some of my product shots but not that often. It is used to create a glow of light around the product and add contrast.

  12. Wayne,
    Flash can be stopped down by making aperture smaller, reducing output power of the strobe/flash, lowering iso, use a neutral density filter on your lens, use a neutral density filter on your flash.
    Using neutral density filters is inefficient, and means too many laborious changes. Changing iso affects ambient light as well as flash light. Changing aperture affects depth of field and ambient lighting. The fastest and easiest way to reduce flash light, without affecting ambient light or depth of field, is by reducing power on the strobe.

  13. Hi Karl

    Whats the diiference in turning the power down if to bright or stopping down a stop or is it the same outcome

    1. Hi Wayne, exposure wise there is no difference but you must have missed in in this video but I think I explained that you first ‘creative decision’ you should make is what aperture do I want to be shooting at for depth of field and the look and feel of the shot. After that you do everything with the lights.

  14. Excellent as always. I can perfectly understand those complex lighting physics with clear demonstration. Karl, you’re making me want to understand lights more and more every time!

  15. Thanks, Karl, for another great lesson in understanding light. And I love the comment “Why use a Hasselblad? Well, because I’ve got one …. ” lol

  16. +1 on the Evie fan club!
    I’ve tried two different sizes of beauty dish before. The smaller one was 45cm I think. At 1.5-2m I found it didn’t work well as a beauty dish, and needed to bring it in to about1.5-2ft!
    A 60cm worked nicely 3ft away. I’m curious to try a 70+ cm dish…
    Of course I prefer a 133 para, but can’t justify that expense at the moment…

  17. When you added the diffuser the light became slightly softer but still showed all the contours up very nicely which was interesting and a little unexpected.
    At the beginning of the show you said that you prefer a silver dish rather than a white dish and mainly for the sparkle.
    Would a white dish not give a similar result to that which we saw with the silver dish fitted with a diffuser ?

    1. Hi Peter, yes based on the results last night I’d say yes. I rarely used the diffuser on a beauty dish so the results were a surprise to me. What I did notice was that as it was only a single layer of diffusion (and it was quite thin) that you could still see the shadow of the centre column and the general lighting effect through the diffuser, hence the results that we got. Had it had two layers of thicker diffusion like in a softbox then the results would have been slightly different. This has actually made me curious to try the ultra thin diffusion option available for my Paras to see what we get!

  18. Hi Karl would you consider doing a lesson with a white skinned model and a dark skinned model to show the difference in lighting,thanks regards Rob

    1. Interestingly I recently photographed Evie and a dark skinned male model for a series of ads for Fire Safety company MSA, these images will be released in October. I say interesting because they were together in the same shot and I needed half a stop more light on the dark skinned model and you also have to consider that the shadow detail falls off quicker, so for example in this live show you may have needed to bring the white polyboards in for the dark skinned model like I did on Evie near the end of the show.

      1. Hi Karl thats why i asked about making a tutorial it offers different problems especially highlight control on dark skin with no matte powder,i have seen images and i look at people in different light and i have noticed how the highlights on dark skin really blow out.I was in a local bank and they had a really attractive dark girl but the highlight on her forehead was really strong in the banks lighting,so that got me thinking especially when the white girl at the side of her looked ok in that light,So I thought about this tutorial,thanks for replying ,regards Rob

  19. Hi ,why does the aperture differ between medium format and 35mm ,is it the size of the sensor? plus is there an Evie fan club .regards Rob

    1. Hi Rob, the depth of field differs because of magnification. The medium format is a bigger sensor so yes you are correct. When there is greater magnification depth of field is reduced. This video will give you a good idea I’ll ask Evie if she’s thought of setting one up! 🙂

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