Dishing beauty

Dishing beauty

Would you believe me if I told you that the one and only source lighting him in this shot was from a flash fired through $20 worth of stuff culled out of the Home Depot/Lowes gardening and electrical aisles? In fact it is just that. Following instructions on how to build your own "beauty dish" out of a plastic imitation terra cotta flower bowl (spraypainted white inside, black outside), an empty spindle that recordable CD's come in, an electrical junction box extension, and a convex mirror from an auto parts store, I made a "beauty dish" (which looks something like this). It is designed to reflect the light from a flash around inside the bowl before it illuminates a subject but the light it creates is pretty unique.

A beauty dish is controllable to the point of keeping light off the background more easily than a shoot-through umbrella (if desired) and creates a sort of even, hard-but-soft type of light. It is hard to explain but you can see it under his nose - the edgy, dark shadow of a "hard" light source but it dissipates gradually the way the shadow from a soft light does. At close range, it also wraps the light around the sides of his head a bit. Plus being round and fairly evenly lit, the dish creates nice, bright, round "catchlights" (reflections in the eyes of the subject) that almost make eyes look like they are sparkling.

I think I like this shot so much because a lot of things came together for me the way I wanted them to. The lighting on him is just what I was looking for, the catchlights are perfect, the composition with the leading line of his camera right shoulder guiding your eyes into the frame from the lower right corner, the "just-enough" separation created by a (second) dim flash lighting the background so you can see his dark sweater distinctly from the dark blue background, and the expression on his face. And I love that this is straight out of the camera with no "post processing" work done on the computer after the shot was taken. I'm happy with it - but that isn't what really matters... What do you think?

Strobist info: SB-800 with 1/4 CTO gel high to camera left in a homemade beauty dish on ~ 1/4 power. White posterboard bounce card to camera right. Snooted SB-25 on ~1/16 power at back camera right raked across seamless backdrop (blue blanket clamped to chairbacks).