Mastering the Beauty Dish

Go deep on the dish.

In this photography workshop, recorded LIVE, professional photographer Karl Taylor demonstrates what you can achieve with precise control and in-depth knowledge.

This class is devoted to that highly popular lighting modifier, 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 workshop:

  • 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.

Questions for Karl? Post them in the comments section below.


  1. Karim Brusseleers

    Hi Karl,

    I have a pair of Elinchrom monolights and I’m wondering which beauty dish to choose for a small studio (5m x 5m with dark walls).

    There is a choice between the White or Silver Beauty Dish Reflector 44cm (55° angle) and the White or Silver Beauty Dish Reflector 70cm (64° angle). Which would you recommend if I wanted to achieve the lovely effect of the beauty dish in a studio, where I’d be standing about 2 metres from the model, who would herself be 2 metres from the background?

    Thanks a lot for your time,

  2. Karl my head is done in. Why is the counter reflector in the 70cm Beauty Dish the same size as the one in the 51-55cm Beauty Dish and it is the same distance from the mount?
    Shouldn’t it be bigger and further away from the mount?
    How does this affect the light?

  3. What is the optimal distance to use Beauty Dish of different sizes: 42cm, 55cm (universal standard) and 70cm? How does this compare to Magnum Reflector (true parabolic) and Para88 at different distances?

    1. Hi Simba, with all of them the optimum distance is from 1 to 1.5m from the model for a head shot or upper body shot.

  4. Hi Karl,
    Just a quick question about the WB cards. Isn’t WB a bit like lighting, in terms of you adjust it the way you like it? Besides if you’re looking for the exact accurate colour (whatever that is anyway), doesn’t the WB add your own touch and style to things?

    1. Hi Dave, it’s always good to start at an agreed neutral point. If we are shooting RAW files, which we should be, then you can easily adjust the white balance in the RAW file software with no detrimental effect to the image but it’s always good to have a specified grey point to work from.

  5. Gary Stasiuk

    Karl, I just happen to have two beauty dishes. Things I’ve picked up over the years. I think I picked up the second because it came with a metal grid. Is there any situation where you would make use of a second?

    1. Hi Gary, it wouldn’t be my first choice for any other position because they are designed for one job really but it could be used for a harder more contouring edge/back light on the side of the body/long hair as I sometimes use Para 88’s to do this.

    1. Hi David, I don’t know which make it is, all I can tell you is it’s a 70cm diameter silver one and I think I got it from Viewfinder photography or Essential Photo.

  6. Hi Karl, Thank you so much for getting back to me, considering the distance of the beauty dish from the subject. I did watch the class on inverse square law and found very helpful, but I was a little confused having watch a other class prior to getting yours. You have clear this issue up for me. Thank you again so much.

  7. Karl , I just want to let you know that I have tried other classes , and even though I have just started your classes. Your classes are by FAR much more informative and a FAR better value . Your teaching technique is Great.

  8. Hi Karl , Just got done watching a live archive class on using a beauty dish. Very informative, I do however have a question. You mention the angle of the dish to your subject , but you did not mention the distance from your subject. As I heard from other classes that you should set the distance from your subject to the size of the beauty dish, hence 70cm lite 70cm from your subject. How do feel about this?
    Thanks Greg K

    1. Hi Greg, no that isn’t accurate. Myself and other fashion photographers I know well will use Beauty dishes or Paras from right on top of the model to 10meters away, it depends on the look we are going for. In this particular class I’m using my beauty dish about 1.5m away from Evie’s face and it is at a 45 degree angle and slightly above head height. You can of course bring it closer if you want it softer etc etc but don’t forget about the inverse square law and how that will affect the fall of of light down the face when it is closer. Check this class out if you like –

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