Master Beauty Dish Lighting

In this class, Karl walks you through a standard beauty-dish lighting setup, frequently used for front-cover magazine and fashion-type shots. As he demonstrates this tried-and-tested method, Karl explains what other additions and extra kit can take your standard beauty-dish shot and make it that little bit better.


  1. Hi Karl,
    I am looking for a beauty dish, but Broncolor one is 51 cm which is smaller than you used. If i buy Broncolor Beauty Box 65 can i get same result ? (As you know Beauty Box 65 is not metal. I have already Octa 75.) Or is beauty dish should be metal one ? should be at least 70 cm ? do you recommend any beauty dish brand for Siros 800 ? thank you very much

  2. I’m learning photography and your tips and tricks are easy to understand. I’m very hands on with learning and this was great. Thank you!

  3. I used a beauty dish for the first time today. It was so much fun. It was on a friend to practice. Model shoot soon 🙂 I love the shadows you can create for more depth, thanks for the extra tips here

    1. Oh sorry is this in relation to the problem you were having with light spill? Please send my a link to or a picture of the modifier so I can understand it better and also the resulting images where you are having the problem and not having the problem. You can send it for my attention to

      1. Karl, hello. I sent you information by e-mail.

  4. In the studio I shoot at the maximum sync speed for nikon d800 1/250. Before turning on the pulse light, I took test frames. Everything is completely black.

  5. Hi Karl!
    Shooting in the studio a large portrait with a beauty dish. The modifier is approximately 70 centimeters from the model. The distance to the background is about 5 meters. The studio space is a white cyclaram with a gray background on one side. I have a problem that can only be solved at aperture 16. At more open apertures, the background is overexposed and the gradient cannot be adjusted. I suppose it’s the white walls and the floor. I put the flags parallel to the background with the black side to the lamp. Doesn’t help much. At the same time, at home I shoot in a room of 4 meters and the background is relatively dark. And in your lesson the distance is small, but the background is dark. What can be done? Cover the floor with a dark cloth?
    PS I know about the inverse square law.

    1. Hi, what you’re saying sounds impossible? You didn’t accidentally have the shutter speed too long and modelling light pollution occuring?

    1. Hi Wayne, I put my beauty dish at a 45 degree angle to the ground and as close as I can get it, usually i’m shooting just underneath it, sometimes my lens is touching the bottom of the beauty dish. This will all depend on the lens you are using and shooting distance but if you move to the models position and look at it just make sure that it is alligned so the centre is pointing at the face and it is not ‘off axis’

  6. Hi Karl, I notice you didn’t use a diffuser or honeycomb on the front of the beauty dish. Is this just personal preference or is there more of a technical reason for not doing so?

    1. Hi Mark, I very rarely use a diffuser on the beauty dish? Which module have you seen that? I use a beauty dish or a Para for more sparkle, 3dimensionality for beauty or fashion shots. When you use a diffuser then you are essentially turning a beauty dish into almost a softbox (not quite as you will learn in ‘Light Source’).

      1. Of course, thank you! Thoroughly enjoying the course and I’ve learned a great deal, but for some bizarre reason I just didn’t join the dots on this one.

      2. Quite interesting Mark! However using beauty dish without diffuser wouldn’t cast hard blown out spots on model’s face?

      1. hi Karl,

        Could you give us the dimensions as well as the metal thickness of Custom Metal Polyboard Stand that you use please?


          1. Thank you, once you have sent me sizing info, I will publish a plan with quotation that I will send you and that you can make available to subscribers on this site if you wish!

  7. Karl. Quick question. If I hang black curtains on both sides of the model at about 3 feet from the model on both sides will that work like the Polly board? I am shooting in a car garage( one car size) and will use the railing that the door rides on to mount the black curtains. I am going to try it out tomorrow. Will let you know.
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Robert, yes as long as it is black and absorbent it will be fine. Black velvet or felt is a good material.

  8. Arrrghhhh !!! What’s this ? Where are your Broncolor lights and Para ? And what is that “small” studio ? hahaha ! Just kidding :))) I like this portrait setup a lot. I don’t have place for polyboards, can I use collapsible black backgrounds, like the 180×210 from Lastolite instead ?

    1. Ha Ha this was before I moved to bron! Yes black cloth on some stands or collapsible black is good as long as it is absorbent.

  9. Hi Karl, would you please tell me what kind of the black pigment on the black side of the Foam board?Did you DIY it by yourself?

    1. Hi Tripitaka, the polyboards are just painted with matt black emulsion (paint for walls / water based) painted with a roller.

  10. Hi Karl, I was wondering, are the higher apertures you used common for this type of shot or were you primarily obliterating any ambient light?

    Love that triflector, think I’ll be investing in one soon!

    1. It’s whatever takes your fancy really Peter, some beauty shots where you want every bit of closeup make up detail revealed are shot at f16 others no so. If the ambient light from your studio is a problem then it’s worth turning down (or off) the modelling lamps and shutting the blinds. Ambient light from modelling lamps can be a problem when shooting at f2.8 and larger, I do a test shot first without the flash trigger to discover if the ambient light is being recorded. If you see a faint orange image then it is and you need to do something about it. Cheers Karl.

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