DIY Beauty Dish »Cart before Donkey«

posted in: Photography, Playing Around | 1

For a long time I have pondered various DIY beauty dish solutions on the internet (I find the most promising one is by Todd Owyoung). However, a proper beauty dish is made for a studio strobe with a bare flash tube, meaning there will be light in all directions. When you insert one into the dish, its reflector will block the direct light emitted to the front but there will still be loads of light going off to the sides to be reflected by the dish. When you insert a small flash on the other hand, you have a problem: due to the housed nature of the tube, the flash fires to the front exclusively. The unfortunate consequence is that the dish’s reflector will simply block most of your light. Many DIY beauty dish solutions around try to tackle that by adding a convex mirror to the back of the reflector, which then results in a fair bit of tweaking. [update: David »Strobist« Hobby just ran a (not too excited) piece on an inexpensive small flash with an exposed tube.]

While I took a shower the other day, I saw our IKEA bathroom lamp (called FOTO, wink, wink), and thought well, well, well. It was the closest I came to a beauty dish in a long while and it seemed perfect as raw material to cut open and go the Todd-Owyoung-way. But when I tested for quality of light and stuck a flash in from the front, I thought well, well, well for the second time: why not put the cart before the donkey? For my June portrait of project 12 I tried attaching my modified cymbal boom stand to FOTO while clamping a flash to the front like this:

I am really happy with the results. With the 38cm lamp diameter, the flash is perfectly centered and the only disadvantages I can see is that (a) you need to keep a little bit more of a distance to your subject and (b) a diffusion sock is a bit tricky – but hey, I only had to tear down my bathroom lamp, drill a hole into two blocks of wood and was set, so I am absolutely willing to accept the trade off.

What you need for this diy beauty dish:

  • IKEA lamp FOTO (mine has a 38 cm diameter)
  • Superclamp (mine is a Manfrotto)
  • umbrella swivel (mine is the LP633)
  • Flash
  • Light stand
  • Idea to attach lamp to lightstand
  • Willingness to have two small dents in your lamp shade afterwards

  1. Gusian

    “wink wink” made me laugh. good old ikea, at least useful for *something*. thanks for the post!

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