What is a Beauty Dish?
Fashion photographers, specifically those who do studio photography or portraits, have to use studio strobes such AlienBees, Flashpoint / Godox, Profoto, BronColor, and others. Fashion Photography captured in studio and many times on location involves setting up elaborate lighting scenario with modifiers.
Light modifiers can range from softboxes, octaboxes, umbrellas, reflectors and beauty dishes. The most misunderstood is the beauty dish, spite it is a favorite among fashion and beauty photographers. Of the many choices for lighting portraits, the beauty dishes offers a dramatic light that wraps around your subject’s face, providing a classic look to your portrait photography.
Portrait photography lighting has four major characteristics: color, direction, quantity, and quality. Using lighting modifiers, such as a beauty dish with a monolight or power pack and head systems, lets you control the light’s directionality and quality.
A beauty dish is simply a shallow parabolic disk that attaches to a light source. There is a plate covering the flash head, this causes the light to reflect back into and out to the sides of the dish. The light is focused forward at the model to illuminate the model's face. Many creative photographers will use a beauty dish as a hair light or backlight. The Mola-Softlight family of beauty dishes is the common and most popular choice in beauty dishes from portrait photographers here in New York as well as around the world.
Mola Softlight beauty dishes come in a variety of sizes ranging from the 15 inch Rayo to 43 inch Mantti in diameters. The interior of the Mola Softlight reflectors come in two coatings: the most common and popular is the flat white coating. These beauty dishes also come in a silver color for a more punchy and contrasty photo that will bring out more detail in the overall image.
When used up closes to subject, these beauty dish provides a very focused light source. If used with the Mola Opal Diffusion Glass and/or Mola Perforated Aluminum Diffuser, the light is more dispersed without a hot spot on the subject that you get normally with softboxes and octaboxes. Mola beauty dishes delivers medium to semi-hard light (depending on the interior color finish), softer than an on-camera flash or bare bulb studio strobe, but harder than a softbox. The beauty dish provides a concentrated light source where the center is the brightest and the light gently falls off at the edges.
The value of the beauty dish is that it sculpts facial features and creates beautiful shadows and catch lights. If you closely study photos in magazines and in-store advertisements as I do, you will see a round catchlight in the eyes with a black smaller circle in the center of the subject's eyes, that's the dead giveaway that a beauty dish was used.
The sculpting and defining that a Mola Beauty reflector and beauty dish does so well is why their use has become so popular and preferred in portrait, beauty, and fashion photography.
My Preferred Mola Softlight Beauty Dishes
MOLA RAYO 15″- 38CM SILVER INTERIOR (75 DEGREE)
The Mola Rayo 15” reflector is a broad, directional, hard light source unlike any other. When you’re looking for illumination with intensity, contrast and a punchy quality of light the Rayo should be your first stop. Delivering a bright center core of defined light with excellent wrap the Rayo 15’s shallow profile provides additional spread and throw when contrasted with the Rayo 16”. Ideal for full length, beauty and location fashion work.
MOLA RAYO 16″- 40CM SILVER INTERIOR (50 DEGREE)
The Mola Ray 16” shares the same hard light qualities, bright center core of light, intensity, contrast and a punchy illumination provided by our Rayo 15” only in a more focused narrow beam of light with less spread. Like the Rayo 15” this reflector is a perfect candidate for beauty and fashion work.
MOLA DEMI 22″- 55CM WHITE INTERIOR
Among the crowded field of soft light beauty dishes the Mola Demi white is the international standard bearer. It’s contrast, directional nature, build and quality of light make it a must have multi purpose modifier for discerning photographers around the world. Perfect for beauty, fashion, headshots, portraits and location work. The Demi’s undulating design distinguishes it from competitors by providing a unique quality of light, clarity, heightened shape and directional illumination.
MOLA SETTI 28″- 71CM WHITE INTERIOR
If you’re a fan of edgy light with lots contrast the Mola Setti is the dish for you. Its deep, narrow profile delivers increased contrast and the unique hard-edged quality of light that has made it so popular. Harkening back to the contrast, compression of shadow detail and deep throw from light sources used in 1980’s black and white and color fashion images, the Mola Setti creates a unique, stylized quality of light unlike anything else in the Mola line.
MOLA SOLLO 28″- 71CM SILVER INTERIOR
When your concept calls for the ultimate in contrast nothing will get you there faster and more beautifully than the Mola Sollo. With its silver interior the Sollo produces a narrow beam of light with heightened shape and a significantly more distinct fall off. The Mola Sollo picks up where the Setti leaves off taking contrast, rapid shadow and highlight transition, efficiency, and cool color tones to the next level.
MOLA EURO 33.5″- 85CM WHITE INTERIOR
The Euro reflector was Mola’s premier design and has since gone on to become a studio workhorse worldwide. It offers a bright center core of light, gradual fall off and a beautiful wrap-around quality of light. This well-rounded reflector provides coverage, contour, proportion, contrast, and falloff, easily replacing the need for a range of softboxes. The Mola Euro is a truly multipurpose tool ideal for a wide variety of lighting tasks from product, to portrait, to beauty and fashion.
MOLA BEAMM 33.5″- 85CM POLISHED SILVER INTERIOR
With a form factor matching the Mola Euro, the Beamm’s polished interior surface brings a new level of highly concentrated directional light to your illumination. Unlike anything available in our white or silver surfaced reflectors, the Beamm not only increases output, but more importantly defines the directional quality of light Mola is world renown for. A great match for sunlight, the Beamm delivers big, strong, intense, light with a hard edge that matches its name.
MOLA MANTTI 43.5″- 110CM WHITE INTERIOR
Offering a big, bright, window light look, the Mola Mantti creates a distinctly daylight quality of light. The largest and narrowest profile dish in the Mola family of reflectors, the Mantti produces open shadows, bright highlights, and medium contrast via its white interior finish. This reflector is the perfect candidate for portrait, editorial and catalog work.