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Beauty dish vs. softboxes?

Nate Appel , Feb 20, 2006; 11:29 p.m.

Hi, can someone please explain the difference in light qualites between the beauty dish and softboxes? Is it mainly a more contrasty light? Regards, Nathan


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Ellis Vener , Feb 21, 2006; 12:08 a.m.

It depends on how you use either. for close in work the Beauty dish can produce several looks , depending how you use it or modify it. Softbox light (of roughly the same front area) has basically one look.

B Christopher , Feb 21, 2006; 12:46 a.m.

Hi Nate, I think you're asking about the shadow edge transfer qualities of the two modifiers. And yes, generally speaking, the beauty dish produces a more abrupt shadow edge transfer(contrasty light) than a soft box. Also, the degree of abruptness is more noticeable with a silver beauty dish than a white one. Whether white or silver, a beauty dish produces a more difuse quality of light than a standard reflector. I guess you can think of the quality of beauty dishes as being in the middle of specular and diffuse, in between a standard reflector and a softbox.

Jonathan Brewer , Feb 21, 2006; 01:20 a.m.

On one end of the spectrum you have 'bare bulb' type light source w/very 'deep', and dark defined shadows, at the other end, the 'softbox', w/more a non-directional 'flat look', a beauty light is about right in the middle between the two extremes, of course the way they provide modeling on a subject is also a function of distance.

A softbox provides a somewhat non-directional flat light(a large one positioned close to a subject), pull it back far enough and you'll look like you're using a beauty light, so it's both the issue of the light source and it's distance from your subject matter.

A beauty light or actually the beauty dish from Profoto or the old WL 20" grey reflector gives a directional but 'smooth' rendering of skintone, so for me, my idea in playing around with which one to use on a shot is juggling the ideas of 'harsh', 'flat', how far/how close, a lot/very little fill, the 'wrap-a-round' quality, in regards to the skintone/other issues when I do portraiture.

Peter Martucci , Feb 21, 2006; 07:46 a.m.

You can also diffuse a beauty dish with a light sock or some tuff spun taped over the reflector.

Todd K. , Feb 21, 2006; 02:19 p.m.

A light sock has little effect on diffusion. Soft light has more to do with the size of the light source than the number of layers of diffusion material in front of it. Soft boxes are softer because they are physically larger, and the internal baffles help distribute light evenly across the surface of the box. With a beauty dish there a certain degree of light fall off (which is nice for portraiture, as it draws attention to the face) and when it is placed close enough to your subject is every bit as soft as a soft box. The most common mistake people seem to make when using a beauty dish, is to place it two far away from your subject.

Peter Martucci , Feb 21, 2006; 06:05 p.m.

Hi Todd yes you're techincally correct about the size of a light source but a sock or tuff spun will certainly help.

I think it would be hard to argue that by removing the diffusion panel from the front of a softbox it won't effect the light.

Kirk Darling , Feb 21, 2006; 10:03 p.m.

A properly designed beauty light focuses the beam slightly and will have a "sweet spot" normally 3-4 feet from the light. At that point, you get the "wraparound" effect that gives what is actually a quite contrasty light a liquid look. Quite beautiful for monochrome.

Leonard Forte , Feb 22, 2006; 07:19 a.m.

I am considering getting an elinchrom beauty dish. Would there be a noticeable difference between a 17" dish and a 27" dish at 3-4 feet?

John Murphy , Feb 22, 2006; 12:38 p.m.

Here's a sample image comparing the Elinchrom 27" Softlite with the Mini (39") octagonal Rotalux softbox, both with the translucent deflector in place. I tried to keep all the variables (subject distance, RAW processing, color balance) as consistent as possible.

Leonard, I know you've asked this question before, and I've been hesitant to answer since I don't own the Mini Softlite, just the regular one. So I can't specifically address your question. Sorry.

Elinchrom 27" Softlite vs. 39" Rotalux comparison

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