When it comes to spending large sums of money on photography equipment, I tend to do exhaustive research. I decided that I needed to add a beauty dish to my arsenal of light modifiers, and in the process of researching which model offered the most bang for my buck, I stumbled across a handful of websites outlining how to construct one yourself. They ranged from crude to professional grade, my favorite being the “Chinatown” special. I’m in the process of manufacturing a sturdier dish out of steel, based largely on what I viewed as a success with this project.
My initial goal with this project was the build a beauty dish for under $10 that could be constructed without the use of saws, drills or other tools. Most of the plans I found for DIY beauty dishes were designed for speedlights, but because I use Calumet Genesis lights with an Elinchrom mount, I decided to buy a speed ring adapter for $9 that made this dish mount perfectly on my monolight. Thus, my total costs were actually $16. Still a great value!
I found this terra cotta bowl at The Home Depot for $5. It’s 16” in diameter, not quite as large as I wanted but for the price, I decided to give it a shot. This bowl was perfect in two ways. First, the bottom of the bowl could be cut out using a simple box cutter. Second, the base of the bowl was the exact same size as the Elinchrom mount, which made mounting the adapter a breeze. That said, your mount was smaller, or you were constructing for a speedlight, it would be easy to draw an outine with a Sharpie and cut accordingly.
After making sure the speed ring adapter fit perfectly, I went about spray painting the dish. I already had spray paint from a previous project, but even if you didn’t, the total cost would only rise by $4. I rigged a spray paint booth using pizza boxes and used my car as a windshield. I painted the dish matte white & black, two coats on either side. In retrospect, I should have waited to cut the base until after I’d painted, but I wanted to make sure everything would fit before making any permanent changes. That said, I think the overall finish was pretty sharp.
I debated attaching a reflective mirror or panel using chopsticks or thin poles, but decided that using the plastic cover from a CD tower would further diffuse the light for a softer glow. Inside the cover I attached a $2 self-adhesive mirror from an auto parts store. It was slightly smaller than the circumference of the cover, so I was glad that I’d painted the top matte black to avoid light spill. With the mirror attached, I super glued the tower to the speed right adapter. To be safe, I did three coats of glue. The entire contraption is incredibly lightweight, but I’m still deciding if glue will be my permanent means of attaching the tower.
Here is an example of the beauty dish in action. Overall, I’m very pleased and encouraged. If you have any specific questions, feel free to email me directly, I’d love to hear from you!