Beautiful, dimensional lighting can make or break a portrait. As a photographer, finding a light modifier that creates gorgeous, wrapping light for portraits is essential. This allows you to sculpt stunning images filled with depth, drama, and dimension.

One of the most versatile modifiers for portrait lighting is the beauty dish reflector. Beauty dishes create a wrapped, diffused light that is flattering on subjects of all ages. The unique properties of a beauty dish reflector allow for professional results not easily replicated with simple reflectors or softboxes.

However, with so many beauty dish options on the market, it can be tricky to select the right one for your needs.

In this complete guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to find the ideal beauty dish reflector:

After reading this guide, you’ll have the knowledge to pick the perfect beauty dish reflector for creating professional, dimensional lighting every time you shoot.

The Unique Benefits of Beauty Dish Reflectors

Beauty dish reflectors have distinct advantages over more common modifiers like umbrellas and softboxes:

For these reasons, beauty dishes have remained a staple modifier choice for seasoned portrait photographers. The gorgeous quality of light simply cannot be replicated with basic reflectors or softboxes alone.

Key Considerations When Choosing Your Beauty Dish Reflector

However, not all beauty dishes are created equal. There are a few key factors to consider when picking the right reflector for your needs:

Size of the Reflector

Beauty dishes come in sizes ranging from 12 inches all the way up to massive 32-40 inch dishes. The most common sizes are 16 inch, 18 inch, 22 inch, and 24 inch reflectors.

Larger dishes create softer, more diffused light. Smaller dishes range light less and allow more precise control.

Consider what you primarily shoot – larger dishes around 24 inches work great for full body and groups, while 16-18 inch dishes are ideal for headshots.

Also consider how portable you need the dish to be. Larger dishes can be heavy and difficult to transport.

Build Quality and Durability

Beauty dishes use high-quality materials like aluminum, steel, and composite plastics to withstand heat and rugged use.

Look for dishes made of thick, high-grade metals that feel sturdy in hand. High temperatures can cause cheaper dishes to deform.

Also inspect the rim of the reflector for any rough edges that could damage softboxes or diffusers. Smooth, well-finished edges allow modifiers to slide on securely.

High-end dishes also often come with protective bags and cases for transport. For travel photographers, this is essential.

Included Accessories

The accessories and modifiers included with a beauty dish make a big difference in shaping your light.

At minimum, look for dishes that come with a diffuser sock and grid. These allow you to soften and control stray light.

Higher end dishes include a full range of accessories like barn doors, louvers, filters, speed rings and more. This gives you endless options for modifying light.

Ease of Setup

Look for dishes that easily mount on stands via an integrated speed ring or holder. The dish should securely lock into place with either a thumbscrew or handscrew locking mechanism.

High-quality speed rings allow you to rotate the dish 360 degrees on the stand for precisely aiming the light.

Dishes that require fussing with separate speedrings or adapters waste valuable shooting time. Make sure the reflector locks securely in place without hassle.


Consider how much you need to travel with the beauty dish – heavier dishes become a burden quickly.

Look for options around 2-3 pounds for the best balance of sturdiness and portability. Also consider collapsed size if you need to pack it in luggage.

Don’t forget to account for the weight and bulk of accessories and lightstands as well.

Shape and Design

The shape of the reflector interior is optimized to shape light in different ways:

In most cases, parabolic dishes work best for broad beauty lighting. But advanced users may want to experiment with more specialized ellipsoidal designs.

Brand Reputation and Reviews

As with any photography gear purchase, the reputation and user reviews of the brand are critical to research.

Look for dishes produced by well-known lighting companies with a reputation for quality and durability. Be wary of cheap knockoffs with no reviews.

Be sure to check reviews from actual customers and photographers to uncover any issues with real-world performance and longevity.


Beauty dish reflectors range tremendously in price from $50 budget options up to $500+ for premium dishes.

In general, $200-300 gives a high-quality dish from a reputable brand made to last.

Consider paying more if you need specialized lighting effects like a colapsible dish or a higher end parabolic shape with accessories.

Don’t sacrifice too much quality just to save money on a dish you’ll use for years.

By keeping all these factors in mind, you can narrow down the beauty dish that’s perfect for your budget and shooting needs.

Reviews of the Top 5 Beauty Dish Reflectors

Now that you know how to assess beauty dishes, let’s look at reviews of the top 5 reflectors on the market:

1. Fovitec StudioPRO 22″ Beauty Dish Reflector





Overall: 5/5 – Versatile mid-sized dish perfect for headshots with gorgeous light.

2. Elinchrom EL 26173 39″ Rotalux Deep Parabolic Reflector





Overall: 4.5/5 – Amazing light quality from this premium extra-large dish.

3. Neewer 16″ Professional Beauty Dish Reflector





Overall: 3.5/5 – Impressively good quality dish for an affordable budget option.

4. Emart 14″ Professional Beauty Dish Reflector





Overall: 4/5 – Impressive performance and accessories for an affordable 14” dish.

5. Westcott FJ200 20-Inch Collapsible Beauty Dish





Overall: 4.5/5 – Excellent collapsible dish perfect for travel and location work.

Must-Have Beauty Dish Accessories and Modifiers

A beauty dish’s capabilities can be totally transformed with the right modifiers and accessories:


Diffusers soften light by dampening the intensity and scattering photons.

They allow you to mimic the effect of giant softboxes or shoot in harsh daylight. Different materials like nylon or silk alter light uniquely.

A sock diffuser is essential to smooth out the sharpness of undiffused dishes.


Grids contain light spill and shape the beam coming from the reflector. This enhances directional control.

Look for dishes that include 10, 20, 30 or 40 degree honeycomb grids. Use tighter grids for more precision.

Barn Doors

Barn doors physically block light on the dish, acting as a manual gobo. This sculpts unique patterns of light and shadow.

Barn doors mount directly on dishes via studs or speed ring adapters. They’re invaluable for creative lighting effects.

Speed Rings

Speed rings mount dishes on lightstands securely. Sturdy metal rings allow full 360 degree rotation for positioning.

High-quality speed rings should be included with dishes to maximize usability and positioning flexibility.


Color filters in gels or glass attach over the dish to alter light color and temperature.

Use warming gels to emulate golden hour. Cool blue gels mimic open shade light. Get creative.

Backlight Plate

A metal backplate mounts behind the dish to block backspill and sharpen direction.

This reduces light wrap and makes edges crisper and shadows more defined.

With the right modifiers, a single beauty dish can replicate dozen of lighting looks. Don’t underestimate the power of modifiers!

FAQs About Beauty Dish Reflectors

How is the light quality different from umbrellas and softboxes?

Beauty dishes create a wraparound light with soft diffusion. But unlike umbrellas and boxes, the light still has a defined directionality that can be precisely aimed. The color is warmer and more flattering as well.

What size beauty dish reflector should I get?

24-26” dishes are versatile for full body shots. 16-18” dishes excel for headshots and close ups. Invest in a couple different sizes for flexibility.

How do you use a beauty dish? What placement works best?

Feather the light slightly off axis of your subject. Placenear eye level around 4-8 feet away. Experiment with angling it down, up, or straight on.

What accessories do I need for a beauty dish?

At minimum, a sock diffuser and grid. To get creative, add barn doors, gels, a speed ring, backlight plate, or honeycomb louvers.

How to choose between silver, white, and gold dishes?

What cameras and lights work with beauty dishes?

Beauty dishes are compatible with all standard strobe lights and hotshoe flashes. They also don’t require a special lens or camera system.

Do I need a modeling light with my beauty dish?

Modeling lamps allow you to preview light positioning. But they aren’t strictly necessary if you test out your lighting angles thoroughly.

Any tips for transporting beauty dishes safely?

Start Sculpting Beautiful Portraits

Finding the ideal beauty reflector has a transformative effect on portrait lighting. Take the information in this guide to select the perfect dish for flattering, professional results.

The unique light shaping abilities of beauty dishes are unmatched. With the right reflector, you can craft images with depth, contour, and dimension that mimic the most beautiful natural light.

So dial in your dish positioning, feather that light, and go sculpt some gorgeous portraits! Just don’t forget the catchlights.

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