Shooting a Moody Male Portrait with a Beauty Dish

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: December 13, 2017

Category: Photography

Ok so first off just to clarify…it’s the look that’s moody, not Brian or Simon that you’ll see in the pictures below 🙂

So with that cleared up I thought in this post I’d take you through the lighting set up that I used to create this picture of my Buddy, Brian Dukes.

Brian was with me when I was in Wales a couple of weekends back whilst I was working on my 1940’s Project and I took this picture of him before we got started and were waiting for the folks in wardrobe, hair & makeup to be ready.

Brian Dukes in Hat lit with Beauty Dish

The feedback having shared this picture across my social media has been wonderful so I thought I’d give you a look behind the scenes in case it was something you fancied giving a try.

First of all, here’s the kit I used:

  • Sony A7 RII (Camera)
  • Sony 85mm f/1.4 G Master (Lens)
  • 3 Legged Thing – Winston (Tripod)
  • TetherTools (Cable and Jerk Stopper for Tethering to my Computer)
  • Capture One (Software)
  • Elinchrom ELB 400 HS
  • Elinchrom 44cm Beauty Dish (with white deflector fitted and shower cap)
  • California Sunbounce Mini Reflector (Silver and White)
  • Phottix C-Stand with Boom Arm

So now you’re aware of the kit, here’s how it was all set up. Obviously in this picture it’s not Brian being photographed but the set up was exactly the same for him (he just stepped out to help whilst I photographed Actor Simon Fowler)

Glyn Dewis Beauty Dish

Behind Brian, or in this case Simon, was the plain grey wall and the Beauty Dish was positioned to the front, above and in line with his face (nose)

Glyn Dewis Elinchrom

Positioning the Beauty Dish in this way with it slightly aimed back towards Brian rather than directly down to the floor, meant that illuminated his face without giving him what’s commonly referred to as Panda Eyes where the eye sockets are in shadow. Using the reflector beneath also helped to add some light onto his neckline and a little into the eyes but not so much that it created ‘horror’ or ‘up lighting’. Having the reflector higher up so that it was just out of shot would have meant more light bouncing back onto his face which in turn would have created that ‘horror’ lighting look so I kept it nice and low so that just enough light reflected back.

You can tell that the Beauty Dish was in line with his face (nose) because of how even the nose shadow is:

Glyn Dewis Elinchrom

As for the shadow going across the face, this was created by the angle of the hat. Ordinarily without the hat the light would have been even down his face, but angling the rim of the hat to the side slightly created an angled shadow and kept one side of the face in shadow. This gave the desired look but thanks to the reflector, the shadow side of the face still contained lots of visible detail rather than being much darker.

For those of you interested in settings:

  • Aperture: f/2.0
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter Speed: 1/500sec

So as to maintain the right amount of ambient light in the shot whilst shooting wide open at f/2.0, I used Elinchrom’s Hi Sync (different to HSS – High Speed Sync) which meant I could use the sync speed of 1/500sec. Hi Sync will actually allow me to shoot at shutter speeds up to 1/8000sec which is insanely good; I didn’t need to go that fast for this shoot of course but you get the idea.

Using the exact same set up, here’s a couple of the portraits of Simon Fowler.
Again notice the nose shadow in the picture on the right being the same as that on the picture of Brian, but then in the picture on the left how the shadow goes off at an angle; this being because Simon tilted his head:

Simon Foxy Fowler

As always I was tethering during this photo shoot for the exact same reasons I always say i.e. slows me down and allows me to see much more detail on a larger screen. The software I was using though wasn’t Lightroom which you may have expected but was in fact CaptureOne. This is an incredible piece of software that I’ve been using more and more over the past few months; in fact ever since the Dunkirk Photo Shoot with the Phase One.

At the moment I use it purely for Tethering because that side of it is simply brilliant! Plug your camera in, turn it on and you’re good to go….it’s that easy and in all the time I’ve been using it have never had it fail on me, stall, need a reset etc … A different story when it comes to using Lightroom for tethering as you’ll no doubt know if you use it. However, this (for now) is how I use CaptureOne…for the tethering. Lightroom is still a part of my workflow and of course Photoshop will always be.

Incidentally if you’re a Sony shooter like me then you can get a Sony specific version of Capture One which costs just £70 (approx) as opposed to just under £299 for the regular / full version.

Beauty Dish
Before I forget to mention it, you can see from the BTS photographs that I used the Shower Cap on the Beauty Dish but also had the white deflector fitted inside too over the bare bulb. For those of you who don’t know, this just adds an extra layer of diffusion / softness to the light and is what I prefer to do for my own style.

Right, can’t think of anything else to let you know about from this photo shoot so if you do have any questions / comments then drop them in the comments section below and I’ll make sure to answer them.

Actually there is one thing…
Shooting portraits wide open at around f/2.0 as in this case would ordinarily be quite tricky…hence the tripod. However one thing I am soooo loving with the Sony I’ve moved to is the focus peaking and how putting it into Manual mode then zooms in so you can fine tune the focus and what’s sharp is covered in a coloured lines…so clever!

In the mean time though you can check out LARGE versions of the portraits I made here over on my 500px portfolio page [CLICK HERE]

Catch you next time,

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  1. Steve Perry

    Once again a great example of a simple setup with exceptional results.

    • Glyn Dewis

      Cheers Steve

  2. Daniel Sandberg

    Good explanation Sir. And as always I love your lighting

    • Glyn Dewis

      Thanks and thanks for looking in Daniel

  3. Rick

    You are the man !

    • Glyn Dewis

      Cheers Rick 🙂

  4. Stefan Van Theemsche

    I have no beauty dish, only a softbox and a 5-in-1 umbrella. However using them in this way, especially the brolly in reflected position would give similar results I think, no?

    Excellent bts and pictures!

    • Glyn Dewis

      How big is the softbox Stefan?

      • Stefan Van Theemsche

        It’s a 70x70cm one, a rather small one …

        • Glyn Dewis

          That’ll be just fine in place of the beauty dish Stefan

          • Stefan Van Theemsche

            Thanks Glyn, I’ll try it out this weekend and see if I can tilt the softbox enough as it’s a umbrella type softbox for a speedlight.

  5. Andy Dubreuil

    I’ve just got myself the Phottix C stand and boom in the Black Friday deal. I can set it up with a Bowen’s Gemini 500 and octagon softbox. But being wheelchair bound I can raise the boom so will try it with the beauty dish and see how I go. (Otherwise need to get the model to help 🙁 )

    • Glyn Dewis

      Sounds like a plan; keep me posted how you get on 😉

  6. Rick Lange

    What size California Sunbounce reflector are you using? 2×3? 3×4? Just curious.

    • Glyn Dewis

      The one I’m using here is the 3×4 😉

  7. Ralph Hardwick

    Great post! I would love to try Capture One, but sadly they have deliberately disabled support for my Pentax 645z, so I’m stuck with Lightroom.

    • Glyn

      Ralph…how come they’ve disabled it for the Pentax 645z? That sucks!

      • Ralph Hardwick

        There’s a lot of conspiracy theory stuff (which TBH is difficult to debunk), but many claim it’s because the 645z is medium format and a competitor to Phase One offering similar quality output for a fraction of the price.
        Apparently there some work arounds, but Capture One will not allow you to edit images taken on the 645z. Earlier version used to work, but the ability was deliberately disabled, in the software, right around the time that the 645z became more popular.
        Sad, but true.
        Like you I find Lightroom a bit flaky during tethering, but it’s the only option available for me.

        • Glyn

          Hmmm coincidence? Certainly doesn’t sound like it. Fingers crossed the tethering in LR is improved but got a feeling it won’t.

  8. Paul Wills

    Hi Glyn,
    Great stuff as usual.
    I’m having a go at replicating this tomorrow (like a thief!), do I see you’re using the silver side of the reflector?


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