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Beauty Dish Portrait with a grin

Beauty Dish Portrait using only one light, a Profoto AcuteB 600R + a White Softlight Reflector for headshot portrait of Swedish artist. Photographer Stefan Tell

The Beauty Dish from Profoto (a white Softlight Reflector) must be the best light modifier for strong portraits in my opinion. But it takes either great make up or perfect skin (or, in this case, a model not afraid of showing every wrinkle). Used like this, you only need one light for a nice portrait.

This portrait uses the same studio lighting setup as the previous portrait in colour, but this time I got a happy face and converted it to black and white.

One light beauty dish setup diagram

Standing in front of a white paper background and using only one light at the lowest possible setting (Profoto AcuteB 600R), I could use an aperture of f/2.8 which made the white background light grey and a relatively shallow depth-of-field. Just enough to blur the head contours a bit and put the focus in the center of his face.

B&W conversion and contrast enhancements

Compared to the portrait in colour, this has the same settings in Lightroom except for the conversion to black and white. But the conversion alone makes the light appear a little bit harsher, which I also enhanced by adding an adjustment layer with the Gradient Map-filter and lowered the opacity to around 50 or 60%, and set the blend mode to Soft Light.

To make the effect of the short DOF stronger, I copied the image layer, ran the High Pass filter, switched the blend mode to Soft Light and lowered the opacity until the effect felt right. To that layer, I added a layer mask and masked out the parts of the portrait that were already out of focus with a soft edged brush.

I liked his skin texture as it is, so nothing more is done to this portrait in terms of retouching, just removed a few spots of dust.

For a harder light, the Profoto Magnum also creates great portraits.

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Patrick Ciebilski June 15, 2010, 09:57

    Very impressive portrait! What setting did have the AcuteB, so that you can use a f1.4? As much as I try I end up with f13 🙂 Wonderful work !

    • Stefan Tell June 15, 2010, 10:42

      For that portrait I used an aperture of 2.8, but the lens is 1.4. The settings were as low as I could get them, if you need to reduce the amount of light even more, use ND-filter on either the lens or the beautydish.

      I would recommend starting with covering the beautydish with a layer of ND-filter, having one on the lens makes it a lot harder for your autofocus to work properly and with a shallow DOF it is already hard enough to get the focus right.

  • Elliot October 7, 2010, 10:17

    Hej Stefan!

    Tack för att du är så generös och delar med dig av alla dina tips!
    SÃ¥g din fina bild “Beauty Dish Portrait with a grin” och har en frÃ¥ga.
    Finns det en värdig ersättare/variant till Beauty Dish-reflektorn som är ihopfällbar?
    PÃ¥ den tiden som jag plÃ¥tade med pro tungstenslampor använde jag just en Beauty Dish. Problemet var bara att den är sÃ¥ jobbig att ha med sig. Arbetar aldrig i studio utan flänger runt med taxi och pirra 🙂

    • Stefan Tell October 7, 2010, 13:43

      Tack, den är fortfarande en stor favorit här också. Alltid kul att få chansen att göra något lite annorlunda.

      Har tyvärr inga bra tips på ihopfällbara, och håller helt med om att den är väldigt otymplig. Tror dock det finns snikversioner till kamerablixtar, tror Fotosidan skrev något om det tidigare, kanske finns på Kaffebrus?

  • Jorge Queiroz July 13, 2011, 22:25

    Hi, Stefan!
    I love your work and blog! It’s always a good source of high quality information and the simple way you use to explain complex things is awesome!
    I have a doubt and maybe you can help my. I own some Profoto D1 heads and a Profoto Silver Beauty Dish. When I assemble this setup (D1 Head + Beauty Dish + Glass Dome) and project the light in a wall, I see that the light is not even, it have a darker center in the middle. I know you too have this products, do you have the same ‘problem’?
    I don’t know if it’s a normal effect of the beauty dish or if it just happens with the D1 heads. I hope you can help me .)
    Thanks!!!

    I have some Profoto D1 heads and a Profoto Silver Beauty Dish

  • Stefan Tell August 22, 2011, 15:47

    Hello Jorge,
    I use the glass dome on the D1 heads, so they should look the same as other Profoto heads. I think you can swap the round thing in the middle of the beauty dish and use something that lets more light through, if you don’t like the doughnut effect

  • Antonio December 23, 2012, 16:02

    Hi stefan! Congrats! Super good work! I like to ask you some thing, to use a aperture 2.8 you use flash or modeling light? I dont know how to do it, look amazing! Thanks
    Antonio

    • Stefan Tell December 26, 2012, 01:05

      Thanks,
      I can’t really remember exactly, but I guess using only one light and from a little distance, I could use aperture f/2.8. Might have used ND-filter, but reading the text, I said I didn’t.

      But ND-filter is always a good way of reducing light if you want less light for more shallow DOF.

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