DIY: Cardboard Beauty Dish

For a while now I’ve kept up with sites like DIY Photo and Instructables, not because I ever make the projects presented there, but because the ideas often inspire me to try alternate methods for accomplishing my own projects. Last night I began wondering if it would be possible to make a beauty dish out of a single piece of poster-board. On DIY Photography, one of the contributors has cobbled together a similar project from junk and it worked just fine.

Dusty Chesh pieces lit with cardboard beauty dish mounted on the camera (I know, I know).

A sample of the lighting fall-off from the 8″ prototype cardboard beauty dish.

I have no current use for a DIY beauty dish, but there’s a ton of people who think that buying a $250 light modifier is an absolute must for creating a specific look, and my contrary soul begs to differ. To that effect I took a 14″x 16″ piece of bristol board (construction paper and poster board would work too) and created my own DIY beauty dish. The only materials and tools I used were bristol (thick white paper), scissors, hot glue/gun, a pencil, a thumb tack, and a rubber band.

  • I used the thumb tack a pencil and a 7″x .5″ strip of bristol, cut from the bottom of the page, to create a temporary compass with which to draw the three concentric circles.
  • I estimated the radius of each larger circle at about 1.75″ larger that the earlier radius, but estimate your own measurements from the width of your flash head.
  • The center cone piece has four “legs” partly cut from the edge of the inside circle. I shaped it into a cone, but probably should have reversed the cone nose direction for better light reflection and diffusion.
  • I don’t have exact measurements, but the 2nd cone is formed to just fit the flash head into the inner hole.
  • The third cone was then formed to overlap the edge of the 2nd cone enough to change the pitch of the internal bowl shaping. It is glued to the underside of the 2nd cone’s outer edge to avoid shadows within the bowl shape.
  • The legs of the first cone are folded and glued to the underside of the 2nd cone’s inner edge.
  • The extra rectangles of bristol are glued to the back side of the 2nd cone to make tabs that could be strapped, using the rubber-band, to the flash head.

The test shots show a soft fall-off pattern, as expected, and a decent ambient coverage on the walls or distant objects. There’s even a hint of the traditional circle shaped catch light in my wife’s eyes. She’s being very tolerant of this project in the picture. 😉


Total cost for materials? less than 25 cents.

So, you could totally ramp up this build with a full size piece of poster board, some more cones for better bowl shaping, and walk away with a  beauty dish for less than $2.00. I thought that might be useful to basically every photographer to know.

If this project makes no sense, or if you have no idea how to estimate the cone sizes to replicate the project, just leave me a note in the comments below to let me know you need help and I’ll put together a video with more accurate measurements to help you create a full size variation of this cardboard beauty dish.

About Jon Decker

Jon is on a Grand Adventure... life.
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  1. Pingback: Top 5 list of inexpensive flash modifiers | Grasping @ Creativity

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