Can I give an Amen?
I am a big fan of St. Louis music and portrait photographer Todd Owyoung.
Early last year, at his ishootshows blog, he and his New York-based brother Chris dropped directions for building a beauty dish, and I had to give it a shot. Why? Simple: I loved the soft light in his sample shots – the way they popped, but did not overpower the subjects and delivered a smooth, lovely look. So, I took myself over to C. Worth Restaurant Equipment Superstore – which is kinda funny considering my wife is the culinary professional in the family – got an 18-inch stainless steel mixing bowl and 8-inch pizza dish, hit Lowe’s for some spray paint and the right nuts and bolts and went to work in the basement.
(Warning: If you do not advise the members of your household of what you are doing, the sounds of you slicing into stainless steel will scare the heck out of them the first time you do it. The first time I cut into the bowl, my wife burst down the basement stairs like she never has before or since, I think expecting to find a scene out of a slasher flick. And when Todd, who makes a good chunk of his living in front of arena speaker stacks, says use earplugs while cutting into steel, he’s serious.)
My major modification to Todd’s design was in the bracket. While he employed a softbox bracket, I opted to put together a setup with an L-shaped brace from Lowe’s. In my version, two bolts attach to the dish on one side of the brace. On the other end, a simple wingnut bolts it to a Manfrotto bracket at the end, which I use to mount it onto a regular light stand. The center hole is where I attached a Cactus V4 receiver, on which I usually mount a Nikon SB-28DX flash.
The once smooth black-and-white paint job has gotten quite dinged up over the year hauling this beauty of a dish around to shoot quite a few jobs, including the portrait, at the top of this post, of Angelique Clay and Gregory Turay, which was the last photo I took for the Herald-Leader this year.
Todd posted an end-of-year blog on the beauty dish – known as the Broyoung’s Chinatown Special Beauty Dish – and the amazing shots he’s taken with it over the year. All I can say is amen. It was an inspiring project and a valuable addition to my gear for much less than I would have paid for a commercially produced beauty dish. I’ve enjoyed using the dish this year and hope to do it a lot more in 2011.