How to Use Beauty Dishes
So, the beauty dish has been discussed a couple of times. It certainly has been discussed on this show lots by other photographers. Beauty dish is a favorite source for a lot of the speakers and teachers at CreativeLive. Lindsey Adler, many others that are good friends and good teachers that love this light because of all the great things that it does, but it doesn't do everything. And it can't do everything, and you don't really want it to do everything. Okay, so, real quickly if I'm gonna photograph the lovely, the talented Mona, Mona this is the group, group this is the Mona. (audience laughing) What's fun about this and the reason I wanted to kill the overhead, the ambience just a little bit is because I wanted to show you the true use and beauty of a beauty dish. If I can find the sweet spot in the beauty dish, for me I always like to try to extend the first section of my light stand first, then while I'm working with this and I'm raising this and lowering this trying to find that...
sweet spot, it's easier for me to do that with my hand in this position than my hand up here trying to push it up from here. Just raise the first extension and you just saved yourself a whole lot of trouble, and I can loosen that knob here, and now I can look at her face. Do this for me, let me just raise your chin up a little bit and then just barely let your head just straighten up a bit. Right there. So, all I'm doin' now is I'm just lookin' at her face, I'm bringing this in pretty close as you can see, and I'm just lookin' for that sweet spot. And there it is right there for me. Her face just came to life right there. It's hard for you to see it from the side and you might not be able to see it yet from, certainly from home without the room dark and a live view turned on, but for right there her face just sort of glowed and lit up and her eyes look great, the nose looks great, under the chin looks great. So, it's kinda like oh, let me just see, yeah right there. Bam, that's the spot. Everybody has a sweet spot. You found this to be true, also?
Yeah, it's a real deal. It's a for real thing. So, let's take a reading and lets see what kind of exposure we're getting and let's do a picture here. And you'll notice, here we go, sorry.
11.1, 11.01, 11.1? Okay, so good. So I'll probably be shooting at F11. It's a good habit to get into. Occasionally you're gonna have a use for a C-stand with an extension arm, a boom arm. Working with a beauty dish, working with a light that you think might be aligned with the nose, it's often a good time to use that boom because it'll be real handy havin' it out of the way, having the stand out of the way. If you want it and especially if you really want it directly inline with the lens, sometimes it needs to be there, and you can do it that way. So, just get it that way so it's hoverin' out there. It just helps. In the world of production I think everybody knows that it's something that we all kinda need from time to time. So, I'm gonna scoot in a little bit, and Mona, let's just turn your, in fact, let's do this: let's turn your shoulders that way a little bit, yep. And now if you wanna bring your head back this way. A little bit more. Right there, that's perfect. Right there. So, we were at 11. Okay, good, good, good. Look at that face. That's a pretty good lookin' face right there. Your eyes right at me, good. Right there, great. Let's take a quick peak at that. We're on our, I just look at this remote, this is the new AirTTL remote. I just wanted to double check and make sure that it's on manual and not any other settings. Great, great, great. So, look at the cheekbones on this girl. Let's put this over here. The mask of the face, it's lighting up the mask of her face really nicely. Our histogram shows that we're lookin' pretty good over there. There's nothin' that's blown out. If it looks to you that it's too far from the right, and if the histogram doesn't go across all the way, consider this, her skin tone is not real, real, real, real light, there's nothing real, real, real light in scene. There's no light clothing there's no white background, there's nothing that's gonna take us over there. So, I'm not sure that the histograms a bad histogram, I think it's pretty decent exposure. I don't know that I would really make any big change in the exposure at all. So, I think she looks pretty great. I am going to I think, John, let's cheat that light. Do we have enough travel? Actually, you know what? Let me scoot me that way a little bit.
And I wanna light her from the other side of her face.
I can get an extension cord on here too.
That's okay, I'll just come over this way and if you can just move that light that way a little bit, and I'll just scoot over this way a little bit. Just go another, just a little bit further. Yeah, right in there. And now move it just a little bit closer to her. There we go. And what I'm noticing here you guys is she's got a closed side of her face and an open side of her face. And what I mean by that is if the camera can show that, the way she's got her hair, this is all pretty much opened over here on this side of her face, and the other side is not, it's a little bit more closed off. So I just wanted to light into this side of her face just a little bit. So I'll bring her head around just a little bit more, and havin' that light comin' in here I think will be a little bit of an advantageous move on my part. So, again, I'm gonna wiggle this up and down a bit and I'm gonna look for her sweet spot in here. Right, do you see it right there? It just bam, it just pops right into. It just pops right into something real pretty. Right like that. You're sitting just great, just bring your head around a tiny bit, right in there. Yeah, that's real nice. Let's just double check that. Well our distance hasn't really changed, has it? So we're probably okay. Let's just double check it anyway, 'cause that's what we do. We're the double checkers. Here we go, good.
11.1, okay. 11.1's pretty close to 11. I can live with one tenth. And I'm just gonna come in a little closer, and she looks fantastic. She looks a little scared right now to me, but, you know, other than that. Good, good, good. That's good, let's do one more. Bring your head around just a tiny bit further. Right in there. Good, good, good. Now, here's what I want you to do. This is gonna seem weird. You're sitting perfect but your right hand, I just want you to bring it back higher on your leg. Right there. Now let me shoot that one. Now push it back where it was. Right there and I wanna shoot that one. Now, let's look at these two and compare the two on the base of the frame again. It's a small, subtle thing you guys. But my mentor, what I first started this guy critiqued everything I shot. Every week as my film was coming back from the lab we had to sit down and go through all my pictures. I hate that part. Lookin' back on it it was the best thing that could've ever happened to me. But it wasn't very comfortable for the guy saying what were you thinking, look at that hand. Sorry. It sold and it was fine, and we were buying houses and cars and making a living, but it wasn't great. I shot, I made a living with some pretty average work, and less than average work for a long time. 'Cause I didn't know what I was doin'. You know? It's interesting though when you start paying attention to the details, now let's just look at the last shot there versus there. Look at her arm there versus there. It just gave it a little bit of a base on the bottom of the frame. It's a subtle thing. It's just something to be aware of, okay? Miss Kenna?
I'm not sure if you were gonna go there next with the beauty dish but we did have some questions coming in around using grids, and let me get back to it, and diffusion fabric on the beauty dishes, that was from R Tencati.
Yeah, great question. Grids, I use a lot on the beauty dish because grids will, you see the light that's coming down from her arms? The grid will allow that to even further fall off. We've got a grid for it, we'll light it up with a grid. Before we do that though, I wanna show 'em one other thing first. But I'm not a big fan of the diffuser or the sock on a beauty dish because I think when the light goes into the beauty dish, and let me power down this for just a second and turn it toward the cameras. When the light goes into this thing, when that flash fires and hits the deflector and bounces back in and it goes around and fills that bowl, and then it comes outa there, that's where the magic is of a beauty dish. All of that disappears when I use a diffuser. And I think it just becomes a large, round, 22 inch soft diffused light. Nothing wrong with a 22 inch soft diffused light, it's still a great light source, but I think I lose the magic and the beauty of that dish when I do that. The grid, however, the grid is a great tool, and it is a really terrific tool to have. And what'll happen is, if you'll notice, well it's hard to see this now, there is some spilling onto the background from the beauty dish in this position. Once I put the grid on, that background goes black 'cause it controls that off of the background and also from headshot down it starts dropping off like that. And it becomes almost a soft vignetted spotlight. So the grid is pretty important. We'll do one with the grid, but before I put the grid on I wanted to bring the silver reflector in and if we can just pop it in from down below I wanna show the difference and what we can do with that. Sorry, I should of had it standing by. So let me just tip this down a little bit. Yeah?
Tony, while you're doing that, Rody had used do you primarily use the 85 millimeter lens rather than a 70 to 200 for portraits?
Well, this is all new to me. I've got a 70 to 200 with me that I travel with. And it goes, it's my go-to, it's my baby. In fact, it's not a 70 to 200 2.8, it's Canon 70 to 200 f/4. It's almost a third of the weight and it's $1400 less, and it's as sharp. The Canon guys told me, why are you getting the 2.8, get the four, it's as sharp and it'll save you a ton of money. I'm like, okay fine. And I tested it and it was crazy sharp. The 85, this is my second week with the 85. So far, I am really likin' what I'm seeing. So, stay tuned.
But so far the 85 1.4, I'm a big fan. Interesting John and I had a conversation. The great photographer Ernst Haas made a comment about he always used fixed focal length lenses, prime lenses and he always said well I zoom with my feet. Except that you're really not zooming with your feet, because you're moving your relative position to the subject, therefore you're changing the relative angle of view and angle of coverage in the background. With a zoom lens you're changing, you're keeping that consistent when I'm changing. So, it's a whole different thing, moving closer is a whole different thing than being this far away and zooming in. When I zoom in (whistles) my viewing angle comes here. When I walk in it doesn't do that, it stays out here. So, it's a whole different thing zooming with your feet and zooming with a lens. Make sure you recognize where your importance is based on what may or may not be seen in your background areas specifically. Think about this, the longer the lens you shoot with, meaning the further your feet are away from your subject, the closer and closer I can bring things in the background into my frame. Like my accent lights. If I'm shooting with a 50 normal lens I'm seeing that edge over that stand right there and that edge of that stand back there. But if I'm shooting back, back, back, back, back with my 200 I can have an accent light right here and it's not in the frame yet. I can bring it in closer and I can just edge light her arm and her shoulder. I can't do that with a short lens. I can do it with a longer lens. Make sense? It's gotta make sense kids. If it doesn't make sense this doesn't play, right? Okay, so John let's just pop some of that down from below and--
It's pretty big.
Yeah, hold on to those handles in case it get gets away from ya.
It's the wind, ah. (laughing)
Tom, why don't you jump up and hold one side of him for him.
Is it gonna fit in here?
Yeah, it'll fit.
There we go.
Oh, this is good. This is good. Come on, you gotta leave me an alley to shoot.
I know that's what I'm sayin, I'm hitting her in the belly.
Oh, here let's back this up a fraction.
Yeah, just a little bit. There we go.
There we go. Good, good, good. So, interesting thing about this, you can vary the exposure or the brightness level from the silver coming up under the eyes by simply how you tilt the beauty dish. So right there I'm getting, I don't know where I'm out of your way here, but from right there I'm not getting much of a kick on this at all. But if I tip it down right there I'm getting a big kick. That's kind of almost my main light from below now, but I don't want it that far, but I do wanna catch a little bit of a highlight in her eye, maybe right in there. In this case now that this is coming from down there, I'm gonna go ahead and raise it up just a little bit. And so I'm separating, the only reason I wanted to raise it, I wanna separate my highlights in her eyes a little bit further. The specular highlight in the eye is a design element for me in this position. Yeah?
What if she was wearing a pair of glasses? Would you just keep moving the light until the highlight's out of the glasses or?
Great question. The toughest thing to retouch is glass glare. Glass glare it's a direct response to the angle of incidence equaling the angle of reflectance. So you gotta get on an axis of an angle off of the light, that's all you have to do. So to answer the question I'm not sure how I would do it in this position, I certainly wouldn't be using this. And I might more easily move that light around and broad light her face a little bit so that the reflection goes away from me instead of comin' right back at my lens. Because the reflection's gonna be there, but if I can change the angle just enough then the reflection disappears. But boy it's hard to retouch that. That's a tough retouch. That's the one you send out to one of the services. You guys, is anybody using any out services for any retouching? I'm tellin' ya, you might gain your life back. Try thinkin' about doin' some testing with some of these out services, they're doing some really good things and they're not very costly and they'll give you your life back, and they're as good or better than you at retouching. Okay my dear, let me take a look at you here. Just lower this one inch, right there. There you go, good. Now I know intuitively that I'm gonna add light so I'm gonna close down a third 'cause I know I'm gonna pick up some extra light from the reflector here. Here we go, good. Take a deep breath (deep exhalation), blow it out, shake it around, wiggle, wiggle, that's it. Now we got her wiggling. Good, good, your eyes right at me. Great. John can you, you got one little wild hair right under here. That, you found it, you did it. You did it, good, good, good. Much better. There we go, great. Good, good, good, good. Let's take a look at that. Ready set go! See the crazy hair? Try retouching that. There's 15 minutes of your day gone. So just reach in and have her fix it. Ready, fix the hair, great, the hair's fixed. Gotta fix the hair. If you got a stray hair you gotta fix it. But look what's going on in the eyes. Look what's going on on the face. I don't know what you like, guys. I don't know what you like and I don't know what you want, but I do know this: I know intuitively that by understanding how this works and how that relates to that, how that small grid works on the background, how all this stuff sort of comes together to make a picture, I do know that I have the control to do whatever I need this to do. If I'm shooting a small widget for a catalog company, I have to know that the smaller the source the harder the shadow, the higher the look of contrast. Does that make sense? I've gotta work on that contrast range. So, and here's the thing about the grid, you gotta be real precise when you take your meter readings because it really does close off the light and you gotta make sure that your aim is true with where the light is hitting the face.
Your aim, Alison was the name of that song. Elvis Costello. John and I have this, we don't even have to talk. We just we have a communication. It's very odd. Well, he's very odd.
Okay, so let me just take a look here. Yeah, right in there that's lookin' real nice. So let's get a reading of that. Here we go, here we go.
Eight and a half.
So we lost a little bit. So I'm just gonna take this up. Three, four, five. So now we're gonna be back at 11 again. Ready, set, go.
Oh okay, fine. Just bring your head right here to me just a bit. I'm gonna back up so you can see the falloff of the grid in position. Good, your eyes right here at me. Great, great, great, great. Oop sorry, I'm still closed, I'm still up to 14, duh. Sorry, sorry, sorry, it's gonna be a little dark. Sorry, I knew that. Nobody moves, nobody moves, nobody moves, here we go. Great. So the grids are important to know, they're important to use. Interesting thing about the egg crate grids, the big ones, the soft ones for the fabrics for the soft boxes and stuff, they kinda cheat physics a little bit in that you can get closer and closer and closer and closer and closer and the source doesn't actually get bigger, and bigger, and bigger because it stops at some point being able to see because of the depth of the grids. So there's some point there where I can't see in there anymore, so it knocks off the edges. So it doesn't really change the size by bringing it closer. Does that make sense? Kind of? Yeah, it starts falling off and you can see it. It's difficult to see on that monitor but I can see it on my screen pretty clearly how the falloff is starting to come into play on her arms and all the way down the front of her garment. So, all that starts coming into play. But the grids are really, really good at directing light, directing the viewers attention is kind of an important thing too. You can grid into a face and help really keep the viewer looking where you want the viewer to go. So, that's what it's all about. Thank you dear.
Okay. And we're gonna catch up with you and do some more later.
So, don't leave town. (audience laughing) Let me just turn this around and sit up here for just a second, and I just wanna talk about a couple of quick things that I do on these kind of pictures and I've kinda, you know, everybody has their own way of retouching and working in post production, and there's so many ways of doing everything. I mean goodness gracious, in Photoshop there's five ways to do everything. In Lightroom there's probably three ways to do everything, and I'm by no means the end all expert of everything. Are you seeing my cursor there? Yeah, there we go. So on something like this I'm gonna go to the one to two ratio and I'll put it over her eyes, and I just wanna take a look at her eyes. In fact, that's a little close, let me back up to a one to three, something like that. Now I can kinda see a little bit. So, one of the things, I think the exposure looks pretty good. I wanna brighten up her eyes just a little bit. Not so much the whites of her eyes, but the dark part of her eye, I think I can brighten that up just a bit. And everybody's got another way of doin' it, but the way I would choose to do that is I would go over to my, I'm in my Develop module, I'm gonna click on... Huh, okay, I'm gonna click on my adjustment brush and I'm gonna click on this little dropdown menu right here. Did you see where that came from? This effect right here. A lot of people don't know that this is here. It's kinda hidden away. If you click on that word next to the Effect when you're in the Develop module, another dropdown sub menu pops open. Come down to and Iris Enhance, so I'll click on that. And what you can see is over here things changed a little bit. Let me get rid of this guy. Can I do that? I guess I can't. You'll see that the exposure changed and also look under the Saturation. The saturation increased. I'm not a big fan of it being that high on the saturation. So I'll bring that down a little bit. But the exposure I want up about a half stop or so brighter. So now I'm gonna go back over in here and I'm gonna change my, what is it? There we go. So now I'm gonna bring that size down my using my bracket keys, I'm just gonna bring the size down 'til it's about the size of the darkest part of her eyes. That this is pulled back a little bit. And then I'm gonna go in there and I'm just gonna paint a little bit right in there, and I'm gonna paint this just a little bit right in there. I'm trying to stay off of the whites of the eyes. I don't want it to look too over worked. I might give it just a little bit more of exposure, just a hit, there we go. So I'll click Done and now let's just go back and forth. So here's, there's before and there's after. It's very subtle but I think it helps me get a little bit of color, and I'm being sloppy 'cause I'm in a hurry. But you get the idea, and that's a great little hidden tip, and hidden little tool that's in here that sometimes people forget exists. So, I'll go to Photo, Edit In, and I'm gonna go to Photoshop. So this is exporting it. So, I'm round tripping back out to Photoshop, open anyway, when I'm in Photoshop, yeah. So when I'm in Photoshop here's what I'll do. This has become a habit for me. I use the patch tool as a cool little retouch technique and the way I use it. I don't want that. I don't want that, there we go. Let me just get rid of that and click an A. I don't want that, I don't want that. Don't crop, don't crop. Okay, so, let me just zoom in. Here we go. So, I'll come over here to the, where the spot healing brush is, where all these funky little tools are, and I'll come down to the Patch Tool. Click on the Patch Tool and I'm gonna just draw us, I'm just gonna draw a bounding box, a selection around this part under here eye like this. And I'm gonna be pretty quick and easy about this, and you don't have to be too precise. Then I'm gonna click and drag that for new information just below it like that, and I'm gonna let go. Now, as soon as I let go, before I go anywhere and while that's still lit up with the marching ants, go to Edit and you're gonna see a new slider control that you didn't know was there. See right there, Fade Patch Selection. That doesn't even exist until you've made the selection and the marching ants are still in the on position. Then that Fade Patch Selection tool is there. Click on that, I'm gonna take it back to 50% because I don't want it to look fake, I want it to be there, I just wanna help the girl out. There it is, now it looks more normal, doesn't it? So now I'll do the same thing on the other side. Get the idea? Everybody with me? I'm clickin' on that, new information there, Edit, Fade Patch Selection, 50%, bam. I just helped her out a little bit. I gave her a little bit of rest. That's all, I just gave her a little bit of sleep. As soon as I hit Command + S it is saved and it saved it back to Lightroom 'cause that's where it came out of so now I can close it.
So I'm curious when you light the background with the grid, do you ever have a banding issues in post production or printing?
It's a great question. If you're shooting in the raw mode and you know, eight or 16 bit, you probably won't have. I don't see it, I don't have a problem with it, but I did early on, and certainly with a camera of a smaller megapixel file size, I've had some issues. But, usually I don't. I haven't had anything like that that's been a problem probably in four or five years. I think as the equipment gets better and better and better, I think that's dissipating and becoming less of a, it's kinda like moire. Moire's something these guys, these video cameramen are crazed about moire because it's so challenging to fix it. Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show used to always wear those seersucker sport coats and you could watch his suit become a vibrating massive pulse on camera, and I know those cameramen were screaming at him to not wear those suits. But he wore 'em anyway. Pinstripe, I've got a shirt that I had on earlier and one of the producers says you might wanna change that shirt, it just might moire, and I hadn't thought about it but she was right. So, you know, there's a lot of little things in digital that are just a bit of a challenge, and that can be a challenge sometimes. So, anytime you to a JPEG or certainly a lower res JPEG and you'll find it sometimes in some slideshow programs where your dissolving from image, to image, to image and all of a sudden one image will come up and you've got this banded sky. It's like wait a minute, that band wasn't there before. And it's automatically resized it for the display and in the resizing it they introduced the banding. So, it's like, come on, you know? Explore these tools. There's so many things in there. There's a lot of good stuff. Gradient of tools, if you don't have a grid and you're shooting with a beauty dish and you don't have a grid, let me go to this guy right here and you need that look of a gradient of the grid, but I don't have a grid, then just go to the gradient tool here, click on that guy, go to exposure and the default is almost always up, take it down, let's take it down to like 3/4s of a stop and let's just a gradient from the bottom and come up with the gradient. And then you can see where the gradient is. Where do you want it to be? Maybe it's right there and you click okay. So then our before and after. Where did I do, yeah, there we go. There's before and after. Yup. So, there's a lot of little quick, those little quick hits that you can do without getting lost in editing.