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Shooting a Dramatic Portrait Using a Beauty Dish


This 12-minute tutorial from photographer Joel Grimes demonstrates two methods for creating dramatic portraits using a minimal amount of gear. Both techniques use a beauty dish; the first with a single light source and the second with the addition of 2 edge lights.

Grimes shoots these portraits at 24mm, which accentuates his subject’s upper-body bulk and creates more drama. For his first setup, Grimes uses the beauty dish to concentrate the light on his model and part of the black background behind him, allowing it to taper off to black.

Once Grimes has nailed the exposure with his settings at ISO 100, f/7.1 and 1/200, he adjusts the height and power output of his strobe rather than changing his camera settings. Raising the light creates a little more drama in the shadows, though going too high creates an unattractive rake across the face.

For the second portrait, Grimes goes for a more edgy look, dressing his model in an all-black suit. To avoid the suit blending with the black backing, he adds two edge lights. He sets his main light to a lower output so that it retains the drama in the face without overpowering the edge lights.

Check out the full video at the top to follow along with the whole process as Grimes creates these brilliant headshots. For more from him, check out his profile at Westcott’s website.