DIY Beauty Dish for Cheap

I've been looking at adding a beauty dish to my lighting kit for some time now, but I've had trouble trying to figure out which setup to go with. There are plenty of kits out there - some cheaper than others - but I wanted to see if the light source was what I wanted without breaking the bank. Ultimately, I decided, with the help of a few DIY articles (primarily this one), I was going to tackle my own project and create a beauty dish from a handful of common objects and a few miscellaneous parts I had lying around. The final construction came to look like the below image. 

 This is the final assembly. 

This is the final assembly. 

I used a number of cheap parts to put this thing together. The complete list is below, with links. 

  • IKEA FOTO LED Lamp - $24.99 (Serendipitous name given its fate! I picked mine up in the returned section for $15.00.)
  • Vello QuickDraw Rotating Flash Bracket - $18.99 (I already owned this, so you may look for something to replace it.)
  • Westcott Adjustable Shoe Mount Bracket - $29.90 (I already owned this from an umbrella kit I purchased early on in my career. Honestly, the bracket was pretty difficult to work with, as its design allowed the top to spin if the slightest breeze caught the umbrella. It works well for this application, though.)
  • Portfolio Round Metal Electrical Box Cover - $2.98 (This is the perfect size to work as the interior reflector.)
  • Two 1/2 inch bolts with washers and nuts
  • One 4 inch bolt (to hold the reflector) with four washers and four nuts

I'll admit that this solution was only so cheap because I had a number of the parts lying around my house and wasn't planning to use them. The Westcott bracket has been a pain since I bought it, so tearing it apart was not a difficult decision. As for the Vello bracket, I don't know what to tell you there; I picked it up a long time ago and have been watching it collect dust in my basement. Sure, you could buy one for this project, but the cost won't really outweigh the benefit - unless of course you're only looking for the accomplishment of making your own beauty dish, which at that rate, have at it. 

I started out by marking the speedlight head size on the back of the lamp shade with a permanent marker. I followed this by lining up the Vello bracket with the speedlight attached and marked where I would add mounting holes. The Vello bracket has been stripped down, only utilizing the swing-arm that was meant to hold the speed light (see image below). I then market the center top section for a hole to hold the reflector. I drilled out the holes with a standard drill and the appropriate bits. When it came to cutting, I used a grinder and cleaned up the edges with a Dremel and some files, which made short-work of the entire task. I bolted everything together and there it stands, ready and waiting to make some portraits. Check out some of the images below for a more detailed account of how it all came together.

 Vello bracket arm with the Westcott bracket attached. I removed the speedlight mounting head from the Westcott bracket, which left only a screw that allowed me to feed it through the Vello bracket and connect to the speedlight mount that came with the Vello kit. Clear as mud, right?

Vello bracket arm with the Westcott bracket attached. I removed the speedlight mounting head from the Westcott bracket, which left only a screw that allowed me to feed it through the Vello bracket and connect to the speedlight mount that came with the Vello kit. Clear as mud, right?

 Speedlight cutout marks. Note the Vello mounting mark to the left of the image, just in case you are seeking clarification for the below image. 

Speedlight cutout marks. Note the Vello mounting mark to the left of the image, just in case you are seeking clarification for the below image. 

 Vello mounting bracket marks. See the above image if you're looking for clarification on the Vello mounting as compared to the speedlight hole. 

Vello mounting bracket marks. See the above image if you're looking for clarification on the Vello mounting as compared to the speedlight hole. 

 Rough cut from the grinder before heading to the Dremel and files. 

Rough cut from the grinder before heading to the Dremel and files. 

 Interior shot showing how I mounted the electrical plate with a single bolt. From here, I'll file edges down a little further and give the entire thing a clean coat of white paint. Since taking this picture, I decided to add a second bolt to the lower electrical plate hole, just to ensure that the plate doesn't move.

Interior shot showing how I mounted the electrical plate with a single bolt. From here, I'll file edges down a little further and give the entire thing a clean coat of white paint. Since taking this picture, I decided to add a second bolt to the lower electrical plate hole, just to ensure that the plate doesn't move.

 Final assembly again. It's the same image as posted at the top of the page.

Final assembly again. It's the same image as posted at the top of the page.