Photography *can* be an expensive hobby , but it doesn't *have* to be. Developers can be made from household chems, lenses cannibalized from old xerox copiers and light modifiers made from all sorts of things. I recently acquired a thrift store deal on some old professional Novatron studio strobes. For $50 I got 3 flash heads, a commercial power pack, stands , umbrellas, cords etc. The equipment is from the 80's and still going strong and you can easily pay double to triple what I paid for that unit for ONE beauty dish or softbox on ebay or amazon.
...Or we can make our own!
1 large PLASTIC salad bowl with a fitting lid 12-16" wide and maybe 3-4" deep. This will make the build lighter in weight compared to a metal bowl which is a consideration if using speedlights or other shoe-mounted strobes. Also it's easier to cut & work on.
Carton knife or drill with hole boring bit and other assorted small bits
1 3" to 4" tin can lid
2 small "L" brackets
4 small nuts, bolts & washers
1 can each of black & white spray paint--cheapest hardware store brand is fine
Step 1: Hole Cut for the Flash to Shine Through & Base Paint
The salad bowl I chose for this project is approx 13" wide and had a convenient hinge attaching the lid. I cut a 3" wide diameter hole in the bottom center. As you can see here only the OUTSIDE of the bowl section is painted flat black. This keeps light from "leaking" out the back & it also makes the mod look slick.
This bowl was $3 at the Thrift Store. The can of cheapo B&W paint was .99 cents at the hardware store--cheapest store brand generic. That's $4 so far.
Step 2: Inside of the Bowl Base Painted White
Once the black exterior dries , flip it over and paint the inside white. Use a few thin coats and build it up. This was also hardware store brand generic paint --another .99 cents a can so with the balance of $4 from step one we are at $5 so far
Step 3: Tin Can Lid Mounted for Standoff Reflector
Here we have the lid from a metal can--this one is 4" in diameter and I used an old film can from a 100' roll of Arista EDU for that end piece. You can use any tin can lid--just be cautious about sharp edges and be sure it's somewhat reflective. I suppose you could use some tin foil but I wanted a little more durability.
I used some hobby spray adhesive to attach it to the inside of the lid. You can use any metal-to-plastic glue (gorilla glue, elmers white glue, a hot glue gun, rubber cement etc. We'll say it was a nickel's worth of glue. This puts us at $5.05 for the build cost so far
As you can see the lid to this bowl has a frosted/diffused texture. If your lid is clear you may want to soften it with some parchment or wax paper as an additional step gluing it to the inside surface.
When the top is closed the reflective disc will be facing the xenon tube of the strobe. When the strobe fires the disc will reflect light evenly all over the white interior and back out to the front as a softened bounce
Step 4: Final Assembly Step--mount the Dish to the Flash Head
Little 1" L brackets. On the inside of the dish is a small washer & nut. 1 on each side of the dish. This was $1.58 added to the $5.05 running total for a grand total of $6.63 US.
NOTE: if using speedlights or a rectangular bracket mounted flash head the build would essentially be the same with the exception that a rectangular hole would have been cut in the back and velcro straps would be used to secure the dish. The velcro would likely cost a little bit more.
Step 5: Sample Picture Taken With Beauty Dish
This is a russian made Zorki 4 rangefinder camera from 1960 with a Jupiter 8 lens. Notice the even rich lighting and the magazine appearance and we did it with a salad bowl ,B&W paint, a tin can lid and some glue, nuts bolts and some brackets. Color photo taken with Nikon d100 DSLR and B&W shot with Nikkormat FTn film camera -Arista EDU developed in minimal no sulfite phenidone formula
To compare prices, a store bought beauty dish would run you $36-$90 on ebay
Step 6: Full Metal Industrial Version at a Slight Cost Increase
This variation involved a 16" thin gauge steel bowl that was $4.95 at Goodwill Thrift Store. Also from Goodwill was the standoff reflector for .50 cents --this was actually the top from an old peculator coffee pot--about 4" in diameter. There are also 2 large L shaped brackets bolted together to make a U bracket sort of holder [ . These were $2 each from Lowes hardware store. This made the build approx $11 but I have a bigger dish and no painting required. It weighs more but mounting this on a novatron system it's of no consequesnce
Step 7: Lightest Weight & Lowest Cost--a Chip & Dip Bowl With Tin Foil Reflector
Another thrift store acquisition. A $2 plastic chip & dip bowl with a slightly frosted snap lid. These bowls have a raised center with a bowl depression in the middle to hold dip, salsa, dressing and then you fill the outer ring with chips, veggies etc. All I had to do was cut off the top edge of the raised bowl rim with a hacksaw blade, paint the inside white and glue some foil to the inside of the lid. The maker put an indent in the lid for a handy centering guide--all I had to do is spray in some adhesive and lay down foil then cut with a razor blade along the edge of that indent. This weighs about 11 oz or 300gr.