Review: The Kacey Beauty Reflector

I was recently given the opportunity to experiment with a Kacey Beauty Dish, so I decided to put together a review/explanation/demonstration.

One of the blogs I read all the time is the Strobist blog ( David Hobby has been writing this blog for a while now, and I have learned lots from him.

One of the great things he did when he got started was he realized that it was not going to be possible for him to answer every question, or respond to every comment. So, being the innovative person that he is, he started a flickr forum that allows various photographers from all over the world to learn, share and teach one another.

That forum is here:

Recently on this flickr forum there was a review and discussion about the Kacey Beauty Dish. Musician/photographer Steve Korn apparently got one to play with, and offered his opinions in a well-written review here.

I was lucky enough to be able to play with one of these beauty dishes (Kacey calls them “Beauty Reflectors”) recently, and took it on several different shoots.

First up was a high school senior prom. I had the idea of suspending the beauty dish over some people who were dancing, to see what I could get. What ended up happening was I got this really cool circle of light:
Four gals and a guy

I think it’s a little overexposed – but the concept is really cool. Definitely something I’d like to experiment with more.

The following day I was shooting family portraits outside – it was a volunteer gig for military families on active duty. Some had family members serving overseas, they wanted to send portraits of themselves and the kids. I found a shady spot under a big tree, and set up the beauty dish on a lightstand and just used it as a big directional light. It worked out great – a fairly wide spread at about 15 feet back with no flare into my lenses.

The big advantage here was that the light was very stable, even though it was windy. If I’d used just a speedlight or even a bare monolight, it would have been less flattering on the subjects. If I’d used an umbrella, I would have gotten my exercise chasing it across the field when the wind decided to take it away from me. Alternatively, it could have come crashing down on the subjects – the spouse and offspring of people who have guns and know how to use them. Not smart. The beauty dish was stable throughout the shoot, and I had absolutely no problems.
The Kacey Beauty Reflector with Vagabond IIWhat a cutie!

I also got the chance to experiment with it as a fill flash in full sun:
Fort Detrick firemen (Frederick, MD)

On Saturday and Sunday, May 9 and 10, Don Giannatti (wizwow on flickr) came out from Phoenix and gave his Lighting Essentials workshop here in Frederick, MD. So, a whole bunch of us got to play with the beauty dish that weekend.

Here’s some shots from that:
That hat again
Love the dogWhen I first saw you standing there... (Frederick, MD)
Do your prom pictures look like this?In hot pursuit

I decided to put together a little video, demonstrating how easy this thing is to use. Note that this is a “quick and dirty” video – I did not spend a lot of time on polishing the fine points here. I also had a head cold, which stuffed my nose, drives my voice up a few notches, and in places I sound like Daffy Duck. I was standing in a wide-open farm field, that was very windy, and there was a storm coming in behind the camera, so the sound quality is not up to studio standards. Your understanding is appreciated in advance.

Final shot from the video:
Stormy skies and a beauty dish

In conclusion – Jerry Kacey – I’m keeping this!

I am a huge fan of the light that comes from a white shoot-through umbrella. It flatters almost everybody, and it is fairly easy to control in terms of power. It does, however, have three major problems:

  1. If the umbrella is close to the viewpoint of the camera, I cannot have the umbrella be closer to the subject than my lens. I get flare across my lens. So, I am limited to the combination of using lenses and umbrella distances that work together.
  2. Umbrellas often do not do well in social situations – they fall over, and they have large skewer points just waiting for the errant eyeball to come into close proximity.
  3. Umbrellas do not do well outside. Even the slightest breeze turns the whole thing into a sail, and I have already broken a pocket wizard, a speedlight, AND an umbrella by having it overturned in the wind.

The Kacey Beauty Reflector has none of these problems. There is no spill out the back; they are smaller, yet yield a similar quality of light. They do not blow over in the wind.

Two thumbs up. This is a keeper.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Thanks very much for your review of the Kacey reflector. Looks good to me and I just ordered one. Your video was very helpful.



  2. I broke 5 umbrellas, one pocket wizard and one SB800 this past summer shooting outside. I think the beauty dish might be the way to go.

  3. I know this video was done quite some time ago, but rest assured here in August of 2012 it is still relevant and helping other people researching the Kacey beauty dish! Thanks very much for the video and information.

  4. Going to buy the Kacey dish for some beach shoots. Umbrellas and softboxes fly away at the beach.

  5. I ordered their 22″ Kacey beauty dish 2 month ago and still waiting for them to deliver it. Emailed them from their web site many times, but got no response. Do they still exist ?

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