Share Let me start this blog post by saying you can pick up a beauty dish from Amazon for $89 by clicking here. But if you’re a savy DIY-er you may want to try your hand and making one on your own.

My original idea was to make a video tutorial on how I made mine, similar to the custom bokeh tutorial. But as many DIY projects go, this one did not go according to plan. That’s why I wanted to make a blog post so you can learn from my mistakes.

So if you enjoy cutting plastic, and want to save about $60 and not buy one from Amazon, then read on and good luck!

You’ll need the following:

  • plastic terracotta round pot (I used an 18″ one)
  • empty DVD or CD case
  • spray paint for plastic (black and white)
  • 3″ convex mirror (you can get from auto parts store)
  • gutter attachment piece
  • super glue
  • knife/scissor
  • velcro

I also used a drill to put holes through the pot and dvd base that will match the ones in the gutter piece.

For more details on how to make the beauty dish visit this great strobist blog post. I’m going to spend the rest of this blog post letting you know what I did wrong and what you can do to avoid it.

THE BIGGEST difference between the one I made and the one from strobist blog centers around the gutter piece.

The gutter piece DOES NOT fit a Canon 580 EX2 speedlight. That meant I almost gave up. I tried to buy this thing to replace the gutter piece but they canceled my order because they wouldn’t let me order it by itself.

So the masacre begins.

This is the correct way to attach the gutter piece

I had to cut that gutter piece into 4 pieces to fit the 580 ex2. Then I put it in backwards, so instead of the long part sticking out the back, mine is sticking in towards the inside. Make sure the long end of the gutter piece is sticking out the back.

One other thing to consider in making your center cuts for the hole, is that the middle of the light comes out lower than the outline of the speedlight head. That’s due to the diffuser and catchlight pop outs that are stored at the top of the speed light head, so adjust your cut accordingly.

My way still works, but there’s a gap created at the back of the pot where the speedlight enters the pot, which makes it tilt a little and not shoot straight into the beauty dish.

Inside my beauty dish, without DVD mirror cover. The gutter would do better if it was facing out of the pot, like the other photo.

One of the other issues I ran into was the glue. I first used a hot glue gun and that simply didn’t work well binding two plastics together.

Then I used super glue which did well binding plastic to plastic, but it is incredibly runny and some how got all over the place inside the DVD case which made the transparent DVD cover look cloudy on the sides where it ran over.

Also, on the DVD cover, I cut the center portion of it out so I could get a flush surface to put the mirror on. Similar to most of the project, cutting plastic was a nightmare. The case cracked in many places (hence the glue mentioned above) from the cutting. That’s also the reason I decided to paint over the front part of the dvd outer case, to cover up how hideous it looked.

Center of dvd cover cut out so creates flush surface

The other problem I ran into was the paint. It peeled which could have been because I had it drying outside in colder temperatures. I think if I was to sand down the plastic pot before I painted that may have helped the paint adhering to the surface.

In conclusion, buy the one off amazon. You save hours of your time, not driving to home depot, not getting frustrated by wasting a Sunday afternoon cutting yourself while you attempt to make precise cuts into stubborn plastic on a project that may or may not turn out at all, and you won’t have a piece of photography gear that stinks like spray paint.

With that said, it is nice to have a beauty dish. Even with the flaws in mine, it creates some fantastic light.

portrait with beauty dish

first attempt at using my beauty dish (self-portrait)

In all her glory, here she is. You can see the light isn't coming out completely balanced because the speedlight gets tilted slighty because the gutter piece was doomed form the beginning as mentioned above.

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