How To: DIY eBay Beauty Dish Speedlight Mount

As noted last week, the 16" eBay beauty dish kit I got has seen much more time on a speedlight than on a big flash. It is small, and thus ideally suited to lighting from in close -- especially when using the included grid spots.

Today, how to securely connect it (or any thing else with a speedring mount) to a speedlight.

This DIY speedlight bracket will send you to the hardware store for some very common items. But at ~$9, it is a great mount -- rock solid and very versatile. If you have a speedring-equipped softbox (i.e., any of the current Paul Buff models) you'll be able to use this mount, too.

Important note: A speedlight in a softbox of any kind is going to be suited for low light levels -- indoors, twilight, etc. It will not be able to compete with sunlight, so probably best not to go there.

First-off, you'll need some aluminum bar. I got mine at Home Depot for ~$5. This is the expensive part. One 36" bar should do you fine.

If you have a vise, you will not even need to cut it in half with a hacksaw. But otherwise, cut it in half and bend it as shown. You'll need two pieces, of sufficient length to place your domed flash head just inside the beauty dish or soft box.

These do not need to be an exact length. In fact, if they are a tad different from each other this is a good thing, as one will rest upon the other in the final mount.

But do measure and drill holes for the bolts that protrude from your speedring assembly. I found that my dish and my soft box had different bolt offsets. So I ended up drilling a second set of holes in the ends of the bracket. This was far better than bending it to fit.

Also, you'll need to drill a hole to receive the extra stud that comes with just about any umbrella swivel you buy. (If you do not have one, you have to improvise with a large bolt.)

Also, use the female-threaded stud with a decent-length 1/4 x 20 bolt. It will be much stronger than the male version, which has a exposed thread short enough to strip with any pressure after you account for the thickness of the aluminum bar.

Here's how it goes together. I also used a couple of ball bungees to stabilize the flash in the center, but this is not really necessary.

My SB-800 can mount with a standard cold shoe to a 1/4" x 20 eye bolt with a couple of washers and a wing nut. But you might need to mount your flash in a different place due to some having an offset between the head the the mount when in full bounce position as shown. A LumoPro LP160, for instance, would need to be mounted about an inch away from the intersection to line up right.

Also, use a dome on your flash. You'll need that to get the spread for the dish or box. It will cost you some light, which is kinda what I was talking about above with respect to using it in full sun.

Even if your flash does not line up in the center, you'll want to drill it for the eye bolt anyway. Result: Add a carabiner as shown, and you can hang it from (decent) fishing line, or any crossbar in a suspended ceiling. This has turned out to be a very sweet setup for me on a couple occasions already.

Again, to mount the DIY bracket on a soft box or anything else that has a different 4-bolt spacing, drill a second set of properly spaced mounting holes. If you have to bend it to fit, the angle will change and you will use up all of your protruding bolt room for the thumb screws.

This mount is cheap, can collapse for travel, and is absolutely rock solid. Anyone with a drill and a vise (or set of vise grips) should be able to make it in 15-20 mins.

What you'll need:

(1) 36" 3/4" Aluminum bar
(1) 1/4" x 20 bolt (for stud)
(1) 2", 1/4" x 20 eye bolt
(1) 1/4" x 20 wing nut
(4) 1/4" washers


Carabiner, for hanging
Ball bungees, for added flash stability


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Blogger Goes.2.Eleven said...


I'd like to share my DIY speedlight beauty dish solution with you as well - although I'm lucky enough to have access to a machine shop. ;)

April 07, 2011 12:11 AM  
Blogger Mitchell said...

Interesting hack - I think the challenge I'm going to have is making sure there's enough room to fit a "Poverty Wizard" (ebay trigger) on the flash as well.

I'm also a little concerned about the strain that may put on the trigger weight wise - I suppose it depends on how the flash head rests on the opening of the dish.

Now quickly! To the man-cave!

April 07, 2011 3:22 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Nice, thanks. But to help bend the aluminum you use a vise, a vice is something that gives another type of pleasure.


April 07, 2011 4:12 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


Indeed. Fixed. (Thanks!)

April 07, 2011 4:51 AM  
Blogger bycostello said...

Interesting fix... need to build similar for my softboxes as brackets that are supplied don't figure for TT5s being attached...

April 07, 2011 4:56 AM  
Blogger walter said...

Dave, thanks for the DIY. Your advice is appreciated: the link you provide for the 16" dish on eBay also gives a Nikon flash kit option. If I'm playing mostly with Nikon flashes, would this option be better for me?

April 07, 2011 6:59 AM  
Blogger Jon said...

Very elegant mod David. I'm looking forward to seeing your results with it. Have you got a storage/carrying solution for it yet?

April 07, 2011 7:06 AM  
Blogger Rum Doodle said...

The same company also sells the kit with a Speedlight mount that is similar to the strobe mounts sold with softboxes by Cowboy Studios. Both are Chinese companies selling out of Texas.

I've found these Speedlight mounts are adjustable and so work with any type of off-camera flash, and overall work quite well.

April 07, 2011 9:44 AM  
Blogger Ranger 9 said...

Let's face it, this is terribly wrong, but if your equipment looks too home-made, you lose credibility with some narrow-minded clients/customers/models.

So while you're at Home Depot, pick up a can of satin-black spray paint... covers up minor acts of mis-craftsmanship and adds a veneer of "professionalism" to almost any DIY metalwork.

April 07, 2011 10:13 AM  
Blogger fishtoprecords said...

Nice hack. One thing I don't follow: you say that "If you have a vise, you will not even need to cut it in half with a hacksaw." What are you trying to say here?

Seems to me that you have to cut the aluminum bar in half. Seems to me that anyone with a vise will also have a hacksaw, and that is the standard way to get a nice clean and straight cut. Put bar in vise, cut across with hacksaw.

April 07, 2011 12:14 PM  
Blogger Trevor said...

Thanks for the post David, I had been looking at some 22" BDs on ebay that come with a grid, sock & bracket as well, good to know the 16" is working for you.

Also glad you are still on the lookout for Speedlight gear/mods, us little guys cant always afford profotos, or the mods that go along with them ;-)

April 07, 2011 12:27 PM  
Blogger Thom Gourley said...

Very cool, David! I've been wanting an affordable dish and this may be just the thing!

April 07, 2011 1:13 PM  
Blogger Gary L. Friedman said...

Or you could just buy an inexpensive beauty dish which was designed to mount onto a speedlight to begin with.


April 07, 2011 1:13 PM  
Blogger Thom Gourley said...

This is great, David! I've been wanting an affordable dish and this may be the one for me!


April 07, 2011 1:14 PM  
Blogger As Seen by Janine said...

Cool as heck! Have I mentioned sure would love to see a "how to" for mounting the Chinese Lantern to a speedlight! Janine

April 07, 2011 2:28 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

David - This seems like a great solution to the lattern idea you and I were talking about at the Flash Bus Tour yesterday. Those interiors are going to look fantastic! Thanks again!

April 07, 2011 4:23 PM  
Blogger David and Ari said...

I know you're a fan of the ball-bungee, but I've been using black zip-ties for the same purpose - they're not reuseable, but are easy to come by, rock solid, and look a bit more elegant than the red ball bungee:)

Sweet hack!

April 07, 2011 4:34 PM  
Blogger Edge Photography said...

Nice DIY section which is rare in today's world.
Also many thanks for Tuesday. Don't tell Joe, but I find I can take your approach to manual lighting and get faster results than with TTL's infinite variables at any particular moment.
TTL is great for one or two lights, but beyond that I much prefer manual nail to down and built the next layer of lights.

April 07, 2011 5:43 PM  
Blogger Jack McGinnis said...

David caught you at the Flash Bus Tour yesterday in Philadelphia. You a great teacher and I enjoyed your show. Thanks for you do for us.

April 07, 2011 10:35 PM  
Blogger Chad G said...

I love the diy, partly because my arse can't afford a real beauty dish. I made this ( over the weekend.

See you in Indy next week.

April 07, 2011 11:20 PM  
Blogger glenn kaupert said...

similarly done with an 11" Speedo reflector - mount the reflector to the swivel, not to the speedlight.

April 08, 2011 9:24 AM  
Blogger T Garrett said...

With the Aluminum, make sure to not bend it back and forth, or it will break. I'm not talking 90° bend to opposite 90° bend, but slight bends and minor adjustments. Overtime, with too much bending, it'll breatk. Use steel if you want to avoid this. Aluminum doesn't hold up well to cyclic fatigue. (Sorry, if that's too engineering-y, the mechanical engineer in me gets loose sometimes.)

April 08, 2011 3:16 PM  
Blogger Bill Gekas said...

Great post! I'm using a 14" dish with my speedlights at the moment but will now consider a bigger dish. Thanks for sharing.

April 09, 2011 12:09 PM  
Blogger MasterOfGoingFaster said...

You'll also get a better job if you bend the aluminum on the surface of a cylinder, like a piece of water pipe. This will give you a nice large radius bend. The aluminum will be under a lot less stress, and look better to book. If you look close, you can already see the stress fractures in David's on the outside of the bend. A fence post will do in a pinch.

April 09, 2011 2:12 PM  
OpenID said...

Not sure why anybody would want to do this hack when one could just as well buy "Beauty Dish 41cm & Grid for Nikon Speedlight Flash" or "Beauty Dish 41cm & Grid for Canon Speedlite Flash" from the same seller on the auction site that DH mentioned in the original post. Maybe if one wants to use it with strobe and flash (at different times)?

I posted on my blog my mini-review of the FB seminar I attended in San Francisco.

April 09, 2011 2:54 PM  
Blogger jeremy blaine said...

I was wondering if you modified the back of the dish to accommodate the head of you speedlight, I mean change the opening size to prevent "backwash"?

April 09, 2011 11:30 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

What are the lengths of the sections of bent aluminum? I assume each of the two starts as 18 inches(36inch bar cut in half). The feet"(that bolt onto the beauty dish)look about 1.5 inches each? The "uprights" about 5.5 inches each, and the "crossbar" about 4 inches ?
Since this was originally posted a few years ago, is there anything in the design you'd change in hindsight?

April 27, 2014 9:57 PM  

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