Friday, 3 August 2012


These photographic dishes are the most basic and most used items among light modifiers, also known as pans or bowls (due to their shape) they are simple metal dishes, but the point is the angle of the dish is that of a parabola. These parabolic dishes are mounted directly to the strobes and a number of modifiers are then attached to the dish to further modify the light. Parabolic s, especially wide-angle ones, are often used to focus light into an umbrella, as well as to shoot into flats or scrims. The farther the light is placed from the reflector/scrim, the softer the resulting light will be.

Standard Reflector Dish for Studio Strobes
Standard Reflector Dish for Studio Strobes

Parabolic dishes create hard light that is bright in the centre but loses intensity toward the edges. Adjusting the light position so as to use the softer edge (feathering the light) helps create a more gentle effect when using these light sources. Parabolic s was the weapon of choice in Hollywood Photography during the early stages as it helped to create the light intensity demanded by the slow films.

Standard Reflector
Standard Reflector

Parabolic dishes come with different inside surface finishes, some have smooth or pebbled inside surfaces, while others have a brushed silver surface or a faceted texture in them. Faceted reflectors are more efficient, reflecting more of the light more evenly than the non faceted ones.

Among the various attachments that are designed to be used with the parabolic dishes are
  1. Barn doors - which control the spread of light and also enables you to modify its shape.
  2. Snoots - snoots fits on to the dish to create a non focusable spotlight.
  3. Grid spots – forces light to travel in a straight line.

Other than the basic parabolic dish which usually comes in sizes of 6 to 8 inches in diameter, some manufacturers have a dish that's much larger; about 18 inches in diameter.

Parabolic Reflector Used in Photography
Parabolic Reflector Used in Photography

 It is called an Opalite, and it is designed to throw either direct or diffused light by covering the tube with an ingenious metal cone that forces all the light to the sides. This dish, while being more broad a source than the basic reflector, still produces light with a great deal of snap. Grid spot sets are available for most of these dishes.

In the next article we will discuss about Light Modifiers - Snoot

Related Reading

  1. Collapsible Reflectors for Photography - Which Color Reflector to Use
  2. Circular Reflector
  3. Umbrella
  4. Softbox
  5. Light Stands