A beauty dish is a photographic lighting device that uses a parabolic reflector to distribute light towards a focal point. The light created is between that of a direct flash and a softbox, giving the image a wrapped, contrasted look, which adds a more dramatic effect.
There are two main differences between a beauty dish and a normal reflector. First, beauty dishes are inevitably larger than normal reflectors. For example, in one equipment line, reflectors range from 7 to 16 inch diameter, while the beauty light is 22 inches in diameter. From another manufacturer, their normal reflectors range from 7 to 13 inch diameter, with an approximate 21 inch diameter beauty dish.
Second, virtually every beauty dish has an opaque cover directly over the front of the light source in the center of the beauty dish, preventing direct light from hitting the subject. Thus, all the light that emanates from the beauty dish has bounced off the interior wall of the beauty dish, resulting in softer light than obtainable from a standard reflector.