Lastolite’s HiLite Background; Versatility In A “Giant Light Box”
Let's clear one thing up right away. The Lastolite HiLite background,
distributed by Bogen Imaging, is easily the most versatile lighting accessory
of recent years, and possibly of all time. No matter if you are a studio or
location photographer, commercial, portrait, wedding, or fashion/beauty photographer,
film or digital, you will find an infinite number of ways to use HiLites in
The current "hot" look in portrait photography features the subject cleanly lit against a white background. This is a contemporary take on the high-key portrait, updated with a harder main light, unusual camera or subject angle, and more casual posing, all borrowed from the latest fashion photography trends. The Lastolite HiLite background not only makes this easy to do, but allows you to do it in the smallest of studio and location space.
The difficulty of photographing a subject against a white background is the
need to light the background separately from the subject. The background has
to be bright enough to make it white, but not so bright as to create flare and
lower the contrast of the image. With seamless paper, this generally involves
setting up in a large enough space that the background can be lit separately
from the subject, with the subject posed closer to the camera than the background
lights. These background lights are positioned behind baffles that prevent spill
on the subject and into the lens.
The HiLite background eliminates the need for this lighting setup entirely. Available in two sizes, 5x7 ft and 6x7 ft, the HiLite allows you to create a giant light box behind the subject and illuminate it with a single flash head to achieve the same lighting effect. No more space is needed for the high-key background than the thickness of the HiLite itself, about 18". The HiLite is freestanding and very stable, but also includes ties that allow you to rig it to the crossbar between light stands to raise it off the floor. It is possible to position subjects within 2 ft or less of the HiLite and still achieve shadowless lighting.
The HiLite Test
I tested the 6x7-foot unit. It arrived folded flat into a 3-foot circular carrying bag. Yes, the HiLite is collapsible, like many Lastolite backgrounds, so you can easily transport it. Setup is nearly instantaneous, and can be disastrous unless carried out in a clear area. Once the unfolding process starts, the HiLite vigorously expands to full-size very quickly. Make sure there are no people or breakable objects in the way!