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Lastolite HiLite

The Lastolite HiLite is usually used as a background, but can be used as a giant soft box. Used side on it can produce the light very much like that coming from a large window. It does not have any light source of its own but is lit by lights shone in from the sides, in most cases flash units.

The unit is constructed of two large, nearly square spring hoops, the front one containing an opaque diffuser panel and the rear one a reflective surface inside and black back. The two hoops are joined all round by material that has  a zip in, each of the four sides and two hoops held apart by spring in spacers. The whole thing goes up and folds down, to go in a bag a third of the size of the background, in a couple of minutes. The bag is not heavy and can be easily taken anywhere. When together it stands up either on the long or high format. There are four sizes available.

The main HiLite is well made and works well. It comes in the following sizes:-

Metric Size Imperial Size
1.4m x 1m (no train available for this size) 4'6" x 3'6"
1.5m x 2.15m 5' x 7'
1.8m x 2.15m 6' x 7'
2.5m x 2.15m 8' x 7'


Although designed to be lit to produce a bright white background, it can be used
without lighting as in the two photos above

Optional extras are:-

  • A  'wipe clean' vinyl train as an extension that can be stood on, made of thick vinyl and which Velcro's to the base. As this is not back lit it appears a different colour and the join shows, joining it with the Velcro is its weakness. It comes rolled up in a large tube, so would be difficult for most people to take anywhere.
  • Bottle-tops, these stretch fit over the HiLite, allowing it to support another background material. In doing this it ceases to be a light item. There is a black background that would compliment the HiLite white and a chromakey that allows, with software available elsewhere, for the background to be replaced, as in the weather presentations and action movies. See Chromakey and Lumakey, for photographers, TV and film.

In Use

I find it best to illuminate it with two, rather than one light, to get a more even lighting, and usually use two Nikon SB200 flashes, most think of these as macro flashes but they are more than powerful enough for this task. Usually I control these from the commander either on a camera or one in a SB800 or SU800, and have the SB200 run via the commander in manual mode using about a quarter of their power.  See Nikon Creative Lighting.

You can use coloured filters/gels on the flash units, either with the lights inside or by projecting them onto the background from the front and using it as a reflector.

When using a HiLite background the objective is to get the background white but not to get a lot of light spill around and into the subject as this looks completely unnatural.

I have also used it successfully with the mains flash system but I don't have as much control over the power of the mains flash units, so balancing up the amount of light I get is more difficult.

In theory I should be able to use it with the cool-lites,  see Cool-Lites Explained, but I haven't tried, as these are large units and you need to get light spread as well ,it might be tricky and easier to just shine them onto the background and use it as a reflector.

Photos of it being put up - click on any image to see a larger version

<< In its bag


Out of its bag >>

<< allowed to spring out flat

Corner spacers added >>

<< Corner spacer


Velcro'd on train >>

<< stood up



with train fitted >>


<< Edge zip (on all 4 sides). This is where the lights shine through


Inside reflective surface on right, translucent on left, zip on other aide ahead >>


HiLite not lit,
lighting two Lastolite Ezybox

Same as left but HiLite now lit, eliminating shadows


The two images above of the same group of models, shows the difference between lighting on or not. As the models are near to the background, even using softboxes, we have shadows in the image without the HiLite being lit, while the lit image has no shadows.

These images were taken with 2 Nikon SB800's in Lastolite Ezybox (softboxes), the lighting of the HiLite was done with 2 Nikon SB200's running in manual mode with 1/8th of their power.

The HiLite can be used as a main light source, it could be used side on to appear to give the soft light from a window or higher power more like direct sunlight.

In the image on the right it is used as main light source behind the model, backlighting, with balanced fill from softboxes in front.

It is also useful if you want to remove the background as the white areas can be cropped away easily with software like Photoshop CS3/CS4 or Elements.

You will find the HiLite used as a background in many other articles on lighting as well as features on models etc.


Note:- The models used on this page are all Girlequins , not real people, but special life sized mannequins used for training photographers.

See Also:-

Introduction to Studio and Flash Lighting

Lastolite KickerLite

Mains Flash  

Nikon Creative Lighting  

There are many articles on flash, lighting and reflectors in the Lighting and Reflectors Section.

By: Keith Park Section: Lighting and Reflectors Key:
Page Ref: Lastolite_HiLite Topic: Flash, Studio and Reflectors Last Updated: 04/2014

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