For the last couple of years I used a fabric background. I own it in white, gray and black. To get a well lite background you have to assemble it hours before the shooting to make sure it is free of any crinkles. And even then you have a hard time with it. In a small room it is basically unusable because of all the light which is reflected by the background. Actually in most of the time a main light is just not necessary. So I was in the market to get a replacement. Paper or vinyl roles are hard to handle and would not fit my needs. But then I stumbled upon the Lastolite HiLite. It looks like a giant soft box but is actually a background system. I got myself the 6'X7' version. It's size while packed is reasonable and it is easy to store. Once you need it you simple remove it from the bag and it unfolds automatically. You need to be careful to don't hurt yourself during this process ;-) Folding it together needs some training but don't need a second person to do it. Here is a video which helps you out in case you encounter any trouble.

Packed up Assembling Assembling Assembling

Once this is done you have to put four small beams into place to transform the structure from a plain rectangle into a cuboid. At this point you can decide if you want to use the HiLite in portrait or landscape format. Just insert your flash, close the zips on all four sides as much as possible and your ready to shoot. There is no need to use a stand or any other supporting unit. The HiLite simple stands by its own. That offers the benefit of placing it without any additional distance to the wall. There are no legs of light stands getting in your way. Great!

If you want shoot full length you can get an additional vinyl train. Just attach it to the HiLite and you're done. The train works both in portrait and landscape format.

Sometimes you may want to have a black or green background. This is not an issue with the HiLite. Lastolite offers some kind of fabric which you can slip over the HiLite and allows you to achieve a crinkle free background. Or you use the back of the box which is black. But I'm not sure how well this works regarding reflections since the box is made of a kind of vinyl which causes diffuse reflections. Did I mentioned that because of this material it's very easy to clean?

Light in the box Zips With vinyl train With vinyl train With vinyl train With vinyl train Resulting Images Resulting Images

I use the HiLite with speedlites. For the last shooting I simple placed two Canon 600EX-RT into the HiLite. That was enough power to allow shooting at ISO100 and F/8. With the fabric background I needed a lot more speedlites just to remove all the crinkles in the background.

Without the need of putting your background light to a stand you have to remember that you simply placed them at the bottom of the box. I already was about to change from portrait mode to landscape when I heard the two speedlites start sliding around.

Resulting Images Resulting Images Resulting Images Resulting Images


That toy is awesome. While it's not for shooting larger groups it is amazingly useful for that kind of shoots I bought it for. Together with the vinyl train you can set up your set extremely fast. It's quite expensive but according to their website the offer a lifetime rim guarantee and the overall quality is not bad either.

Here is the link to the manufacturer: Lastolite