August 6, 2012

high-key studio portraits (part 2) – with Ulorin Vex

Continuing the photo session with Ulorin Vex, doing high-key studio portraits in the studio, she changed into a different costume. I wanted a more interesting edge definition than just the light spilling back from the background, so I added two gridded softboxes to each side …

The grids on the softboxes help contain the light spill, instead of the light flooding everywhere.  The light from behind (via the two gridded softboxes), helped define the contours of the outfit.

I used the Profoto Air system to trigger the two Profoto D1 heads (one on the background, and one in the softbox). To trigger the Nikon Speedlights, I set them to SU4 mode, so that they would be optically triggered when the main lights go off.

Other photo sessions where I used the gridded soft-boxes:
– sequence: setting up the lighting at a photo shoot
– portrait session – Steinway pianist

With Ulorin Vex in this blue latex outfit, I started off with the beauty dish, as it was set up for the previous set. For some poses, the harder light from the beauty dish would give a shadow that is too distinct. (As can be seen in this photo.)

I either had to ask Ulorin Vex to restrict her movements (which would hamper the flow of the shoot), or I had to change to a larger, softer light source.  I settled on changing the beauty dish out for the Profoto RFi 3’x4′ softbox (vendor). Much softer light.

For more info on the processing:  Photoshop filters – retouching for portraits

camera settings for all images: 1/125 @ f/8 @ 100 ISO


other articles about this photo session


equipment (or equivalents) used during this photo session


help support this website

{ 12 comments. } Add a Comment

1 Sean August 6, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Hey Neil,

Beautiful work as always. Just on curiosity, what did you use to trigger all of the lights?

Thanks in advance!



2 Neil vN August 6, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Sean, I just realized I left out that detail in my original post, but have added it now:

I used the Profoto Air system to trigger the two Profoto D1 heads (one on the background, and one in the softbox). To trigger the Nikon Speedlights, I set them to SU4 mode, so that they would be optically triggered when the main lights go off.


3 Mike August 6, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Nice post Neil as always! Great Model! Lucky the Skater wasn’t around eh ;-)
Just through curiosity can the Canon 580ex mk2 speed lights be set in anyway so they fire as did the Nikons?


4 Carlos A August 6, 2012 at 6:29 pm


If I recall correctly some Nikon flashes have a built-in optical slave mode that allow for this type of optical trigger without the need of any additional equipment.

This functionality is not included even on the top-of-the line Canon flashes. For you to do this with Canon flashes, you need to add an external optical trigger.


5 Kevin D August 6, 2012 at 11:37 pm

Whoa! crispy clean images. And those shoes are killer I’d pay to she how she walks in them :)


6 Neil vN August 7, 2012 at 12:02 am

She’s surprisingly elegant in those shoes.

The shoes have a large enough front part that she could balance on those, as you can see in these photos. So she was quite able to move in them and walk in them. But yeah … unexpected from a first glance.


7 Neil vN August 7, 2012 at 12:05 am
8 Fred August 7, 2012 at 12:20 am


Another interesting post, Neil! :-)

I have been looking for strip lights for my speedlights, and the ones you have look very interesting. However, I notice in the two shots where they are shown that they are very bright in the middle and rather dark further out. I would have prefered a much more even spread of light. Do you have the dome diffusers on? Is there an internal baffle? What is the zoom setting?



9 Neil vN August 8, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Fred, don’t be guided by how the striplights’ output appears in those photos.

Also, I removed the outer baffle to give us a bit more power so that the speedlights had a chance against the higher-powered Profoto Units. So the way the light appears there looking at the striplights themselves, would be misleading.


10 Kevin Deibert August 10, 2012 at 10:48 am

I would love to know more about the “sharing studio space” agreement that you have. I really don’t have the room in my house and don’t have the client base to justify a studio. What kind of arrangements did you make with your partner? This sounds like another tangent….


11 Neil vN September 18, 2012 at 3:41 am

Kevin, the studio is owned by another photographer in the area who works as a commercial photographer. There is a small group of other photographers who have access to the studio for a monthly fee. Scheduling is via a shared calendar.


12 David Ewing May 24, 2015 at 11:30 pm

Good lighting examples of high key. A handy link to have onhand to send some students to see some clear examples.

Cheers David


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: