Neil van Niekerk and his Silver Birds

Written by Ron Egatz on . Posted in Editorial Photography

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NV2silverbirds Neil van Niekerk and his Silver Birds

©Neil van Niekerk

Photographer Neil van Niekerk regularly creates incredible portraits utilizing off-camera flash, and has written several books on lighting. He often pairs with Modern Gypsies, a Brooklyn, New York performance group, using them as subjects.

All photographers are eventually confronted with the following scenario. You’re shooting portraits outdoors and there’s not a cloud in the sky. The sun is direct and unforgiving. Shadows on faces are heavy, and with just one light source, you can either have your subjects wear sunglasses and face the sun, or you can have them with dark shadows on their faces.

One look at an outdoor shoot by Neil van Niekerk, and you know this photographer knows what he’s doing to avoid shadow problems in direct sun. A recent post on his blog examines how he dealt with the issues of a cloudless sky.


NV2side 600x450 Neil van Niekerk and his Silver Birds

©Neil van Niekerk

An initial setup which didn’t quite work because of the steep slant to this doorway’s roof. The photo breakdown in the post illuminates the huge difference additional lighting makes, in comparison to the ambient-light only shot.

Neil utilized a Profoto AcuteB2 AirS/R and a Profoto Softlight Reflector White to eliminate shadows and neutralize the sun.


NV2bts Neil van Niekerk and his Silver Birds

©Neil van Niekerk

Neil also employed the same gear on a photo shoot of Irene, the stilt-walking showgirl. Neil’s review of the Profoto BatPac can be found here. Definitely take a look at the original post for many before and after examples of how Neil overpowered the sun and had a very successful shoot.

You can see more of Neil’s work on his site and his wedding blog.


All images and quotes in this post are used with permission and ©Neil van Niekerk, all rights reserved; story is ©Profoto. Please respect and support photographers’ rights. Feel free to link to this blog post, but please do not replicate or repost elsewhere without written permission.

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Comments (2)

  • Lilia Ahner


    It’s wonderful to see Neil featured on the Profoto blog! Not only is Neil a great photographer, he’s a very patient and phenomenal teacher who shares his knowledge with other photographers. Back in 2009 I took one of his fantastic workshops and it was money well spent. Congrats to Neil on the feature!


  • Natalie Licini


    Awesome composition and lighting neil. I love following your work.


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