"Shooting with the model’s eyes closed is vital"

UV Portrait Shoot
Neon Dream. Make-up artist: Jane Charlotte Andrews, Model: Margarida DeOrus (Image credit: Marcus Morgan)

This captivating portrait was created with UV Strip lights and careful exposure setting consideration - as the task of balancing ambient light with UV light is not the easiest.

Titled Neon Dream, photographer Marcus Morgan created the image with a Sony A7R III and a Sony FE 50mm F1.2 GM lens (at 1/160sec, f/2, ISO800). 

1. Intensive colors

The UV shots captivate with the significant contrast between the dark background and prominent colors. “We minimized the number of colors in the image to keep it coherent, and not lose the face of the model,” Marcus says. 

To focus on the UV colors, technical requirements must be taken into account. “The challenge was to balance the ambient light with UV light so the ISO did not get too high and add noise. However, the UV still looks bright enough,” he explains. This creates a harmonious overall picture that does not distract the viewer with interference.

2. Optical illusion

“The blurred nails almost look like light sources at first glance,” Marcus says. This is the first impression, because the defocusing has turned the nails into blurred points of light, a sophisticated effect that has created an optical illusion. 

The viewer engages with the photograph and questions the technical procedures used. Marcus creates this feeling by cleverly staging the model’s hands so that they do not cover the face and are integrated at the edges of the image. In post-processing, he brought out the colours of the nails to emphasise contrast and heighten perception.

3. Contrasting textures 

The combination of out-of-focus and sharp picture elements draws the viewer’s attention to the central point of the photograph – the model’s face. This is extremely important when the image contains such strong contrasts. Essential elements are emphasised and complementary ones reduced, with the interaction creating a unique mood.

“I love having bokeh in my shots as I like the sense of depth and mystery that it adds to this shot,” says Marcus. To enhance this effect, Marcus boosted the shadows around the face area in post-processing so that it didn’t lose any detail.

4. Strong pose

A model’s pose can make or break the picture, so Marcus focused on clearly communicating his ideas to the model. He was aiming for a calm pose that didn’t appear forced, even though it has been staged. In this way, the pose enriches the image and underlines the atmosphere. 

UV light also has its own peculiarities that need to be considered to avoid spoiling the effect. “Shooting with the model’s eyes closed is vital, as UV light makes the whites of the eyes purple and the irises black. This would be distracting,” he explains. 

UV Portrait Shoot
Marcus Morgan

Portrait and fashion photographer Marcus Morgan is based around Bristol, UK. He initially started out concentrating on landscape and architectural photography before shifting his focus to portraiture six years ago.

“I like the variables that working with a model and a makeup artist bring to a shoot. Together, we can make adjustments that suit their personality better.”


This article originally appeared in Digital Photographer, a monthly magazine, and the kitbag essential for pros, enthusiasts, and amateurs alike!

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Kim Bunermann
Technique Editor

Kim is the Technique Editor of Digital Photographer Magazine. She specializes in architecture, still life and product photography and has a Master's degree in Photography and Media with a distinction from the FH Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences in Germany. While studying, Kim came to the UK for an exchange term at the London College of Communication. She settled in the UK and began her career path by joining Future. Kim focuses on tutorials and creative techniques, and particularly enjoys interviewing inspiring photographers who concentrate on a range of fascinating subjects including women in photography, the climate crisis; the planet, its precious creatures and the environment.