V‑flat allows not only to expand the pos­si­bil­i­ties of work­ing with light, but also to achieve inter­est­ing com­po­si­tion­al solu­tions. Source: zen.yandex.ru, chan­nel: koldunov

If you’ve always won­dered why pho­tog­ra­phy back­drops and reflec­tors are flat, then in this arti­cle, you’ll learn that there are oth­er shapes as well. They give the pho­tog­ra­ph­er even more room to work with light, they become a tool that helps to get unusu­al results.

So, for exam­ple, cult fash­ion pho­tog­ra­ph­er Irwin Penn used a V‑shaped angle as a back­ground, and we will tell you what effect he want­ed to achieve with this in this arti­cle.

What is V flat?

These are two pieces of foam board (it’s just “flat”) glued togeth­er with a “book” or the let­ter V. This shape makes the V‑flat more sta­ble with­out spe­cial devices (legs, racks) than, for exam­ple, ordi­nary flags. You can also use it to cre­ate a back­ground with a dif­fer­ent angle and con­trol the light.

A typ­i­cal V‑flat is white on one side and black on the back. They are used to block or direct light. The white side reflects it, the black side cuts it off. The main thing is to ensure that both sides are mat­te and not glare. To do this, paint one of the sides of the white foam board with a spray can, or uphol­ster it with black vel­vet.

The main dis­ad­van­tage of V‑flat in size is that 2.5‑meter sheets of foam board require care­ful han­dling, and they can also be dif­fi­cult to trans­port. How­ev­er, if you try, you can find portable options or even fold­able V‑flats, and you can also take into account such dis­ad­van­tages if you make a V‑flat your­self.

How to make your own V‑flat?

As a mate­r­i­al you can use:

  • Sty­ro­foam. Of the plus­es — avail­abil­i­ty and cheap­ness, of the minus­es — your V‑flat will turn out to be very frag­ile.
  • PVC. Very strong and durable, this V‑flat will be heavy.
  • Foam­board. This is prob­a­bly the best option — strong enough to with­stand a lot of shoot­ing, light enough to com­fort­ably move around the stage.

For V‑flat foam board, two white sheets of 1.5x2.5 meters are enough. You can buy it in stores that spe­cial­ize in con­struc­tion prod­ucts or prod­ucts for design­ers or man­u­fac­tur­ers of signs and oth­er adver­tis­ing struc­tures.

When choos­ing foam board, so that you do not have to waste time on self-cus­tomiza­tion, you can imme­di­ate­ly take two-col­or sheets. True, they will cost a lit­tle more.

To make your own V‑flat, you will also need black and white mount­ing tape. First you will need to butt two sheets with the long side to each oth­er and glue the junc­tion.

  • Let’s say we start­ed from the black side, we glue it with black tape.
  • Then we turn the result­ing struc­ture inside out, we find our­selves on the white side. We put the sheets togeth­er like a sand­wich, a tuber­cle of adhe­sive tape forms at the fold, it needs to be flat­tened.
  • We stick a white adhe­sive tape on top of it (because the V‑flat is now turned to the white side). The result­ing struc­ture can be bent as you like.

Lighting schemes with V‑flat

V‑flat is a great way to explore how light affects an image. Below are some exam­ples of V‑flat light­ing schemes.

Group shot with V‑flat

Illus­tra­tion: Kon­stan­tin Demin, Photosklad.Expert

The mod­el should be placed close to the cam­era, and the V‑flat should be set so that it is lit from the side.

This scheme is more dra­mat­ic — such light­ing empha­sizes the con­tours of the mod­el’s face. To soft­en the shad­ows, you need to slight­ly move the mod­el away from the source and add a white reflec­tor (which can be anoth­er V‑flat) on the oth­er side.

Illus­tra­tion: Kon­stan­tin Demin, Photosklad.Expert

To remove a group of peo­ple, the scheme will have to be mod­i­fied.

You need to set up a V‑flat about 2 meters from the group. Then rotate it 90 degrees. Point the source at the cen­ter of the V‑flat, and turn that cen­ter towards the far­thest peo­ple in the group so that they receive more light than those clos­er to the V‑flat. Those who stand clos­er will pick up more light, so you need to dis­trib­ute it through­out the group so that every­one looks equal­ly bright.

Due to the fact that the V‑flat sur­face is large, the reflect­ed light will be very soft.

Lighting schemes with multiple V‑flats

Illus­tra­tion: Kon­stan­tin Demin, Photosklad.Expert

The back­ground is a white can­vas. Next, you need to place two V‑flats, rotat­ed at 90 degrees, on either side of the back­ground with the white side towards it. You need to leave a gap between the V‑flats so that the back­ground between them can be eas­i­ly seen from the cam­era posi­tion. Posi­tion the mod­el and cam­era in front of the V‑flat. This will avoid the back­ground light hit­ting the mod­el and expose them sep­a­rate­ly.

Impor­tant! To illu­mi­nate the mod­el, you need to use nat­ur­al light, or an addi­tion­al source.

The source must be unfold­ed into the fold of one of the V‑flats. Posi­tion the mod­el and cam­era in front of the V‑flat.

Illus­tra­tion: Kon­stan­tin Demin, Photosklad.Expert

This scheme has a vari­a­tion, which dif­fers in that the mod­el is not in front of the V‑flat, but between them. In addi­tion, the V‑flats them­selves can be opened to more than 90 degrees, allow­ing light to bounce more.

Illus­tra­tion: Kon­stan­tin Demin, Photosklad.Expert

Anoth­er vari­a­tion on this scheme is to flip one of the V‑flats to the black side. Now the light is not reflect­ed, but absorbed. This cre­ates a lot more con­trast on the mod­el, and the light­ing itself will look like “Rem­brandt light” (you can read more about this and oth­er schemes here).

Light schemes with black V‑flats

Illus­tra­tion: Kon­stan­tin Demin, Photosklad.Expert

In this scheme, we will use two V‑flats, deployed with the black side. You need to posi­tion the V‑flat so that the mod­el is between them and so that the back­ground can be seen. The source is in front of both V‑flats and can be placed any­where you want to light the object. The cam­era is right there.

Illus­tra­tion: Kon­stan­tin Demin, Photosklad.Expert

In this scheme, you need to put two V‑flats, deployed at 90º, with the black side inward. Next, you need to move the V‑flat to get a small black cab­i­net where to place the mod­el. The same can be done with the white side and get a soft, pleas­ant, non-con­trast light falling on the face of the mod­el.

Bright portrait with V‑flat

Illus­tra­tion: Kon­stan­tin Demin, Photosklad.Expert

V‑flat is placed behind the mod­el, almost close, with the white side to it, the source is direct­ed to its fold. In this way, bright light­ing is cre­at­ed, empha­siz­ing the line of the chin and cheek­bones of the mod­el.

If you want to make the image even lighter, you can add a reflec­tor (or anoth­er V‑flat turned white) under the mod­el’s chin — this is the con­fig­u­ra­tion used in the illus­tra­tion above.


Let’s sum­ma­rize the work with light with a few gen­er­al tips:

  • The clos­er the source is to the object, the soft­er it will be. In the case of V‑flat, if you want soft light­ing, place the white side of the V‑flat as close to the sub­ject as pos­si­ble.
  • Black absorbs. Use the black V‑flat side when you want to cre­ate con­trast. The clos­er the V‑flat is to the object, the dark­er the shad­ows will be. The fur­ther the V‑flat goes, the soft­er the shad­ows are because there is more room for the light to spread and reflect.

Feel free to exper­i­ment and have fun with your work!


От Yara

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