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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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!