Diy V-flats for studio

Self Portrait 2021

Photographing in the studio is a great way to control light and one of the most usefull tools that is often overlooked are reflectors. Yes speed lights and studio strobes and modifiers are great to have but how do we control light spill?

In this educational tutorial I'm gonna share how I made my own V-flats in 2 days to use in the studio and why these are a great tool to have in our photographic arsenal and how I used them to make this self portrait using only one key light.

First let me just mention what are these V-flats and why they are usefull. V-flats are basically two foam boards that are heald in the middle and are able to fold either once or twice, with one side painted white and the other painted black. This set up can be used in a few different ways but for me the most importand one is to be able to block light reflecting or bouncing back on the subject. Very simmilar to a reflector but with the added ability to use negative reflection, i,e block the bounce of light.

I started by visiting my local Leroy Merlin in search for some large foam boards. I found these insulation panels that mesured 60cm by 250cm that apear to be sollidly made and wouldnt fray over time. I knew I didnt want them that tall and that I would cut the down to the desired size to fit my studio. I also got a 3L black mat paint, a 3L white paint and primer. I also picked up a white and a black gorilla tape to bind them together at the end. I started by trimming the edges of the boards as mine had a small lip on each side, I went with a three coat primer on both sides using a roller and a paint bruch, letting them dry in between coats.
It took almost all day to apply the primer and for it to dry so after the sun was gone I called it a day and continued the next day. After the three coats of white and three coats of black I was ready to bind them together using gorilla tape. Is very importand to get some strong tape and not cheap out on this part as this will determine the strainght of the joint. I used a couple of scrap wood and clamps to hold the together on their side so I can apply the tape, be carefull when you clamp them as you dont want to damage the foam boards.
So after a couple of days of work, my new V-flats were ready for testing. Being in lockdown and all I couldnt have anyone come to the studio so I set up my camera on a tripod to do some self portraits. Bellow you can see the differance to the images whith the white facing inwards and how it looks when the black is facing the subject.

Notice the differeance between the above two images? In the case of the white V-flats the light falls off the face giving a highlight rim around the chick bones or in the case of the black V-flats a dramatic shadow shapping the face.

I used only one key light that was bouncing of an umbrella above camera to give that shadow under the nose. I though this being a great oportunity to get some dramatic portraits of my self so I quicly set up a second light for the background. I've used a second speed light behind the V-flat fited with a Magbeam from Magmod and added one of the masks that come with the kit. This gave me a more interesting light patern on the backgroung that I feel compliments the portrait, bellow is a light diagram that I hope will illustrate this simple and effective set up that would otherwise need more than one light on the subject to achive this look.
Pro tip, if your boards have some dents in them you can use some polyfiller to fill them out at the end. If your interested in getting some ready made one check out these foldable ones by V-FLAT WORLD

I hope you found this usufull and if your thinking about makling your own drop me a line to let me know if you found this usufull.