The Power of V-Flats for Negative Fill

When you work on building a lighting setup for a portrait, you likely think about it from the perspective of adding different lights and modifiers. But as important as adding light is, knowing where and how to take it away is just as crucial to shaping your subject. This great video will show you how to use v-flats to create negative fill and improve the look of your portraits.

Coming to you from Lindsay Adler Photography, this excellent video will show you how v-flats can be used to create negative fill in photos. V-flats are very useful for a variety of reasons, as they can be used to kick back light like a reflector, absorb it, flag lights, or even function as a backdrop. In the case of subtracting light, you use the black side, which absorbs light and helps to create shadows. These shadows can do more than add a bit of drama or a stylistic touch to your images; they can accentuate your subject by creating higher contrast or by helping to define their features, like their jawline. They are particularly great because they are much cheaper than adding more lights, they're less work to set up, and using them to shape light in camera can save you time and effort in post. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Adler. 

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8 Comments

Michael Lightspeed's picture

Not trying to pick anything apart and I honestly just want to know for myself but why not just use grids on the modifiers? In terms of ease-of-use and set up it seems that grids would require the least amount of effort and greatly reduce the light spill. I am a novice so I am truly curious.

Jared Wolfe's picture

Grid's will not do the same thing. They will add contrast and reduce spill but also reduce light coverage on your subject since get you faster fall off from center to edges of light. Starting with a well covered full body shot adding a grid now instead of full body shot their legs and feet are black waist and chest are under exposed but upper torso and head well exposed. So what do you do? Back the light up more to get more coverage but now are back to square one with too much spill and a harder light. So with the v-flat you can have big soft light and then just control the spill and contrast with the v-flat placement.

Doesn't mean it has to be some 200 dollar v-flat world v-flat. I use coroplast sheets from home depot - 20 dollars each. Get a coroplast cutter and some paint and you have two v-flats well under $100. Even better if you use use two sheets glued together and its still just under 100 for a set. V-flast were by far the best addition to my studio ever. Even better than going from speedlights to strobes.

Michael Lightspeed's picture

I seriously appreciate this explanation, thank you.

Yin Ze's picture

what was the name of the v-flat brand again?

Rhonald Rose's picture

Thanks, that was a good explanation.

Gregg Shipman's picture

I never used them until I had a chance to sit in on a shoot with another commercial headshot guy, and immediately saw the difference. Even in my studio which has quite a bit of space (but has white walls), I was getting a lot more unintentional fill than I realized. Game changer on headshots and studio portraits.

Andrew Pollock's picture

Made v-flats for less than $100 using this product on Amazon - double sided foam board with matte black and matte white sides. Buy two rolls of matte gaffer tape, if you don't already have them, and you can make two, four board v-flats and have two panels left over for handheld work. Easy-peasy...

https://www.amazon.com/Union-Premium-Foam-Board-10-Pack/dp/B085MXNTFK/re...

Jan Steinman's picture

Ditto on using flat black foam core! It has so many other uses in the studio, and is dirt cheap.

Foam core is fairly stiff, and doesn't require a lot of support, but for smaller subjects, you can go even cheaper with flat black tag board, although it won't self-support for much more than a couple feet.

I made a "bed of nails" support for my foam core. Just drive some finishing nails in a line through a small board, then stick those nails into the foam core. Oui la! You can easily stand up a 30"x40" sheet with this simple trick.

Or hinge two pieces with some gaffer's tape on the back to make the classic "V" shape.