Block, Reflect, Fill, and Fold

©Betsy Finn

If you’ve made your own V-flats—panels that stand in various degrees of a V angle—you’ll know how useful they can be in the studio. Whether you want to reflect or subtract light, block and flag light, create under-chin fill, or even have something to use as a background, V-flats fit the bill. But why review something that’s been a DIY staple for years? Because V-Flats made by V-Flat World are foldable, which increases their utility immensely compared to a DIY V-flat that doesn’t collapse for storage or transportation.

When my V-Flats arrived, I was a bit overwhelmed by their size. They fold down to 40x40x2 inches for storage and transportation and come with a black tote bag. When unfolded, each half of the foldable V-Flat stands 80 inches tall, giving you an 80x80-inch surface when they’re spread out flat. One side is white, the other black.

Folding the V-Flat is simple, much like packing up a game board into four squares. Three of the seams that piece the four squares together are permanently hinged with material that matches the color of each side of the board. The fourth seam has hook-and-loop fabric fastener tabs to secure the hinge when the V-Flat is unfolded.

©Betsy Finn
The V-Flats can be used on location, even in close quarters. The pullback shows my client’s living room. You can see the V-Flat at camera right, and the main light is high on the light stand just left of the subject.
©Betsy Finn
The strobe was bounced off the V-Flat so that the main light source is camera right, as seen in the final image, at right.

They are as durable as 0.5-inch foam board can be. With heavy use you’ll probably need to replace them from time to time or maybe just repaint them when they get too scuffed. Your experience of their durability will depend on whether you’re using them to manipulate light or as a background for photos. A scuffed white side works fine for reflecting light, but it might not be suitable as a background anymore.

One of the great benefits of the foldable V-Flats is that you can take them on location. I put two V-Flats in the back of my SUV and took them, along with my lights, across town to do a personal branding session (something that would have been impossible with an 80-inch non-folding V-flat). The session turned out well, and I loved using the V-Flat to bounce light for a soft, natural look. The space was a little small to use both V-Flats fully opened, but I did use the second one, collapsed, as a smaller fill.

©Betsy Finn
V-Flats allow for increased control of light whether it’s fill or spill. In the behind-the-scenes view, you can see how the client was seated between two V-Flats—one black, one white.
©Betsy Finn
A strobe with purple gel was placed behind one of the V-Flats to ensure no color reached the subject, as shown in the final image.

I also worked extensively with the V-Flats in my studio, enjoying the increased control of light that the black side afforded me in my camera room, which is painted white. It was great to have additional control over light spill when creating portraits. My favorite use was blocking the high-key background lights from affecting my subject. Of course, you can use V-Flats for many types of photography. I enjoyed photographing a caramel apple flanked on both sides by V-Flats. Overkill? Maybe. But fun nonetheless.

If you’re considering getting V-Flats, I recommend a set of two. Chances are good you’ll want to use both. During my testing I used the white side of a single V-Flat as a fill. But then I needed to keep the light from spilling onto my background, so out came the black side of the second V-Flat for that purpose.

The foldable V-Flats are simple and straightforward to use and give you greater control over light. They weigh just 7 pounds, which is easy enough to carry. My only criticism is the bag’s design doesn’t work for shorter people. With the straps over my shoulder, the V-Flat still rested on the ground. It was also awkward to lift the V-Flats into my car. It’s not a deal breaker, but I’ll need to add a small handle on the bottom of the bag to make lifting easier for my vertically challenged self. For someone taller, I’m sure the shoulder carry works just fine.

The foldable V-Flat with tote retails for $195.99. 

Betsy Finn is a portrait artist in Dexter, Michigan.