An inexpensive alternative to reflectors & backgrounds
I wanted to share a few different types of v-flats & give you some ideas for making your own. I paid about $100 for a reflector/ diffuser/ negative fill kit, which folds up nicely for travel & storage, & I do use it occasionally, but it is only about 4 feet across when open & I have to either have an assistant hold it or set up a stand that holds it. V-flats can be made to be quite large & will stand on their own. And frankly, they are just better at reflecting light in my opinion.
Getting your hands on some v-flats is not easy or cheap. They are difficult to find if you don’t live in a major city like New York or Los Angeles & can be pretty expensive to buy online. Additionally, the shipping is expensive.
Making your own v-flats is an inexpensive alternative & is a pretty quick & easy project.
I made my first v-flat with 2 pieces of polystyrene foam insulation boards from Lowe’s. They are 4 feet wide (8 feet wide if fully open), 8 feet tall & 2 inches thick. So when put together, it is quite sturdy. Each piece is about $20. I peeled the coating off of each side & painted one side of each on with black chalkboard paint. These stand well on their own. I have seen some photos & videos where people create sends for a single board & even put them on wheels with locks so they can be used as a make shift wall for posing.
The next set I made, I used the same poly boards from Lowe’s, but in a thinner size-about a half inch. The intention was to have them be portable so I cut a few inches off the long side & about 1.5 feet off the short side so they would fit in my van easier. I painted this one grey-green on one side & green-gold on the other. This one is not as sturdy, but it stands fine on its own & it makes a nice background & is very portable.
The next v-flat I made is my favorite. I got foam board/ foam core from Blick Art Supply in Tampa. Each board is about half an inch thick, 4 feet wide & 8 feet tall & very sturdy. These sheets run about $35-45 each. So 2 sheets of white & 2 sheets of black set me back around $165. I did ask for a discount because some edges & corners were slightly damaged. I think they gave me 10%. You don’t ask, you don’t receive, right? Still cheaper than purchasing a v-flat online & having it shipped. Although, transporting these myself was a bit of a trick. I have a mini-van & had to fold down all the 2nd & 3rd row seats & take the head rests off the back of the front row seats. (I don’t recommend doing this!) So, got those home, put them side by side, ran black gaff tape down the long edge of the black ones & white gaff tape down the long edge of the white ones. Quick & easy.
I keep getting requests to do corporate headshots on location & V-flats are so essential to me, but I don’t want to transport my big v-flats. So my next set was meant to be portable. I bought 4 sheets of black ($8.99 each) & 4 sheets of white ($5.99 each) foam board at Hobby Lobby that measure about 32 inches by 40 inches. They were also 40% off. I gaff taped all 4 pieces together & they make approximately 3 x 6 foot panels folded. Then I can fold again for storage & transport. The tricky part with these is getting them to fold down flat but yet still be sturdy enough to stand on their own. Mine are not folding down completely flat, but it’s enough to get them out of the way & fit in my van easily. I might cut them apart & see if I can get them taped in a way that will fold flatter & yet still stand up on their own when open. I will post an update if I get this accomplished.
So in summary, v-flats are one of photographers’ most useful tools, and while they are difficult to source, you can make your own very easily with products that are inexpensive & easy to find locally.
There are some great how to videos on YouTube for making various kinds. Post your questions in the comments & any suggestions you might have regarding v-flats. Check out my video for a little more detail & please subscribe!