Ever since seeing how Mark Wallace used V-Flats in one of his videos (Making a Photobooth: Ep 117: Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace: Adorama Photography TV), I have wanted to make one. His were out of 4x8 foot (122x244 cm) foam core or similar material. A V-Flat is, basically, two such pieces of white material taped together to form a "V." This creates a perfect, large white surface off which to bounce flash, thus increasing the size of your light source and, in turn, softening the light that falls on your subject. Robert Harrington also gives this as one of his ways of using one light to get sixteen different looks, though he uses two large reflectors to create his V-Flat ( One Speedlight, Multiple Looks ). So, I began investigating purchasing two 4x8 foot sheets of foam core. Not so easy in a little city in Central Virginia! Local art store had nothing that size. Local sign shop didn't have anything either. FedEX Kinko store in a nearby town did have big sheets, but I was looking at something like $120 for each sheet! Whoa! I don't need these V-Flats that badly! Looking online to order, I found prices not much less. If I bought a pack of 12 sheets, it brought the price down, but then I needed to find others who wanted to make V-Flats. I couldn't. And then there was the shipping on a 12-pack of 4x8 foot foam core. Oh my! I gave up on the idea.
Then, a few months ago, Rod Deutschmann of In-Focus Learning San Diego (http://www.incameramagic.com/2014/11/simple-holiday-portraits-with-one-flash/) wrote a post in which he talked about taking two craft store, cardboard presentation boards and connecting them to create a reflective panel. Not quite a real "V-Flat," but close enough. And, such a setup appeared to serve the same purpose: a white surface that will reflect light directed at it back onto a subject. The link above is not what I originally saw, but it gives you the link to the Deutschmanns' web site (Rod and Robin) and their most recent article on using two presentation boards attached together to create a V-Flat like tool. Well, when I saw Rod's original post, I went right out to Michael's and purchased four cardboard presentation panels and even used my coupons to get a discount off the already great price of $4.99 each!
I applied my own approach to attaching the presentation boards, because I wanted them to be portable. I teach flash classes out of my home, so I wanted to be able to easily transport the panels to class. I figured that I could use paint stirrers as "spines" to hold one panel on top of the other. I created slots for the wooden paint stirrers (available at any paint store, Lowe's, or Home Depot) using gaffer's tape because it is sticky on one side and not on the other. You could use duct tape or any other durable tape. Where the "spine" slips in to hold the two pieces together, I faced the tape with a smaller piece of tape so the wood would slide easily into this tape "hinge" mount. I got it to work and then laid the boards aside, because I didn't need them right away. These panels then sat several months until tonight when i finished up one set to use in a flash class tomorrow morning. Granted, this solution results in only a 6' (1.8m) tall reflective surface, but the $10 price tag is pretty convincing.
One can use these panels in a variety of ways. However, the basic way to use one is simply to set it up opposite your subject and point a flash onto the panel This will flood your subject in light, much like bouncing a flash off of a white wall will do. This results in a larger light source, thus creating softer light on your subject. This is a very easy and inexpensive DIY project and the resulting two-board panel produces great light. Tomorrow in class, I will see just how great the light is!.
NOTE: (added 12/8/14) I discovered after posting this last night that I can get Polystyrene Foam Board Insulation sheets at our local Lowe's Home Improvement Store for US $14 per sheet. They have a printed side (that can be painted over) and a plain white side: http://www.lowes.com/pd_15358-46086-451156_0__?productId=3365576.
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