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Beauty and Portraits on a Budget

Image: White V-Flat as fill behind

White V-Flat as fill behind

If you have ever had any interest in beauty or portraiture, but found yourself frustrated not being able to afford expensive lighting, studio space and more – fear not! With a quick visit to a local signage or art supply store you can buy the right supplies to create some very simple and striking beauty images and portraits.

What’s a V-Flat?

What’s a V-Flat? In short – your ticket to cleaner beauty work on a budget. Also sometimes known as a book, it’s essentially two large pieces of mounting board taped together in the middle with gaffer’s tape (a commonly used studio tape). They’re white on one side, black on the other and fold together to create a “book.”

Many local art shops or signage stores carry a variety of materials you can use to make your V-Flats. Check around for mounting board, gatorfoam or foam core. You’ll want two 4ft x 8ft pieces to make one V-Flat – and try to get them around a half inch to inch thick. Anything thinner and you’ll chance them falling over on you all the time. They cost around $50-100 a piece and can be used in a variety of ways for beauty and portrait images.

Image: Model in V-Flat in studio

Model in V-Flat in studio

White, Black and Backlighting

So how do you use them for beauty work? One great way I’ve found is to fold them into a simple triangle – photo history buffs might know this technique as an Irving Penn triangle. Place your subject near the front and fold the triangle around them. From here find an open but shades light source – an open garage door, a bright sun room or even outside with your back to the sun. The great part is you don’t need an expensive space – just the ability to use an even natural light.

This two sided v-flat allows you to create three different looking beauty lights. When folded with the black side facing you, place your subject very near the front and make sure the triangle edges are right at each shoulder. This creates a strong front light with a sharp drop off in light that allows the subject to pop out from the background. This can work great for black and white portraits as well.

Image: Black V-Flat behind

Black V-Flat behind

Flip over to the white side behind your subject and you can create a lighter backdrop and clean background. This is great for fresher portraits and smiling faces. A third option is to backlight your subject and let the background blow out, sticking the flat open on the white side at your back. This reflects enough light back to add a nice fill, while still allowing the background to go.

You’ll find some examples of each shot in this post. Simple as that, you’re on your way to some catching and budget friendly beauty images.

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Matt Dutile
Matt Dutile

is a New York City based travel and lifestyle photographer. He recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to produce a book on Mongolian nomads. Check the page out to learn more. You can view his website or join in on his Facebook page as well.

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