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Backdrops for Photoshoots

Studio Backdrop: Black V-Flats

Photography is the beauty of life captured.

-Tara Chisholm
Andrea photographed with natural light surrounded by black V-Flats.

Besides apple boxes, V-Flats are the hardest working equipment in my studio. The V-Flats are made from two 4′ x 8′ polystyrene boards that are taped together in a V shape with gaffer tape. A V-Flat is white on one side and black on the reverse side. The white side is used to bounce light. The black side absorbs light, which is also referred to as negative fill.

In addition to adding or subtracting light, V-Flats also make terrific backdrops. A set of V-Flats has a permanent home as a backdrop in a corner of the studio. Then there are three more V-Flat sets and two individual boards that are moved around the studio, as needed, to either control light, or act as backdrops.

My preference is a backdrop that is 10′ x 15′ or even 20′ long so I can spend less time in Photoshop. There are so many better ways to spend my time than expanding backdrops and removing taped seams in photo editing software. Additionally, if I’m shooting a full length portrait with a V-Flat, I need to add a floor to the set. Usually I’ll lay down a strip of 4′ x 10′ black fabric over the wood floor to make the set look like a seamless backdrop when it is not.

Transporting 4’x8′ polystyrene boards requires a truck. The sign company provided two pieces of cardboard to protect the polystyrene in transit. We also used the cardboard to help protect our floors while gluing and taping the boards together. Two people can easily put the boards together but three people make it a party.

All this fuss created my desire to own a much larger, darker, textured, so long it sweeps the floor, hand painted canvas. In July, while sheltering indoors from Covid-19, I painted what I coined the Old Masters Brown backdrop. While I was at it, I painted twelve more backdrops too. Once I started it was difficult to stop. Now I primarily use the brown backdrop and reserve the use of the V-Flats when photographing wall poses in the corner of my studio.

With so many backdrop options to choose from in the studio, V-Flats will remain in the mix. Both white and black V-Flats look great as backdrops, especially when photographing in the corner. Here’s some examples:

A dramatic low key lighting portrait of Malcolm.
High school senior portrait session with Trinity to document an important milestone in her life.
Savannah receiving the all-star treatment between photographs.
Triptych of Claudia of her channeling Old Hollywood glamour.
A dramatic fine art nude maternity portrait of Amber.
This beautiful family portrait of Claudia and her family earned a Bronze award from The Portrait Masters.
For family sessions, like this one with Dawn and her daughters, everyone is photographed individually and together.
High school senior Trinity had her sister join her in a couple of sets during her photoshoot.
Three quarter portraits can easily be cropped into headshots adding to the versatility of an image.
An engaging personal branding-style image for Beth Keil.
Ursula photographed in the studio’s corner.

I’ve been forty years discovering that the queen of all colors is black.

-Pierre-August Renoir, French Impressionist Painter, 1841-1919

Link to the studio’s portfolio.

Link to the studio’s Free Magazine and Style Guide.

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