Steven Brokaw Photography

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V-Flat Light Box for High Key Lighting or Tunnel Effect

Basic v-flat & light setup.  My model stands inside the v-flats against the light.

Basic v-flat & light setup.  My model stands inside the v-flats against the light.

I use high-key lighting regularly for fashion / portfolio shoots, but wanted to try something a bit different.  One of the issues I have with high-key is that it’s difficult to have your model against the background which I someone want him / her to do on occasions to match the moodboard.  The reason for this is because to get the high-key effect you need to light the background and have the lights metered a stop or more higher than the key light.  This requires an additional light or two directly illuminating the background.  If your model is against the background then the light creating the high-key effect is also illuminating your model.  This will create shadows on or next to your model or difficulty getting the look you want.  At least this has been my experience.

Secondly, I wanted to try a high key effect where the light directly behind the model is high-key, but dark on both sides.  This was difficult simply using a white sweep or wall.

I thought, why not illuminate the background from behind.  Next bring in 2 v-flats (white on one side, black on the other side of each v-flat) and but the end of the v-flat against & touching the light.  I thought this would allow me to have the model stand in front of the light and then get white on both sides if the white side of the v-flat is facing the model.  Or, if the black side is facing the model, a tunnel type effect.

I decided to use a single light, an Elinchrom Style RX 1200 monolight mounted in a Rotalux 20x51” strip softbox.  This was mounted in a standard Manfrotto boom arm so I could have better control of the height and angle of the diffuser so it was square to my model.

Once set up, I started with the black side facing my model.  I simply put her against the light and tested the light to get a high key look and have the light bend around her.  It was a bit of trial & error to get the settings right. 

Model Kat Scott standing in the v-flat

Model Kat Scott standing in the v-flat

I found however that unless the model had her back against the v-flat or looking towards the light that her face would be in almost complete shadows.  To eliminate this, for the first shoot I brought a 3rd v-flat with the white side to my back (I was standing inside the v-flat to take the photos and use it as a bounce board.  This illuminated my model’s face.  The second time I tried this setup I used an LED light panel and set the light so I got the proper lighting on my model.

Added a small, but powerful LED light panel to illuminate my model's face

Added a small, but powerful LED light panel to illuminate my model's face

I really like the look I was able to get both with the white and black side.  The only problem was that any imperfection on the v-flat shows up dramatically.  My v-flats are made out of insulation board so they have lots of indents.  When not testing the look I’ll have to clone these out or get smoother v-flats.

Lots of things can be done with this setup, so I’m going to try it again!

Model Kat Scott standing in the v-flat light box with the 3rd v-flat to my back (white side facing Kat) to illuminate her face

Model Kat Scott standing in the v-flat light box with the 3rd v-flat to my back (white side facing Kat) to illuminate her face

Model Gracie Be standing in the v-flat light box with the white sides facing in.  For this shoot I illuminated her face with the LED light panel at my back mounted above me.

Model Gracie Be standing in the v-flat light box with the white sides facing in.  For this shoot I illuminated her face with the LED light panel at my back mounted above me.

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New Models Encounters a New Photographer

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