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V-FLAT & ONE LIGHT SETUP: Biggest Mistake New Photographers Make

4/13/2022 ISO 1200 Magazine 0 Comments

In this new episode, Nathan Nelson is going to delve into the use of a single light to achieve an awesome black and white portrait, looking for that kind of lighting that wraps the model's face.

Check 'em out now for this portrait that is positioning of the key light is super important. It's essentially driving everything. And the way that the light is positioned is not from the front, but more, a little bit from behind.


He has actually got the light position a little bit behind the model so that it's wrapping around and creating a lot of that shape, that shadow that texture, that detail that interest. So if we move around to the back here, you can see that she's not actually positioned right in the middle of the modifier. 

The model is actually positioned to the back of the modifier (octabox). So if she's standing here, the back of his modifier is about right here and the rest of the modifier is out front. And that light is wrapping around the model. 

It's that feathering effect that Nathan uses in pretty much all of his portrait work. It's just a really nice transition from the lights to the shadows. And it just allows the light to travel across in a very flattering, very soft, pretty interesting way.


Now, when it comes to the fill light, where you position that V-flat matters a lot when it comes to the final outcome of the image. 

The further that you place that V flat away, the darker the shadows are going to become (left image). So this is an image where the V flat is roughly three feet away from the model. And as you can see, it's a little bit darker. If we bring that V flat about a foot away from the model (right image), you can see it brings in a lot more of that shadow detail without losing that initial shaping from our main light. So again, it follows down into a personal preference. 

If you want the image to be a little bit darker, a little bit more dramatic, move that V flat away.

 If, on the other hand,  you want it to be a little bit softer, a little bit more subtle, bring it in closer. 


A lot of new photographers who are a little bit more unfamiliar with using reflectors or V-Flat, they have a tendency to just slap that right down beside their subject, and just kind of hope that it fills in the light where it's supposed to, but that's not really the way that it works. 

The problem is, if we put that reflector directly behind our subject, the light can't travel through your subject to get to the reflector to come back. So you're essentially cutting off a lot of that light. 

Now, in some instances that might work well for you, but typically when Nathan is using V flats, he likes the light to be within eyesight of the reflector so that the reflector can catch that light and bring it back in on a more kind of soft, natural way. 


Remember that you can leave your comments on Nathan's original video, who will be happy to answer your questions.

You may also like: " Portraits | Get a Soft Light Using a 12 by 12 Scrim "


About Nathan Elson:

I'm a commercial photographer based out of Calgary, AB. My YouTube channel will be a place for my behind the scenes, Q&A, and whatever else happens to make it into video form that seems like people might be interested in viewing. Let's Get Connected: | LIGHTROOM & CAPTURE ONE PRESET PACKS:

Text and images via Nathan Elson´s video