Five Easy Ways to use V-Flats in the Studio

Five Easy Ways to use V-Flats in the Studio

V- Flats, screens, flags, boards, whatever you want to call them. They can be really inexpensive but have a huge value in portrait photography in the studio.


I bought these polystyrene sheets from a local DIY shop costing around £40 for the pair. I used shelving brackets on the base to help give some level of sturdiness and make sure they are free standing. Not the best solution for the base, but, in two years they’ve never fallen, never broken and have worked a treat.



The Window V


Shooting directly into window light can sometimes be a bit of a challenge for exposure, especially when you still want a good level of detail in the skin and not to just blow out the highlights massively.

One way I’ve found of utilising the window light as a backlight is to shoot with the window on the opposite side to the camera creating a backlit effect.


I positioned the V Flats to create a triangle with a space no more than the width of the lens at the shooting position. This bounces the light evenly back into the subject and creates a lovely soft light effect.

One thing to watch out for on this techniques is “cats eyes”. Because of the placement of the panels, it can sometimes give the effect of cats eyes which isn’t always the most flattering look.


With V Flats and Without V Flats


Slither of Light


I couldn’t come up with a better name while writing this blog, so feel free to call it whatever you like..

This is a technique I like to use when shooting set ups in the studio or teaching lighting workshops as it is a very simple way to create a dramatic effect without needing a lot of equipment. One light is enough for the light source, and you really don’t even need V Flats; you could use a doorway, curtains, furniture or a couple of big books!


Changing the position of the screens and the light can drastically change the look of this set up, creating harder and softer shadows.

This can also work really well on a smaller scale shooting head shots with the same sort of effect to create a very small slither of light on the face.


Single Window Bounce


This window space is one of my favourite places in my studio to shoot. In the afternoon I get a beautiful soft light coming through the window and I usually place my subject about 1ft back from the edge of the window, this means the light isn’t too harsh and falls off very subtly.


I shoot this one in a mix of ways, often I will shoot with the need for the V Flat which gives quite a lot of contrast to the skin with light coming from one direction in the window, and a tiny little bit of bounce coming back from the wall on the other side of the room. However, I will also use a V Flat to give a little variance and add more softness to the skin on the opposite side to the window.

Without V Flat —- With V Flat

I generally place the V Flat within 2ft of the subject and it essentially becomes a big soft box.


Adding Colour with Gels

This set up us a little more involved utilising three strobes in the studio (flashes could be used) The idea with this set up is to build up from using one light above camera position. I tend to use a Gridded 90cm Octabox, this allows me to bring the skin tone to a good level of exposure.

Two panels are placed either side of the subject with strobes placed behind and angled very slightly toward the centre. This creates the effect of adding four light.

The V Flats help the light to bounce back onto the background to bring up the exposure slightly, and add some gradient to it, and the lights angled slightly toward our subject also create a rim light on each side to add separation against the background.

lighting-diagram-1518608853.jpgUsing this effect adds a subtle rim and hair light to the subject when shooting with just reflectors fitted an no gels.

Adding coloured gels to the back strobes then adds some extra interest to the image. The V Flats bounce some colour onto the background while also casting the colour onto the subject. Any area that is in view of the back lights and not that of the front light will pick up the colour which gives it a totally different dimension to not using the gels.

Fill Light

Without V Flat Vs With V Flat

This one works in a very similar way to the Single Window Bounce technique above. The light source is coming from one direction, but instead of a window it is now a soft box, and a very big one at that. It has two diffusion panels, inner and outer, but no grid. This allows me a very soft light, especially when place within a foot of the subject. The V Flat is placed around 4ft away from the subject on the opposite side to the light.



The effect is very subtle in comparison to the window light shot, but, it still adds a fill light that give the shadows a little lift where needed on the face and a little on the background too.

Changing the distance of the V Flat to the subject can change the look of the image in terms of how much light is being bounced back into the scene.


So there you have it, 5 very simple but effective ways to use V Flats for Portraits.


I’ll be sharing more tips and tutorials in the coming weeks, make sure you sign up for the Newsletter to receive Blogs and Videos as soon as they release;




Top Tips for Successful Shoots with Models


Whether you’re working as part of a large production shoot or working just yourself and a model, there are still a lot of factors to take into account to make it a successful shoot. Below I will discuss how to make the most of your model shoot, whatever the motivation and give you some tips on how to take it to the next level;



The point first and foremost which is ultimately the most important is… What do you want from the shoot? It’s very easy to go into a shoot with no ideas, no real concept of what the images are going to look like and without worrying too much about the results. The problem with that is that it is inefficient in terms of getting great results and it’s not very often you’ll deliver something outstanding. We all know the phrase “failure to prepare, prepare to fail”

Researching the particular theme or genre that you want to shoot using tools such as Pinterest is a simple but extremely effective way of planning either on your own or as part of a bigger team. Being able to share ideas and concepts and build a plan of what you’re doing through images is the easiest way to explain to everyone involved exactly what you have in mind. This also gives opportunity for those with better knowledge of certain aspects a great opportunity to influence. So for instance when I am planning a shoot I will give my Make Up Artist a general idea of what I am looking for and then she will go away and research that and come back within definitive ideas on what will and won’t work. This is true across many aspects of a team shoot whether it be hair, styling, clothing or location.



This process for me can start as soon as 2-3 months before a shoot is due to take place depending on the size and the client. The quicker you can do this and communicate with everyone involved, the better chance you have of having a consistent approach and goal.


Professional Help

So, you’ve got your concept and you have your model. What next? In my eyes its extremely important to utilise those who have skills in the areas you don’t. I have zero experience in applying makeup and I’m bald so my hair styling skills are fairly minimalistic too!

Although many models will tell you they can do their makeup to a good level you will find that a Make Up Artist (MUA) will apply it in an entirely different way that photographs better. They will use a host of different products and techniques to achieve the look you’re after which most models just couldn’t achieve. Remember, most MUA’s have studied this and gained qualifications making them professionals in what they do! The same is very obvious about hair styling, even if it’s just a messy hair do, stylists will do this in a different way to ensure it stays that way for much longer and again will use techniques and products to ensure it photographs perfectly.

Hair and Makeup aren’t the only professional services I look to use in a shoot. Clothing Stylists are hugely influential in the work I do, from picking which shoes go with each outfit, to influencing the location for each particular style. This is their job, they have experience in doing it and can delivery excellent results. This to me is a no brainer.

Voice Activated Light Stands (VALS), these may sound really futuristic, but in fact, it is just a helper holding a light stand or acting as an assistant. I will never use a VALS who isn’t a photographer. It is essential that I keep as much dialogue going with my model while in the shooting aspect of the day, so having to keep advising and explaining to my assistant what I want just isn’t going to work. Having someone who is experienced, understands light and most importantly understands the concept of the shoot (through prior planning) is vital. This enables me to speak quickly but effectively on changes I’d like to make to lighting without breaking the dialogue with the model.


Location and Context

Context! Context! Context!!

It’s a word I often scream into my head when I see photographers who have done the Professional Help bit and hired an extremely creative hair and makeup team to deliver something brilliant, and then its been photographed against a plan grey or white background. It just doesn’t work, it doesn’t fit together, it lets down the Hair and Makeup team as it just doesn’t have Context!


If you’re shooting on location its much easier to create context by finding a location that suits the theme and idea of the shoot. However, shooting in the studio can be a bit more difficult and requires a little more thought and creativity. Adding texture into a set, props, using gels to add colour to a background can all be useful ways to help stitch the idea together and link the model to the background behind them. Always keep context in mind when shooting and don’t be afraid to change the location/set during a shoot if it isn’t working.


Shooting Tethered

For those who aren’t familiar with what “shooting tethered” means, it basically is shooting with a laptop or screen nearby which shows the images as you shoot. There are several ways of doing this and lots of software that enables a quick transfer. I use a Tethertools TetherPro 5m cable linked into my Macbook Pro and use Lightroom. It’s very easy to set up and images transfer in 3-4 seconds for me.



The advantages of shooting tethered are very useful. From your own perspective as a photographer it lets you seen the image on a bigger screen rather than the camera LCD meaning you can better judge the exposure, focus and overall look of the image. Turning the screen to your model can also be very useful in that the model can see exactly how their poses look and you can give them instant feedback with examples without really have to move around too much. The biggest advantage I find is when shooting with a bigger team, if I set the Tether to my 27″ iMac in the studio it means that everyone from the client, to the stylist to the model can see exactly what is going on and what the images are looking like meaning instant feedback from the client is available and changes can be made if needed.


Less is more

My creative team knows me enough now that I shoot very quickly and once I’ve got a frame that I think is a winner, I won’t shoot beyond that. What is the point?

I’ve worked with my creative team now for nearly three years so they fully understand how I work, but If I’m working with new people or a new team I always communicate clearly just how I work and that I won’t be shooting thousands of images. If I get the shot I want and its only 5-10 frames in, I will still stop at that point. Otherwise I’m just creating more work for myself and everyone else involved. This also inspires a lot more confidence in your models, clients and creative teams if you’re not shooting 100’s of images without really getting what you want.


So there it is, just a few top tips on getting great results from your Model shoot. Thanks for reading guys, and I hope that your next shoot is an awesome one!



Creative Headshots – How to with TetherTools TetherPro

What was the concept of the shoot?

One my of big beliefs as a photographer is that it is extremely important to shoot for yourself when you can. Yes, you have to pay the bills by taking on commissions and jobs, but ultimately the reason I fell in love with people photography was through the creative freedom you have to create pretty much anything you like. I work with a phenomenal hair and makeup team at my studio on a monthly basis in order for us all to keep our creative juices flowing. We start with a few different concepts for shoots, scout the models and refine the idea using Pinterest so that we all have a good idea of what we’d like to create. The shoots always stay quite fluid because something can change at short notice and really change the look or concept of the shoot.


With this particular shoot I was testing a new piece of equipment from my friends at Pixapro ( the 90cm DeepPara box. After shooting a few larger editorial projects through the year for publication I wanted to get back to shooting a more simple one light set up, but create several different effects with that. I talked with my hair and makeup team about the concept and the general idea was to have black and white makeup and then add a splash of colour using powder paint towards the end of the shoot. As you’ll see from the images this idea changed as the shoot evolved and we created some really interesting shots without moving the light, or the subject.


What setup and lighting did you use to get the shot?

As mentioned above the modifier was the Pixapro 90cm DeepPara fitted with the grid to help control the light that little bit more, this was mounted on a Pixapro CITI600 strobe. I mounted the light above my head, I’m 6’5” so it was pretty high! I set up my camera on a tripod and tethered to my Macbook using the 5m Tethertools Tether cable. which helped me shoot a lot easier once the focus was locked in. This meant I could trigger the shutter from the screen without having to keep bending under the DeepPara.


Now essentially we shot 3 different images with this one set up.

Shot 1 – Double Exposure


For this first images we wanted to create an ethereal feel, even ghost like along with the clown related makeup. There were two important elements with getting this right, getting two faces of the strobe at the right time, and having a high enough aperture to get both shots nice and sharp. This shot was taken at F22, with a 4 second exposure. The start of the shot triggered the first flash and I used an app called Colour screen on my iPhone and waved it in front of the lens for a second or so before triggering the second flash of the strobe manually with a second trigger to freeze Alex in the frame again. This took a good 10-15 shots to get right, and with the help of shooting tethered I turned the screen to our model so that she could see exactly what was going on and could plan he movement with a bit more ease. We used several different colours through the app to change the look quite drastically, but I preferred the red as it lent itself better to the cherry red backdrop.


Shot 2 – Paint


This shot was created pretty much by accident. I was lifting my aperture to F25 to allow more movement within the frame and shot a test frame off without triggering the second strobe flash. The shutter speed was still up at 4 seconds but because there was zero ambient light in the room there was no interference with the image at all. I loved the tone of this and how stark the paint was against the pale background. Shooting on a Canon 100mm Macro lens meant the level of detail was just incredible, and again shooting tethered meant that my Make Up Artist could see straight away on screen how the makeup looked and if we needed any touch ups.


Shoot 3 – Beauty


For this shot we didn’t move the lighting at all, but changed our way of shooting. I wanted to get a really nice shallow aperture look and lose the background colour too. This is when the Pixapro CITI600 really comes into its own utilising it’s High Speed Sync function.


So keeping our lighting and camera position exactly the same, we brought Alex a step closer to the camera. My settings this time were F2.8 shooting at 1/1000sec. This gave me the perfect amount of focus in the face tailing off just around the cheekbones of Alex and fading into that deep black background (which was red!). This shot was to show off the excellent makeup skills of our artists and really show what this incredible light and modifier are capable of achieving.


How did shooting tethered help you achieve the shot you wanted?

As mentioned above, particularly for the dual exposure element, it was a huge advantage for the model to be able to see the image, where she was in the frame and how it looked. This allowed her to pose and move a lot more confidently within the frame. Whenever I shoot with a creative team or on a commercial shoot, its really important to me to be able to shoot Tethered to get immediate feedback from my team or the client. I’ve tried various tethering options from Camera manufacturers software to Eyefi cards but the TetherCable has without a doubt been the quickest and easiest way to shoot in this way.
What type of post-processing was involved?

In terms of retouching, I’m a fan of quick and simple. I use a retouching plug in for photoshop to do basic retouching, but on this shoot it didn’t really warrant a lot. I used a couple of custom edits to create the finished look, slightly desaturating the frame and adding a touch of contrast.


What was the logistics and/or gear needed to achieve this shot?

I shot this at my studio in the North East of England and the set up was very simple.


– Canon 5d3

– Canon 100mm Macro F2.8

– Apple Macbook

– Tetherools Tethercabe

– Pixapro CITI600

– Pixapro ST3 Trigger

– Pixapro 90cm DeepPara

– Creativity Backgrounds Cherry Red Paper background


Credits –


Model – Alex Andlau

Hair – Stephanie O’Neill

Makeup – Rachel White


My YouTube Channel –

Chris Ord Photography


Commercial Photographer Newcastle

Single Light Techniques – Part 2

If you managed to catch my last post about Single Light Techniques, you’ll understand why I like them so much. If you didn’t…. you can read it here first .

Now I’ll start this little tutorial by saying I am a High Speed Sync (HSS) novice- as I write this, I’ve been using HSS for a little over two weeks. But, in those two weeks I’ve gone through all of the emotions of falling in love with a beautiful woman; Attraction, rejection, admiration, lust and then finally comfort. I’ve long admired the technique of photographers who can use HSS techniques effectively, more so when shooting inside of a studio. And I wanted to be able to do that.

So as I approach all of my learning I set up my lights, got my model in front and started a process of trial and error. Within three frames I had the exact effect I wanted. As people who know me already know, I don’t work in mathematical terms with my lighting, for me you can throw you inverse square laws and calculations out of the window. I just don’t work that way. I find the light I like and I stick to it, If I need to change it, I do it by eye, not by a light meter or a histogram.

So here is my set up, each of the images you see directly below we’re shot with this exact set up. I used my Pixapro CITI600 Light with the Pixapro Easy Open Octabox with  both diffusion panels in place.  My light was placed about 45 degrees to the model and myself, meaning that I’m not going to get too much fall off on the opposite side of the face. I was triggering the light through the Pixapro STiii system which enable me to shoot at speeds of up to 1/8000th.





1/3200sec, F2, ISO 100           Model – Deaann Shotton – Tyne Tees Models


Using this effect means that I can shoot at extremely shallow apertures while still freezing the subject with flash, and without letting in too much ambient light. That’s a winner for me. The image above is one of my favourite images so far from 2016.



1/4000sec, F1.8, ISO 100       Model – Jamie Yates – Tyne Tees Models

For this image of Jamie I added a second light just level with his left shoulder to add a little bit of interested on that side of the face. It was set to a lower power so not to get a uniform exposure across the face but just to give a little detail to the shadows.

One thing to remember when shooting at these apertures is that any movement there is either in camera or by the model after the focus has been set with result in the focus being off whether it’s a little movement or a lot. So be conscious if you’re looking for a really crisp exposure to talk to your model and minimise any movement during the shot. By all means encourage lots of changes of pose and expression, but ask them to freeze it for a second or so for each look.

Although I prefer using this technique inside my studio, you can also achieve sensationally looking images outdoors with it too, especially in very bright conditions.

I ventured outside with the model below, about 30ft from my studio to the church across the road. The sun was absolutely beating down, with very little cloud cover and it was very very bright.


With this set up I was shooting pretty much straight into the sun which was over the left shoulder of our model. I still wanted to have some detail in the sky and given how bright it was, I needed to dramatically reduce the amount of ambient light in the scene. The only way to do this was to raise my shutter speed. I raised my speed to 1/5000 sec, this allowed just the right amount of light to enter the sensor to maintain some detail and colour in the sky. I then positioned my model against the wall with my light and octabox to her left and slightly in front so that I could shoot along the wall. I wanted some subtle leading lines coming in from the brickwork, and a shallow aperture to really highlight our subject.



1/5000sec, F2, ISO 100       Model – Grace Bungoni – Tyne Tees Models

Now without going too far into technical details (as I don’t like talking technically) the simple way to make any off camera flash image work is to use your variables effectively. Remembering that your shutter speed controls your Ambient light, you aperture controls how much light your camera lets in and your ISO is (for me) a last resort if you need that little bit of extra help. Brett Harkness explains this very well with his “Triangle of Loveliness” on his DVD’s- well worth a watch!

So there it is, another incredibly simple set up that can yield tremendous results.

Thanks for reading chaps, have a great day!

See a YouTube tutorial below on using High Speed Sync in the Studio;



Commercial Photographer Newcastle


Planning a Fashion shoot… How I do it

As with the style of my product reviews and lighting techniques, the way I do things may not always be the best way to do it, but it is the way that works for me.

No matter what I’m shooting, whether it be an editorial campaign, a model portfolio or testing new equipment for review; I have a plan and then I have in my head that all of my plans could go out of the window.

I prefer shooting outdoors on location for Fashion and Editorial Work for two reasons. I have less control, meaning, I have more of an open mind for change.

So, take my last big editorial shoot which was featured in Surreal Beauty Magazine. I was inspired by a Vanity Fair shoot I first noticed last year featuring Benedict Cumberbatch  which was shot in woodland, with a dark and moody atmosphere. I would watch this video at least once per week trying to figure out, how, where and when I could do something similar.

So in my mind for this shoot was Harriotte (our model) in amongst tall branchless trees, holding the leash of two Great Danes, with a lot of smoke behind and having the scene quite underexposed to give that dead of the night feel. Although we did shoot this image, it wasn’t my favourite from the shoot- infact the most simple set up worked the best for us, and I’ll come around to explaining that later on.

In my mind, to have a successful shoot, I need several elements. A model who “gets” the idea, a strong and consistent beauty team (hair and makeup), an experienced stylist who can build the look based upon the brief, willing photographic assistants and most importantly an open mind from me. I don’t come up with all of my ideas, I’m heavily influenced by the creative teams I work with. If they have something to say, I will listen. If they come up with an idea, I will consider it. If they tell me something won’t work, I take that on board.

Having open communication with everyone involved, in my eyes, helps to get more buy in from the team. Getting everyone involved in the decisions on how to style the hair, which colour lip gloss to use and how to style the outfits means that we’re pooling the knowledge and experience of 6 people instead of just one. I have an open mind to listen to everyone’s input, but I also have the strength to say “No” when it just ain’t adding to the value of the shoot. And by value, I mean the quality of the end product we’re producing.

So, back to this particular shoot. I’ve never shot the type of shoot in woodland- so I didn’t really have an idea on where to do it. I’ve worked a few locations around my studio which have a few trees, but nowhere near the depth that we needed for the shots in my head. We also needed to have somewhere nearby to change outfits, refuel with bacon sarnie and coffee and work from as a base. Luckily, Harriott’s Mother Sarah knew a great spot, literally 25 yards from their back gate. Location- sorted.

As you might have already guessed, Harriotte was the model for this shoot. As soon as I decided to go ahead with it, there really was no one else I wanted for it. In terms of Hair and Makeup, I’m very lucky to work with two awesome ladies on a regular basis for pretty much all of my editorial and beauty work. Rachel White (makeup artist) and Steph O’Neill (hair stylist), these guys we’re brought on board and I created a Pinterest Board to give everyone involved a quick flavour of the sort of look we were going for. Pinterest is an immense tool if you’re looking for inspiration, or looking to collate ideas for shoots to share with the rest of the creative team. While I will often send ideas for hair and makeup to the girls, I pretty much leave them to their own devices now as I trust them to produce great work, no matter what the theme.

So that’s Model, Location, Hair & Makeup, Inspiration and ideas all sorted. The next part, assistants. I like to take assistants on pretty much all of my shoots. Having someone to help with lighting, moving props, pulling out weeds and generally watching out for things I’ve missed is, to me, invaluable. I was very lucky with this shoot to have three assistants with me, Ian kindly offered to bring along his generator in order to power the smoke machine and to be our “smoke maker guy” for the day. I literally could not have shot the sets with the smoke in the background without this guy. If I was working alone, running back and forward between the smoke machine and the camera position just would not be feasible. Colin, a good friend of mine, came along to support with lighting, and the general set up, offering ideas along the way. Again having a VAL (voice activated light stand) means that I am able to keep my position without having to move lighting positions, and I can stay in front of my model keeping dialogue going.

And that is pretty much it- that is how the shoot is planned in a nutshell. I have another big shoot using the same creative team for a magazine front cover and editorial at the end of the month that we will be video and releasing over on my  YouTube channel too, so keep an eye out for that bad boy. But in the mean time don’t forget to watch the behind the scenes for this shoot and see just how we shot the different sets!





Single Light Techniques – Part 1

For those photographers who have visited my studio before through a studio creative night, a 1-2-1 session or to help out on shoots would have already heard me rave about using single light set ups.

I’ll rewind a little here before I go too far into the technique and talk a little about why I like them. Are you ready for this? I am lazy. If I can create a stunning image for a client portfolio or magazine editorial with the least amount of faffing around as possible. I will.

I’m a self-taught photographer in terms of lighting. Well actually, I’m taught by YouTube, magazines and a huge amount of trial and error. I am not afraid to try something, even with a client in the shot, and if it doesn’t work, I’m not afraid to say so and change it so that it does work.

My entire approach to studio lighting has been built upon trying to replicate the look I like and then trying my own techniques and perfecting them through trial and error. After all, we learn more from our mistakes than we do our successes. I’d far rather get it wrong three times and then know why I got it right the fourth time- it’s just the way that I am wired.

So, onto the first in a series of single light techniques. I will be posting tutorial videos for all of these techniques over the coming weeks but for those who prefer written word and diagrams, here it is.

This is my favourite single light set up to use, its quick, its easy and if you have the space you can shoot this set up around 180 degrees to your model without having to touch the light itself.





A flat surface always works well for this set up- I’ve shot it along a 20ft scoop in my studio, and I’ve also shot this on a 4ft fold out background. Place your model against the wall, as close as you can and set the light up at about 45 degrees to the model. I use a studio strobe with a gridded reflector fitted in order to channel the light into a concentrated area which creates a natural vignette, depending on how you frame the shot. I’m not going to go into the mathematics of the lighting and the power etc- I like shots with lots of contrast so I will tend so shoot at much higher Apertures. So for instance- this shot of Dee below was captured at F18, 1/160sec with ISO 100.


If you look at the diagram further up the page- my shooting position is more shallow than the light- usually starting at around 20 degrees to the model and the wall behind of the model. Now as I said the beauty of this set up is that you can move around the model (if you have the space) and literally shoot a full 180 degrees without moving the position of the light. Obviously as you move further towards the opposite side of the light, the look is going to change dramatically, so be conscious of where your model is facing and where the light it going to hit.



One of the main variables you can create with this set up is the shape of the vignette of light. For instance, if I was shooting this set up with the light at the same height as the model and pointed directly toward the wall (which I wouldn’t but..) it’s going to produce a pretty definite circle of light. However, if I raise that light, and point it downwards, the vignette becomes stretched into an oval shape down toward the floor. If I moved the set up shallower to the wall, the same would happen with on oval going away from the model. Trial and error and a little experimentation is well worth while with this set up to learn how moving the light by 6″ one way or another can totally change the look of the image.



As I mentioned above I will be publishing a Video tutorial for this technique over the next few months which will be included in a training app that I will be releasing.

If you’ve any questions on this technique, leave a comment below and I’d be happy to answer.



See my tutorial video below on shooting a very similar effect, but outdoor using a Speed light;