Get the Most Impact From Your Gels With These Lighting Tips

It’s one of my favorite photography tools: the simple colored gel. Not only can it improve the color balance of your image, it can dramatically boost your visual impact when used to add touches of color to your shot.

Named for the colored gelatin that was once used to cast color in theater lighting, gels can be a valuable tool in your lighting kit. Today’s gels have come a long way from the heat-sensitive gelatin from days of yore and even more so from the simple glass of red wine that was used before that. They are available in a variety of colors and sizes, they are affordable, and they can really give a kick to your images.

In this video brought to you by Sekonic, the makers of top light meters, photographer Ab Sesay walks us through how he meters his lights in a three-light setup. After a quick demonstration of the necessary lighting adjustments, he then takes us through the steps needed to meter the strobes to get the most color saturation out of the gelled lights. The result is a deeply saturated background that adds lots of interest to the image.

Be it for color correction, subtle strokes of color touching bathing your subject’s skin, or bold blasts of color for a high-key look, the use of colored gels in lighting your photography is an excellent way to add pop and interest to an image. What are your favorite ways to use colored gels on your studio lighting? Share your experience in the comments!

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Roy Dunn's picture

Unless I am missing something here (and I might be), this video is nonsense. Since when does putting a blue or magenta gel kill light by over 2 stops? Maybe 0.2 stops. The gels he is using aren't even that opaque. Think about a 3 stop ND filter, and how dark it is.

Gerald Bertram's picture

With full gels you can lose roughly anywhere from 1.6 to lose to 3 stops of light. A full orange gels loses around 1.6 stops where like a full pink gel is insane at around 3 stops. My understand is a gel is removing all the light in the spectrum except itself where a ND has to remove all light (the entire spectrum of light) thus why the ND is so dark. I assume in this video he is adjusting the power of the light to get the desired saturation of light as well as you need to reduce the power of the light to get a more saturated color. That's my incredibly simplistic explanation. There is science that explains this that hurts my head to think about so research as your own peril.

julio estrada's picture

It was just a simple post, just balance your lights out pick up the one with out the gel! pump it to clean the face area up cool,cool.

Cedric TOSONI's picture

The time to do all the measurements with the flashmeter, the model is asleep, there is no emotion left! Too schooly!