How to Use Lighting Gels to Change the Color of the Sky

Traditionally, you probably think of using color gels to change the hue of your subjects or to add a splash of color to a backdrop, but with this clever technique, you can use color gels to change the color of the sky. This great video will show you the theory behind the technique and how to change the sky to whatever color you please.

Coming to you from MagMod, this excellent video will show you how you can change the color of the sky using color gels. It is quite a neat technique. Normally, we use color gels to change the color of our subjects or to add interest to a background or the like. However, in this case, the idea is to light your subjects with the gel. This will change the color of them, of course. But then, you will use your camera's white balance to bring your subjects back to their natural color. This will consequently shift the color of the sky away from its true hue. It is a very neat way to either add a bit of interest or to go for a really adventurous look. Check out the video above for the full rundown. 

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

Log in or register to post comments

The magenta / green filtration reminds me of the technique used with daylight film to balance fill flash with fluorescent office lighting. A magenta filter on the lens balanced the green spike from the fluorescents to match 5600K film, and a green gel on a 5600K strobe matched the flash to fluorescent. Skin then rendered better on film. I think we typically used 20CC magenta and Roscoe Plus Green gels as a starting point, but it depended on the particular fluorescent brand and type. They varied somewhat, so we had to test the result. That was way too many years ago!

Clever, but .... now he's lit the primary subject of the photo, the people, with only a tiny sliver of the color spectrum, then artificially expanded that slice of the spectrum back out to fill the full visible range. This will leave him with a lot more color noise on an area of the photo --- the people and their faces --- where he's almost certain to least want it. Much better, I suspect, to light the subjects with the full spectrum, then selectively alter the white balance of the background in post (since that's all he's really done to the background anyway). I suspect he'd have a lot easier time bringing out saturated blue eyes and the full breadth of skin tones that way.

I so disagree with you.

I mean, to do that for one photo, I guess you could.
But for a series of photos? Yeah right, just get it right the first time. If you can do it practically in lighting and get it right in camera, why toil away hours in photoshop?
The noise difference won't be so bad where doing selective color edits on dozens of photos would even be remotely worth the time. And honestly it probably wouldn't even look any good vs just doing it right the first time, in camera.

Hey! It's a very good point in terms of the workflow trade-off. Hadn't thought of that. I only take issue with the use of the word "right". There are upsides and downsides to both ways of achieving that particular end. One involves far less post-processing, but inadvertently yields much less information retained in the raw file in a key area. The other requires more post-processing, but does provide additional information that might be useful, or even critical, in some circumstances. In their illustration, the subjects are fairly small against a broad background. If the image were a much tighter portrait where the subjects filled more -- or most -- of the frame, noisy skin and desaturated eyes could more problematic, for example. Just something to be aware of.

I've definitely had times where my clients saw a wide picture they liked but also wanted a portrait version from that photo... That extra noise and discoloration can be cringey when brought to the focus like that.

Another thing worth mentioning, when doing this with actual clients, not models, showing them the photo on the back of the camera nearly completed builds massive confidence.

Sounds good. As innovation has changed and new and energizing items have propelled to help adjust the appearance of a scene, photographers have been given an entirely different standard to maintain. The MagMod MagBox is the best softbox for photographers, as I would like to think obviously. These key reasons are Easy arrangement, quality light alteration, it's glimmer stackable, has a lot of assistants to look over, and it has no Velcro anyplace on the softboxYou can perceive that it is so natural to make definitely various outcomes with three straightforward gels all inside a similar scene.