How to Transform Your Existing Lighting for Less Than $20

Sometimes the locations we have to work with are a little played out or uninspiring. By using gels and haze to our advantage you really can transform a space dramatically. The great thing about these techniques is that they can be done for very little money.

The guys over at Westcott are back once again with another insightful video featuring Sports Photographer and Educator Matt Hernandez. The video is a great look at a very typical two-light setup where on this occasion a collapsible beauty dish is being used as the main light and a simple reflector with a grid is acting as a hair light from behind.

What makes this setup a little different to your traditional portrait lighting is the inclusion of a colored gel and a haze machine. If you're not sure how to get the best out of gels, this video will help to bring you up to speed. As for the haze, Hernandez shows us how the addition of some fog in the background can really add depth and drama to your work.

For those on a budget, it is actually possible to purchase haze in a can which won't break the bank and is a great alternative to the expensive fog machines. Combine this with a Rosco blue gel and you'll be ready to use your existing lighting to achieve a very different look, all for less than $20.

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Gabrielle Colton's picture

Love adding creative materials to change my lights. You can even use things around your house

Paul Adshead's picture

That's a great point Gabrielle, you should do a write up on it!

I’ve wanted to try haze machines in the past, but am always thinking that I would set off a fire alarm either in my studio or on location.

Does anyone have any thoughts/advice on this? Are fire detection/sprinkler systems heat-based, or would the haze set off a smoke detector?


Fog machine is supposed to trigger smoke alarm any way :)

Patrick Hall's picture

We have a youtube series we are releasing called Story Time With Monte and in that series we used a fog machine in the house...eventually the smoke alarms did go off

Paul Adshead's picture

That's really good to know. Its something I would probably over look on a shoot.

David T's picture

There are either heat and smoke detectors, as well as combinations. Smoke detectors are most common. Sprinklers can trigger themselves from heat or indirectly from regular detectors.

So best switch off the sensors before the shoot. Some have a sleep button on them or you can do it from the control panel. There are also plastic caps that you put on them during construction work.

Watch out for local fire and insurance regulations tho. If the building burns down and people die (during or after the shoot because you forgot to switch detectors back on), it’s your ass in court.

Great article! The most attractive side of this for me is the haze machine- I’ve clicked the link to read more specs on it- though I’m still unsure if it can be completely water based or does it still need the additive liquid in addition to water in order to run? Would be great if it could run on water alone!

Paul Adshead's picture

I'm really not sure. I think the "water based" description just refers to what the solution is based on.

In the same way you get water based paint & oil based paint. They are mixed with other things.

That's me guessing. Maybe send the makers a quick email?

Let me know what they say!

Rex Larsen's picture

Where can I order the haze machine and gels for under $20. I'm in.

Paul Adshead's picture

Hey Rex, both items are linked in the last paragraph of the article. The haze in a can is about $11...