10 Things You Should Know Before Starting Color Gel Photography

Color Gel Photography
Color Gel Photography

If you are on a budget to take some great photos using your gears. You are in the right place. In this article, we are going to discuss 10 things you should know before starting color gel photography. So without further ado let’s get started in our detailed guide about it.

Before starting, we need some minimum gear that you can use to take some great photos. If you’re brand new to flash photography. You want to have a more creative life where even if you use Propes.

The Reason You Want To Use Color Gels

There are a variety of different effects that can get. You can use color gels to fix that color in a picture. Because the color is a certain color you want and color to appear. Color correct due to white balance. You can use color gels just to get rid of lighting to appear and to be used color just to have a certain color background.

Color gels lights hitting the subject
Color gels lights hitting the subject

There are many uses too only color gels and we are going to talk about almost all of them and we’re also going to show you visual examples of gels and different variations of colors.

So are you ready to start using color gels in your photography to get some creative lighting?

Using Colored Gels for Videos and Photos

What Are Color Gels?

A color gel is a piece of color transparent material that you placed at the top of your lights to make the light come out of a different color.

When you talk about all the different uses with these colors I just wanted to show you what a color looks like and what it basically is.

#image

A lot of these color gels were originally made to fix color errors with lights. Because all the lights shoot in the daylight balance.

So in order to get a certain white balance or a certain color to fit the scene or mood.

How To Attach Color Gels To Lights?

So when you first purchase your color gels. you’re going to be offered ways to attach your color gels just to your light. in this section when talking about using color gels especially for the first time and things, you need to look out for.

Now when you use your flash you will attach color gels to the Speedlight that covers the whole light. there are certain things you need to know.

We Need To Know About The First Thing, That is How You Can Attach The Color Gels to Your Flashlight?

  • Velcro Adapter
  • Rubber Band
  • Hire Tie
  • Gap Tapes

Sometimes there’s a velcro adapter that you can attach to your flashlight. Which you will easily just put your colored gels on and then it will hold your color gels in place.

If you don’t have that piece for your Speedlight another thing you can use is a rubber band. I would attach a rubber band or a hair tie to this and they just have this colored gel attached to the light and I’m set to fire.

And I said another thing you can do very simply that is how we roll of tape. Which you and then just take the sun.

So all those different ways or ways that I’ve used to attach the color gels to the Speedlight.

The easiest way to go because you can lose everything else is to just have tape always have a tape with you. If you lose all the other things to attach this you can just tape it up and that’s it when it comes to attaching it.

What is Light Spillage?

So basically, if you don’t attach color gels correctly. if there’s a big gap between this and the light or you attach it with some other top showing on this light.

You’re going to get some of that white light or daylight balanced light showing up in the picture next to the red light.

You want to make sure that if I’m using this red color gel that it covers the whole light. Then it is spilling over and that light is showing up in the picture.

So make sure that you don’t have any spillage of light that’s not colored.

What is Light Output?

Basically, when you add some of these color gels that are very dark in color like the dark red or dark blue or dark anything or are adding multiple of these.

And we’re talking about why you might want to add more than one.

Then what’s going to happen is that less light is going to show up in the flash than we’re used to for a lot of light output.

For example, your flashlight is in manual mode and your light is in half power and you shoot the subject and they’re perfectly exposed and then you add a color gel to your Speedlight.

The issue with that same light output a little bit less light will come out.

Now you have to raise the power of the Speedlight. Because the color gel is stopping some of the light from coming out.

So, that’s the thing you need to think about because you might get confused or why it looks darker and that is because it’s color gels are blocking some of the light.

So these are the problems when you first started using color gels. Always remember these steps when you take photos using color gel in your portrait photography.

Saturation: Lighting Techniques

Now, I want to talk about the saturation that you’re going to see when using colored gels. If you select a color like my choice is green. You can raise the color gel up to see that it is a nice green and I think that the pictures will have this exact green in the image.

In many factors that affect saturation in your image, your settings and your camera. If you’re having your settings in a certain setting, you can end up seeing less saturation in your color of the light.

Pro Tips: Other Way To Apply Saturation in Your Images

  1. You can adjust your saturation in your camera.
  2. You can add saturation later post-production.

But if the green is not showing enough and the final image you try to add more green. For that chances are it’s not going to look good.

So would you wanna make sure straight from the camera. You have that closest green amount you can coming out of those lights.

That is we’re using green at the saturation. when saturation is how much of that color shows. if it’s not that saturated or is not the saturation is all with the lowest you get black and white. If that is the highest you have the greenest green you can get.

How To Get More Saturation? There are certain tricks you can do

The first thing is you can add multiple color gels on top of each other. So this light green is different from this darker green.

#image

The darker green has more saturation of green than other green gels. when you attach to the light if you don’t have the darker green gel.

You only have the lighter one. You can get another color of the darker and get darker shade by adding multiple stacks of color gels on top of each other stacking up color. Just adding together, you would get more saturation to show up in the image.

So that is the biggest trick I can get all the green ones together that I can get the darkest green possible. By adding more color gels together. I get less light output. so I have to add more to it. 

The second thing is on the camera. You can change the picture style to wherever the saturation setting is and make sure that it raises the saturation there. Then I get more of those colors showing up in the picture.

The third thing is make sure that, whatever I’m pointing these color lights at, I don’t have anything that will show why you did it.

if I shoot this in a white background that color will disappear if I shoot this in a darker background color will show up more.

So, things like that are things to be aware of when you want the color really to show pop in your image. Take that into account and make sure that it’s looking as close to that color as you want in your image.

So that’s it when it comes to adding more saturation on the image.

Getting Started With Color Gels

When you first purchase your first set of color gels. You can quickly attach that to your speedlight and start using it.

The best setting to use them and really see how they interact with your photography is to go into a dark room, grab a subject and start taking pictures using simply the color gels in your lights and start mixing them. 

Having one light have a color gels and one without the color gels. Then have two lights, two different color gels and just shoot in the background at the subject and see how the light really changes and it looks in your picture.

if you shoot in a setting that’s too bright the color will almost disappear. But if you shoot in a darker setting where the only light is your speed lights then they are really going to be able to see the color.

So if you get started. My recommendation is like I said go to the dark room.

Start playing with these color gels.

How To Use Color Gels To Color Correct Your Images?

In this section we’re going to be talking about using colored gels to color correct your images and what I mean by that is about white balance. You have to adjust your white balance in your picture.

So, you go to your settings and you adjust your white balance. The reason you’re doing it is because the scene is either too warm or too cool. 

If everything in your environment was called the ambient light is too warm. Then you’re going to start adding up something like tungsten light into your white balance to make it look cooler and make it look more natural.

So they are like daylight balanced.

When you’re using color gels, if you want your speedlights to match that. Then use what’s called a CTO colored gel. 

Which means color temperature orange and the color temperature orange color just looks like the orange color gel and then the opposite of it is a CTV. That is a color temperature blue which is blue color gel.

So these are the two main ones that people use to color correct their lights to match the ambient light.

If the whole room is surely in this warm orange tone and my speed lights are shooting the day light balance. Either my speed lights are going to look too cool or my ambient light and a little too warm based on how I set my white balance.

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Then I have to make sure that my speedlights match what the room is. The room is warm, I have to make my speedlight too warm. 

And if the environment is too cool. I got to make sure that my speedlights are cool or whatever my ambient light is. I want to make sure my speedlights match that. 

So, that all the lights are consistent. When I set my white balance none of the lights look out of place.

Which Color Gels Provide Best Quality Image?

The main uses for myself and my photography for the orange colored gels. Whenever I’m taking pictures outside and I have either a cloudy day or anything that looks neutral and I’m shooting a subject that my speed lights everything looks light up perfectly everything daylight balanced.

Everything looks great. But I don’t have the mood that I want for that image. When I’m shooting that day, what looks really nice is the orange light, something that looks like the sun, something that looks warm and sunny and represents summer.

In order to do that one of my lights, I add an orange color gel. The orange color gel usually goes in the light that is attached behind the subject.

So, my rim light or my hair light whatever light I have pointing to the back of the subject is the light that I attach my orange color gel to. Whenever I do that I have this beautiful orange glow that comes around the subject.

That kind of looks like the sun is setting up from behind and it’s nice and a summer day.

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So, whenever you start photography and you start taking pictures. If you want to really make the image look better to try using an orange colored gel in your background.

You’re gonna see the difference. When you don’t use an orange color and when you do and they start using There’s more of it. 

6 Reasons Before Buying Color Gels? 

You probably say you don’t own color gels and just you can go to amazon or your local camera store and buy a set of these gels.

My personal recommendation is, buy multiple sets of color gels and as many colors as possible. I have about four or five sets of color gels. I try to put them all in my camera bags. The reason behind that I have so many

  1. Because I’m using multiple speed lights and sometimes once said only have one for one color. Then if I want two lights the same color. I need multiple sets that boat speed lights are that color.
  1. The other reason I have multiple sets is that I want a variety of colors. I mean that all the sets of mine are different in the color sense.
  1. For some reason, every color set that I get has different shades of orange, different shades of green and you never know which one works. So, by having almost every shade of color of every color then you have all good options when using color in your photography.
  1. The other reason I buy multiple sets is because sometimes I stack these color gels together and now with me, three or four different ones that are all green to make it really really saturated and having all the sets will come together and make that green really green.
  1. And then the last big reason why you might want to have multiple sets is you could lose a very important color and if that is the only orange one you have, the only red one you have, all the blue you have. But if you have three or four different blue one, three or four different oranges at once, you can lose one and be fine.
  1. The other thing is you can actually burn through this. If they’re right on the flash and you shoot very quickly, the light actually starts creating a little hole near the center and then that color isn’t as good as it was. When you first purchased it.

So, the light can actually burn through the color gels they don’t burn as often. You don’t really have to worry about that. But if you use them a lot. Then maybe having multiples is very important.

When it comes to the price point of these. You’re going to see this somewhere very cheap, some are more expensive. I would opt out of getting more expensive ones.

Because I’ve never really seen other more expensive ones better. I just get a lot of the cheaper ones and if I have to put two of them together I would prefer to buy expensive ones.

Understanding The Color Wheel

Now, about the color wheel. It is very very important to know your color wheel. What it means by the color wheel is this circle that basically tells you which two colors make what color.

It also tells you what colors are complementary. The color that is opposite on the color wheel is complementary and tends to look good when used together in a picture.

Colors are too close together in the color wheel and don’t tend to look good in any picture. So you tend to want to use complementary colors in it.

If you’re going to be using those colors in your picture using the speedlights.

The other reason you want to know your color wheel or have one handy. Because sometimes you want a certain color that you don’t have which color gels.

By knowing your color wheel you’ll know which two colors you can put in a flash together to make a certain color.

You add these two colors together and you can get this middle color and that could be the one that you’re looking for.

So, you can add multiple color gels together or stack them together and then that color will come out of your light.

Mixing color gels and happy colors that look good together in your picture is the main reason why you want to learn the color wheel or have one handy when you’re using color gels.

Light Modifiers In Color Gels

In this section, what we are talking about is light modifiers and color gels.

A lot of people think that the only way you can use color gels on your speed light is to not touch anything else to the speed lights.

But most of the time I’m actually attaching something else to my speed light on top of the Color gels to get the right light to appear in the image and it be that color.

So, let’s say I’m using a softbox and I will attach the color gels on the speed light and then the softbox on top of it. The soft boxes and any other light modifier don’t change the color of your light.

You don’t have to worry about you adding an orange light modifier and then adding a soap box and then the light not coming out orange.

The soft box is just going to shape the light but the color will be whatever you attached it to originally. Some light modifiers are going to get in the way of you attaching your colored gels.

So, you’ve to get very creative on how you can get the color gels still reattached while having a lot of my light modifier on top of it.

Personal Recommendation: One of the main light modifiers that I use with the color gel is a grid and the reason I have that grid is to make sure that the light doesn’t spill all over the place and it goes straight on in exactly where I want it.

Sometimes it could be a spotlight of a color or just hitting the back of the subject without spilling over or going to the front of the face.

So I use a grid on top of my color gel.

Picking a Color Gels

When using color gels one of the most intimidating parts of it is picking the right color and let me tell you something I don’t think is the right color for most situations.

I have found very creative ways to come up with colors for pictures. I can either do colors that match the subject’s outfit or I can do colors that are really out there and can meet my portfolio pop.

Because sometimes I can go with a certain set of images and if I feel like I use green too much and I want my portfolio pop. I will add some of the other colors that I don’t really use much like yellow and green. Just to make light of the variety of colors in my portfolio pop and I have a variety.

So, you can use it for variety, you can use it to match an outfit, you can use it simply because the subject’s favorite color.

Pro Tips: I will ask some of the models that I shoot. What color do you like for the background? And then they will pick and then we’ll shoot with it and I will tell them to let’s try your second or third option and then we’ll try this color and then we’ll compare it to figure out which we like the best.

My Best Recommendation: is to experiment. Don’t just stick to one color. Try other colors because you never know when a certain color that you weren’t even thinking about could come out to be an amazing picture.

You don’t really know until you play with the color. So experiment and really try out as many colors as you can. So that is a little some tips and advice to using color gels and figuring out what color to use.

Just experiment and use anything that you can match with. Use variety and you would be able to really take advantage of all of the different colors available with your set of color gels.

Preferred Color Background

One of my favorite uses for color gels and one of the reasons I really take color gels with me. Places are to make a background a certain color.

I can go to a wall and think that the wall is the ugliest color. But I can make that wall almost any color I want thanks to color gels.

Sometimes one speedlight is enough of that color to make that background feel my picture.

Sometimes I need two or three speed lights hitting the different corners to fill the whole wall a certain color and it shows up in my picture.

But regardless of that just know that one of the best uses for these color gels is to get a different colored background.

So, instead of having to purchase backdrops of certain colors. You can just point at a wall and change the color of the wall to whatever color you want. Now you have all these different backgrounds in your picture.

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It’s a really good use for color gels and I want to recommend everybody trying out is just experimenting and getting the background to be a certain color and having all these different colored backgrounds when shooting subjects in your photography.

The main thing that you need to know when doing this is make sure none of the color spills over to the subject.

So, you can be pointing at the background and the subject be right in front of the wall a couple of steps forward and the light hits something on the side. Then the side of it that color and then it doesn’t look like the background was that color.

Now it’s more obvious that the light was that color. A certain way to avoid that spillage is to add something blocking that light from going over to the side.

Recommendation: One of the main things I use is business cards. I would attach a business card to the side of my speed light and I would attach it to it and that side is the side of those subjects. 

if I have a light coming straight. That hitting the wall and the subject right side. I would have a business card blocking the light that goes over when it hits the subject.

if I don’t have a business card and I’m on the go and I’m working really quick. But I have somebody else to help me. I have them put their hand to block the light going over to the side.

So those are some things you need to know and think about when trying to have a certain background of a color.

Choose Location For Color Gel Photography

So one of the things you want to note when you use color gels is where your location is and how much light is available. if you’re outside in broad daylight and you see something that you want a different color and you hit that with your speed light with the color gel.

Chances are you’re barely going to get any color change and the reason is because the sun is so bright that you are raising your aperture and making the image so dark that the color of your light will barely show.

Recommendation: is if you really want these colors to pop is to go to the darkest settings. That’s why most people use color gels in a studio location. When shooting indoors for a home studio or your own photography studio.

That’s where these color gels are going to pop. if you go outside in the park chances are this color gels are barely gonna be noticeable.

So, just note how much light is in the environment before shooting before deciding you’re going to use a color gel or not.

Then try it out and see the color shows and if it’s not showing then discard the color gels. They just use it for another location.

Picking Picture Style In Your Camera

Now we are talking about picture style in your camera settings for using color gels.

So sometimes you’re playing with colored gels and you know all these different colors in fact. Then you take the picture and some of the colors are very desaturated and you want those colors to pop.

You would think that all you will have to do is grab that image, put it into Photoshop, raise its saturation and you’re fine.

The problem with doing that is, if you raise the saturation and there was not enough saturation in the original image is not going to pick up what that color was.

If a green looks very very light and they try to raise it I’m not going to get enough of that green by raising the picture saturation in photoshop. Because there was not enough green in the image.

You need enough green in the image to show up in order to raise the saturation. I don’t mind raising the saturation in my camera and it affects skin tones because then I can lower the saturation of orange or whatever the skin tone is and fix that.

You can get rid of color. But I can add color. So I want to make sure all the color shows up in the picture which is why I’ve messed with a picture style setting in my camera.

So, let’s know about picture style settings in your camera.

There is this setting in your Canon camera. It’s called Picture Style. But other cameras have the same type of setting. The default picture style tends to be a little desaturated.

If you go to the picture style setting of your camera and you get a custom picture style and you set all the other settings to what the default is and you just raise your saturation a stop or two or whatever looks best with your picture.

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You’re going to see that everything looks good. But the color pops more. I raise it as high as I need to to make that certain color and that picture really show.

Then I fixed the other colors in post-production. But I know that I have enough color to really play with it in editing. The colors are not shown that I can fix it or make it better.

So that’s it, when it comes to picture style in your color gel photography.

Final Word:

Indoor photoshoots always need more lights. But those photos always look boring. Using color gels will give you an opportunity to be more creative with your lights. If you find this article very helpful. Thank you

Al Shariar Apon

Al Shariar Apon is a Digital Marketing Specialist with over 4 years of Marketing & Design experience based out of Khulna, Bangladesh. But I'm very passionate about photography from my childhood. So I have participated and won some photography contests.

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