Using Flash Gels

Have Fun Using Gels!

Let’s have fun with gels! Keep reading to learn more.

Flash gels are a very interesting, useful and inexpensive tool for flash photography. In this article you’ll learn what are flash gels, and two ways to use them.

“Gels”? What Do You Mean with “Gels”?

Flash gels are pieces of colored, heat-resistant plastic that you can place in front of your flash in order to change its color. They are very simple pieces of gear and very affordable.

I actually bought a Neewer set with 30 different gels through Amazon, for US$15. This kit comes with a carrying pouch and 3 attachment bands that fit almost any flash. The only flashes that I had trouble attaching the gels to were my Godox TT350s but I’ll just use a regular rubber band instead of the ones in the kit. You just place the attachment band around your speedlight’s head, then insert the gels between the band and flash, and you’re ready to go!

Neewer 20 pcs Gel Kit
Neewer 20 pcs Gel Kit

Color Temperature Correction

The most common use for gels is to correct the color between the environment and your flash.

For example, if you’re shooting portraits at sunset, your subject may look a bit off compared to the sunset behind her/him. In that case you need to use a light orange gel on your flash to match the color temperature of the environment light.

Andrea T 05
Andrea T 05

I actually ran into this problem while shooting Andrea’s portraits a couple of months ago. I didn’t have any gels back then, so I decided to correct the image in post and it worked fine. However, using gels would have saved me time in post-production.

Creative Control

Of course, you can get creative with gels! During my latest shoot with Frida, where I tested flash systems, I also tested colored gels on the flashes. I started with a red gel on a flash pointed towards the background, which was white. Voilà! We now have a pink background!

Frida with Pink Background
Frida with Pink Background

I then tested with two flashes. One had a red gel, the other a blue one, both were behind and at each side of the model, pointing at each other. There was another flash without gel in a shoot-through umbrella, lighting Frida. There you have it! Slighty colored background!

Frida with Pink-Purple Background
Frida with Pink-Purple Background

My final tests were with two gelled flashes pointing and the model, diffused using an umbrella and an octabox.

Red Light and Purple Background
Red Light and Purple Background
Low Key Purple Light
Low Key Purple Light

Considerations

If you use modifiers like umbrellas and softboxes, the light coming from your flash will lose power and you’ll need to adjust either the power setting on the flash, or ISO or f-stop.

Well, the same happens if you place a piece of gel in front of your flash, so you’ll also need to make adjustments in your camera or flash. Fortunately, many gels come with documentation that indicates how much power your flashes loses, so you don’t need

to guess.

As you can see, flashes are pretty simple to use. They do require you to practice in order to master their usage, just like any other piece of gear.

I hope you found this blog post useful, informative and entertaining. If so, share it with your friends!

These are some ways to use gels but if you’d like to suggest other setups, share them in the comments section.

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