When it comes to using color gels for photography lighting, there are two main reasons why you would want to create a setup with this simple strobe accessory. The first reason is technical, allowing you to balance your light source to ambient light. If you are not focused on balancing your light source, then you may be looking to enhance color for a more creative effect. In this on location photo shoot, Westcott’s in-house photographer Ashley Boring walks us through a few in depth purposes for both technical and creative gel uses and how each option provides different outcomes.

Technical Reasons to Use Photography Gels

Ashley first explains the use for gels from a technical perspective. In this scenario, she used the gel inserts to match two or more different light sources that have different color temperatures.

Capturing her first shot involved a simple one light setup to provide a clean and natural looking final product. Ashley knew she would be shooting in a shaded area and wouldn’t need to overpower much ambient lighting with a lot of output using a strobe, so she chose to shoot with the FJ80 speedlight. This portable flash can be used on-camera as both a speedlight and transmitter for controlling FJ Wireless and Canon RT flashes, or positioned anywhere off-camera. Ashley shot with the FJ80 off camera and modified it with a Rapid Box Beauty Dish Switch. She placed it so she would be short lighting her subject, which added dimension to her model’s face by carving out her cheekbones with shadows.

As the shoot continued, Ashley noticed the lighting on her subject was warmer than the ambient light because of the shaded area she was shooting in. Her set was surrounded by dense shrubbery, which was making the ambient light cooler in color temperature than the FJ80. Her subject was popping out from the background more than she preferred, so to balance the shot, she inserted a CTB gel, or color temperature blue, to cool down the color temperature of the light hitting her subject to match the ambient light. Ashley notes that another reason to color match a flash to the ambient light is for editing purposes. This provides a clean base, making it a lot easier for things like color grading, since you’re not working with mixed lighting.

Knowing how to use gels to match your flash to ambient light is a must for event photography and wedding photography because of the warmer tungsten light sources at many venues and on location sites. Working with gel inserts on your flash gives you the flexibility to match the existing lighting so your final product is the best it can look.


Creative Reasons to Use Photography Gels

If you are not using color gel inserts on your flash for technical reasons, you may be looking to add a creative flare to your photography. Adding color to your images with gels can optimize your shot and create more artistic value to your photos that was not originally there.

In this demonstration, Ashley wanted to capture her subject with a large light source that provided a wide light spread. She chose to modify the FJ80 with a 53” Deep Silver Umbrella because it would provide her optimal results in lighting the surrounding area for her shot. The location was in a darker terrain with almost no ambient light, so using the FJ80 flash with a diffusion dome alongside a deep umbrella, gave her a beautiful backlight that bounced off the cave walls and widened the light spread. By placing the modifier and flash against the cave wall and aiming the light at the back of the model, she was able to get both an edge light on the model and light the cave walls behind her with just one light. 

For this shot, Ashley wanted to create a photo that was practically monochromatic and needed to match the orange color of the model’s sweater to the cave walls. To produce this shot, she stacked two 3/4-CTO gels, or color temperature orange, to get the deep orange color she was looking for.

Incorporating gel inserts is an easy way to add a dynamic feature to your photos. They’re also very convenient to utilize with on-location photography. Ashley knows that adding color gels is a great way to take what would normally seem like a plain landscape or location and transform it into a colorful and lively capture.

Takeaways from this Photography Shoot

With its portability, the FJ80 touchscreen speedlight can be used on-camera as both a speedlight and transmitter for controlling FJ Wireless and Canon RT flashes, or positioned anywhere off-camera. Adding gel inserts to your flash can easily create vibrant and unique photos.

Shooting in harsh light? Watch Top Pro, Eli Infante capture HSS portraits in full sunlight with the FJ200 strobe.

Lighting Gear in Action

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