Simply defined, gels are transparent colored material used to modify lights for photography (both stills and motion). Gels are placed over light sources to create colored effects. The two basic types are color correction gels and non-corrective (color effect) gels.
The longer I’ve made portraits, 40-plus years, the more steadfast I am in the belief that it all starts with lighting. Whether soft, hard or anything in between, each quality of light and shadow imparts emotion and drama to help tell a unique story. Lighting’s job is to support the story you’re trying to tell rather than distract from it.
There are multiple ways to utilize color gels in your creative process. In this article, our goal is to create colored shadows on the background without painting the models’ face in different colors. To achieve this, we need to first know some basics about color models and color theory, so let’s start from there and work through the making of the image.
You can never have enough background colors to choose from in the studio. The background color that performs perfectly for one outfit, complexion, hair color, makeup style or concept will likely fall flat for another. You can invest in an endless assortment of colored rolls of seamless paper, but at anywhere from $50 to $100 each, this rainbow requires a pot of gold. This month, I show you how to create virtually any color you want without the cost or clutter of seamless paper.
These two portrait sessions were all about breaking my f16 habit in studio, going in the opposite direction and using extremely low-powered strobe and wide apertures to recapture some of that vintage portrait magic. I used the widest aperture available, f3.5, on my Schneider Kreuznach 150mm LS lens. On a medium-format DSLR, this is equivalent to approximately f1.4. Both subjects were photographed using the same two lighting setups, one with strobe only and one with strobe and constant lights. In each case, the strobe served as the keylight.