Flash Gels and Color Effects

In this “How I Shot It” video, we’ll talk about my first try at using flash gels (back in 2006) and end with a look at my latest just-for-fun flash gel experiment.

How to Use Flash Gels

There are many ways to create color effects in your photos using simple strobe and speedlight gels. I mostly use gels to add color to my backgrounds. The trick is to avoid spilling color onto my subject or having my non-gelled lights affect the color produced by my gels.

In this video, I focus on using flash gels as color effects on my subject rather than the background. Here, color creates a mood or a fantasy world.

Flash gels used to create a fantasy world

A black seamless, two speedlites and two gels are all I needed to create this look. It was a quick and very simple setup done in my living room. I used the Rosco “Strobist” flash gel filter set (red and blue/purple gels) on the front of my otherwise unmodified flashes, and tweaked the power settings here and there.

Other Ways to Create Gel-like Effects

You’ll see in the video that you can create similar effects (where it looks like you’re using flash gels) with Photoshop. Actually, you can do this with the White Balance setting on your camera, too. Or, if you’re exporting Raw files, you can change the White Balance in post.

Try this: Open up an image in Photoshop and experiment with the Filter > Render > Lighting Effects filter. There are some good ones to mess around with including the RGB Lights preset which supplies you with virtual gelled lights that you can customize.

Molly with gels for background and highlight color effects

Lighting Effects works great on certain types of images like the one I did of Molly which appears in my Successful Photo Shoots ebook.

Learn more about flash gels here