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Tips & Tricks

Experimenting With Gels For Creative and Colorful Portraits

By Hanssie on February 15th 2016

Light is something we as photographers have all experimented with to dramatically change the look of our images. You can create a dark and ominous image, playing with shadows and direct light or you can make a soft and dreamy image with different shadows and diffused light. Something that many of us overlook, or perhaps can forget, is that we can also experiment with color for even more creative options.

You can adjust your color temperature to create some unique looks in an image, or you can also use gels. If you’ve never played with gels, it’s an inexpensive and fun way to modify your light. You can make it very natural looking or fun and vibrant or everything in between. Read this article from our Lighting 101 workshop DVD where Pye explains how to use Flash Gels and color temperature for creative effects.

Photographer Antti Karppinen was inspired by images he saw from Jake Hicks, who according to Antti is “just a master when it comes to photography with colored filters or gels.” If you’ve seen Antti’s work, it’s fairly straightforward. He typically chooses to add his creative effects in during post production. But as all creatives, he wanted to experiment and try something new and so he grabbed some colored filters, prisms, and tilt-shift lenses. Antti tells us,

“Working with colored filters and gels is not that easy. I mean it is
rather easy to use colored light as an edge light to create a bit of a mood as you usually see in the images, but when you try to get your subject to look a certain way with colored lights, I started running into trouble. I noticed that the placement, power, and the color came into the play and I really had to think it trough to get the results I wanted.” It was key to select complementary colors for gels to get best and eye pleasing images.”

In post production, Antti made a few color changes, added some selective color contrast and did some dodge and burning. He was really able to explore and step out of his comfort zone with the Prism and tilt-shift lenses to create some new artistic “flavors” for his portfolio.

Gear Used

Elinchrom flashes
Canon 5D Mark III
Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8L
Canon TS-E 90mm f2.8
Glass Prism
Lee Filters

Setup #1

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Final Image

Final Image

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Setup #2

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setup3There are so many creative effects you can achieve with colored gels. Here’s a great video from AdoramaTV that shows you when and how you can use them for even more fun effects. To see more of Antti’s work, check out his website here.

About

Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at www.hanssie.com. Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. John Sheehan

    I’ve been experimenting with gels as of late, and I love the dramatic effect, when it fits the photos.

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  2. Joseph Prusa

    Great article, thanks!

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