Despite being the industry standard, photography editing software can often feel automated and intrusive of your original work.
Color gels - thin, nearly transparent sheets of 12-inch paper that fit snuggly across your lighting equipment - are an affordable and enjoyable way to organically manipulate lighting in your images. As seen on PetaPixel, photographer and blogger, Jay P. Morgan of The Slanted Lens offers gel lighting best practices.
In his tutorial, Morgan uses a haze machine to increase the density of air particles before capping his rim lens with green, yellow, rouge, and vapor gels. Each color changes the tone and feel of the set. Take a look:
Since gel packs can come in a wide variety of colors, Morgan suggests streamlining your selection process by experimenting only with gels that will complement the natural colors of your set. Morgan's set, for example, is naturally filled with green tones found in the background and subject's clothing, so they opted for gels that would blend seamlessly with the green hue. Morgan also suggests “auditioning” the gels before going through the trouble of taping them perfectly over your lighting. You can do this simply hand-holding the gels over the light and snapping a few sample shots.
Additionally, Morgan notes their choice of covering only their rim light with the gel.
“If we put the gels on the back light (or our rim light), it’s going to rim your subject and it changes also the atmosphere in the room,” Morgan says.
Placing gels only over your rim light is a convenient trick for altering only the background lighting. Had they placed their gels over the key light, the entire set - including the subject - would have been splashed with funky colors.
Talk about a simple hack for manually editing your work minus technology! The gels work especially well when combined with smoke machines, or in areas where air particles are denser.
“The smoke in the air in the atmosphere changes the color palette of the entire background,” Morgan says.
Before you run out and purchase color gels (a pack of four can be purchase for less than $10 on Amazon), note that colored cellophane from craft stores can be used as an alternative. If you go this route, be sure to monitor the proximity of the paper and the bulb to avoid hazards, like the paper melting onto your bulb.
Plan on experimenting with color gels? Share your photos with us on social media via the buttons below!