Gelling lights for effect

Color gels are an amazing thing. They come in handy whenever you need to match lights with different color temperatures — which is great if you need absolute color accuracy — but they can also be a powerful creative tool. In fact, sometimes it’s nice to go full 180 degrees, throw color accuracy out the window and just do fun, crazy stuff.

Say you have a white background in your studio but you really wanted a blue background for this one shot.

Gel it!

Throw in a CTB gel (or any shade of blue, really, we don’t need color accuracy, remember?) over one light and throw that at the background. Done!

Same thing for yellow. Or any other color you can think of. Sky’s the limit! And since we’re not correcting for color accuracy, any piece of cellophane will work! (beware, though: lights get hot and cellophane melts very easily. The last thing you want is one of those dripping all over your expensive lights. More on how to avoid that later).


It’s also an easy way to achieve that orange-teal look that everyone overuses (yep, guilty!)


In this case, I actually gelled my main light with a 1/2 CTO gel. The reason why my main light looks white (with juuuuuuust a hint of orange) and my rim light looks blue is because I changed my camera’s white balance to match the main light. Also, it was shot in the middle of the street, at night. So sometimes you don’t even need a background. Or a studio.The possibilities are endless. You can go super subtle or completely over the top. Your choice.

Need to shoot a DJ? Throw-in some not-so-subtle pink flares and balance it out with cyan on the other end, leaving that much needed editorial space in the image.


Want your light to match your subject’s clothes? We can do that too.


Emulate the emergency lights of a firetruck? Sure!


Harry Potter fan? Get those gels working for you.


Or maybe you just want to go full-on crazy mode and drag the shutter for fun? The possibilities are endless.

Do these look realistic? Not one bit. Do I care? Absolutely not, because they were never intended to.

Thoughts, doubts? Let me know.

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