How to make creative picture with color gels

October 7, 2015   7395 views

One of the first attempts using gels in studio lighting happened after I saw Bvlgari adv. Trying to reproduce that picture I encountered some difficulties which helped me to achieve new knowledge and experience in working with color gels in particular and in working with light in general. I further developed this style trying a variety of effects, colors, technical solutions, and it later pushed me to the widespread use of color filters in my studio work.

However, here I will try to reproduce the exact original style, which served as a prototype for creating many of my photos.

To start, itís necessary to define the key points: choices of color and lighting solutions. I noticed that there are some colors that are well suited for a modelís skin tone, and if we make those pictures without any accessories or if those accessories are not an emphasis of the picture, the choice of green, blue-green colors in combination with skin tones create a beautiful, "rich" color picture. Here is the exact color. Blue-green gel (116, Medium Blue-Green).

color gels filters

I like this color, and I often use it in creating my pictures.

Realizing that the lighting setup should be divided into two groups (one, lit with neutral light, without gels, and second, lit with colored light, created with using colored gels). I started to build a lighting setup. As in all cases, first I started with a key light. I placed two large softboxes slightly behind the model from the both sides, directed towards the model and camera. This decision helped me to accomplish two goals: giving soft, beautiful light to the model, and leaving the background and front part of the model unlit. Look at this picture were I reconstructed the key light on the model. You see two thin lines of light on the both sides of the model.

color gels filters lighting setup model

This setup is very rare because I used two lighting sources to create the key light. In 99% of cases, using only one light works as a key light.

This part is very important, if I want to use color gels and vivid colors, I should leave front part of the model unlit. Otherwise it would be difficult to put visible, rich colors at that area.

Now itís time to add color gels to the lighting units. The first lighting unit is lighting the background, drawing a round color spot behind the modelís shoulders and head. To have a tight spot of light, I used a honeycomb grid over the zoom reflector (light modifier), and to make the edge of this lighting spot more feathered, not harsh, I put Half White 250 diffusion gel over this reflector. Plus a 116 Blue-Green gel.

color gels filters color gels filters

I usually keep a large distance between the model and background and can always find a space to place a light between the two. Take a look, the picture shows how it looks after using key and background light.

color gels filters lighting setup model

Now we put the light in front of model and here I need a soft light, the same as key light. We have to remember about the color. The best and the easiest way to get a soft color light is to use an umbrella. I took a large umbrella, put it on the lighting unit with a reflector and covered reflector with a color gel of standard size -12Ē(30cm) to 12Ē(30cm). Thatís it. You don't have to buy large pieces of gels, in most cases itís enough to have standard size. This umbrella is placed in front of the model, of course above eye level, and you can see that some part of the light comes not only to model, but also to background making corners of backgrounds lit by this lighting unit.

Look at the final picture!

color gels filters lighting setup model

Itís easy. I like it. How about you?

Good Luck!

color gels filters lighting setup model

Camera: Hasselblad H3DII
Lens: Hasselblad 4.0 210 mm
Aperture: f / 9
Shutter speed: 1/200 sec
ISO: 400