Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fun With Gels

For portraits, the photographer is often presented with a drab or at least colorless backdrop. One way to liven up the shot is by using a gel on a speed light or strobe. It is particularly easy using a speed light. All you need is a little strip of gel taped to the speed light to make it happen.

In the first shot of Model Michelle Cisneros, I posed her in front of a grey roll-up door at a warehouse. I balanced the main lights using an Alien Bees A800 strobe with an Octobox on Michelle’s right. To fill in the shadows and add a catch light I used an Alien Bees Ring Flash on the camera. Finally, I placed a Lumipro LP160 speed light on the ground pointing up at the door. I used a deep blue gel taped over the light. You can see the dramatic effect of the blue as the door appears to glow.
In the second shot of model Kill Joy, I used a very similar approach. The dramatic red light was shined on a concrete wall. I aimed the light a little higher and placed it close to the wall so that the main part of the light was behind her dark skirt. In this photo I used an Alien Bees A800 with a 20% grid for the key light on her face. I wanted big fall-off so that the lower part of her body would be almost a silhouette against the bright red. Finally I used a LP160 handheld just above the lens of the camera to give just enough definition in the shadow.
The final photo gets a little more complicated. When Boo Yao showed up at the shoot, she sported magenta hair and a green dress, those complementary colors begged to be exploited. The shot was in an abandoned munitions depot. I lit Boo with the same Alien Bees A800 with a 20% grid for the key light on her face. I used a 580EXII speed light handheld for fill. The LP160 with magenta gel was placed on a stand to the camera’s right and pointed forward to provide a rim light and light the floor behind the green dress. The second LP160 was given a green gel and point to the back wall so that the green light was behind the magenta hair. The resulting double-decker complementary color combo pops.