Flash Photography – How to Use Color Temperature Gels

If you’re about to jump into flash photography, you might have noticed that other flash photographers stick something on the flash head of their external flash devices. These are called color temperature gels, and they produce marvelous effects in your images. However, it doesn’t mean that you’re just going to stick a colored gel onto your flash gun and it will immediately result in a great picture. In fact, doing so without knowing how to properly shoot an image with the colored gel can result in disastrous results. Read on how to use these color temperature gels properly so that you can get really amazing pictures out of them.

Flash Photography - How to Use Color Temperature Gels

Using Color Temperature Gels for Flash Photography

Step 1 If you’re going to shoot outdoors, make sure that you’re going to do flash photography with the colored gels around 20-minutes after sunset. This is when the sky will have a slight mix of orange but a whole lot of blues in them. On your camera, go for the widest possible aperture as possible and take a test shot of your model. Take note of the shutter speed that you’re using. Go back to full Manual mode and dial in the same settings as to when you took the test shot using an automatic mode. When you’re back in Manual mode, reduce the shutter speed by just one step to underexpose the image.

Step 2 – Put the color temperature gel on the flashgun and affix the external flash device onto a light stand. Apply a diffuser of some sort on it as well, if you have. If you have a wireless flash trigger and receiver setup, then use them for the shoot. Otherwise, you can place the external flash into slave mode, so when your popup flash from your camera will fire, it will fire off the light from the external flash gun as well.

Step 3 –  When doing flash photography with colored gels, especially when you’re doing portrait photography, make sure to give it a bit of a height, just slightly above the height of your model. This way, it will add a dramatic effect to your shot, instead of the flash firing head on to your subject’s face.

Step 4 – Lastly, play around with the white balance settings on your camera when doing flash photography with these gels. This is when disaster can strike because if you don’t have the right white balance setting, the colors will be incorrect. For example, if you have an orange gel on your flash, then the entire photo can come out really orange, including your subject.


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