3 Simple Gel Tips That Make a Big Impact

2018 is the year you master off-camera flash and one of its fundamentals: gels.

Allow us to introduce you to our pal, Carsten Schertzer. He's ready to help you reach that goal by sharing three gel tips every flash photographer should have in their back pocket.

Gels are a major focus of Carsten's MagMod-centric Illuminar workshop series. If you're unsure how to choose the right gel or use them to create dramatic effects, he'll have you rockin' them in no time. Learning how to modify the color of  off-camera flash will open a world of opportunity and inspire your creativity to new levels.

Tip #1: Use Your Camera's White Balance Creatively

Orange and blue are complementary colors, meaning that they're opposite each other on a color wheel. When you put 'em next to each other, they create strong contrast. Carsten knew that, and he used the concept of complementary colors to create serious drama in this image.

Carsten crafted this image using the MagGel and an Orange Creative Gel. The couple was holding the flash, pointing it at the wall behind them. He adjusted his camera's white balance to 3200K to achieve a brilliant blue sky and add color to the grey metal wall on the left side of the frame. (White balance got you like, "huh?!" Check out our video: MagMod Gel Training: Easy Techniques for Correcting & Enhancing Light.)

Invest a little time learning your camera's settings and experimenting with modifiers, and you'll be able to rock this same idea on auto-pilot anytime.

Here's a diagram showing the gelled flash and its position relative to the couple and Carsten's camera:


Tip #2: A Touch of Color Goes a Long Way  

There's a bazillion ways to use gels to add a storytelling element to your images.  In this image, a red gel creates an emotional connection.

For the bride and groom portrait below, Carsten used a MagGrid as the key light on the couple. Then he added a red Creative Gel pointed at the staircase on the right to create more interest, provide a contrast in colors, and enhance the romantic mood.

Red is the color of love, and Cartsen's using that to his creative advantage. It's a small, but effective touch that elevates this photo.

 Here's how he set up the shot:


Tip #3: Make an Ordinary Setting Magical

In the previous photo, the red gel highlighted a staircase. But what about when you'd rather hide or camouflage a setting that's kinda plain jane? Got ya covered.

Carsten used two flashes to create this next image, transforming a relatively boring backdrop into something unique and eye-catching. To project the blue starburst pattern on the exterior of the building, he aimed one flash at the wall outfitted with a MagBeam, MagMask (Pattern 2) and a Blue Creative Gel.

He used another flash to create the silhouette behind the couple. The couple is holding the flash, which is modified with a MagGel and Orange Creative Gel, and aiming it at the shorter wall behind them in the foreground.

How many times have you found yourself needing to photograph clients in a space that's either totally mundane or unattractive? Consider how using this technique can help you add interest to even the ugliest location.

 Here's a simpler look at the set up:

Take Your Photography to the Next Level

Want more practice with these techniques? This winter, you can catch one of Carsten's MagMod-centric Illuminar workshops. Designed to be comprehensive, the workshops cover everything from the very basics to advanced techniques. Carsten will be revealing his 10 go-to flash techniques to teach you how to take epic images anytime, anywhere--and in any light.

 Here's what you'll learn in one of Carsten's 6-hour workshops:

  • How to use high-speed sync to gain full control over ambient & artificial light
  • How to use in-camera multiple exposures to create unique & stunning images
  • How to make amazing silhouettes in 5 minutes or less
  • How to use off camera flash to create awesome reflection images

Workshop locations & dates:

London March 23, 2018

New York City April 19, 2018

Rome TBD

Sydney TBD

To register: https://iluminar.iluminastudios.com/

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