Color Gels are extremely effective tools to help you create unique and dynamic photographs, and have been around since the early days of film photography. The two most common reasons why you would want to use color gels with your flash are for balancing color temperature, or adding color for creative effect. MagMod offers two different sets of color gels for each of the reasons above. The first set are the 8 standard MagMod Correction Gels included with each MagGel Kit purchase. These 8 color gels are primarily used for balancing color temperature. Our second set of color gels, the MagMod Creative Gel Set, can be purchased as a stand-alone product.
Balancing Color Temperature
Photography is the art of capturing light. It literally means “drawing with light”, taken from the Greek words “photos”, which means light, and “graphé”, which means drawing. We all know that light can present itself many different qualities such as color, hue, density, and temperature. We can’t always control 100% of the light around us, but we can change the color of our flash to balance the ambient, or surrounding environment color temperature.
The color temperature of almost all hot-shoe flashes is generally 5500° Kelvin, which is very similar to the color temperature of daylight. Since we will often find ourselves using sunlight in our photographs, flash manufactures decided long ago to make our flash color temperature match what we see in sunlight. This is useful when photographing portraits outdoors and we need to add flash to create a specific lighting pattern, but don’t want our flash to look any different than what the sun may be producing.
So why do we need gels? Gels are used when we want to balance the color temperature of our flash (5500°K) to be used in an environment where the predominant light source is not sunlight. The above graphic illustrates a variety of common color temperatures, shown on the Kelvin color temperature scale.
Even though most interior lights are moving towards a daylight balanced color temperature, often times we will be photographing in reception halls, commercial buildings, or even in our own homes which may not share the same color temperature as our flash. Most interior light sources are generally one of two types of light sources: tungsten based light bulbs, or fluorescent tubes. Both of these light sources have very different hues and color temperatures. Most tungsten light bulbs emit a color temperature of 2800°K, which is much warmer than our flash. Using a flash in a room with a predominant warm tone will make your subject or surroundings look very cool. In effect, it doesn’t look right as it looks unnatural. If you try and color correct the same photograph, you can color correct for the subject, but the surrounding color temperature will also get warmer, making the room look much warmer than it really was. Color balancing your flash is all about making the scene look as natural and even as possible.
You can balance for interior incandescent light bulbs, or sunset, by using a warming gel, like 1/4 CTO, 1/2 CTO, or Full CTO (color temperature orange). This will “warm” up your flash color temperature to balance the color temperature of the sunset, or interior light bulbs. Each gel has a different intensity of warmth, and you will use either one, or a combination of two or more to suite your needs.
Another common situation where you need to balance your flash is when photographing under fluorescent light sources. These lights are warmer, in the 3800°K range, but also have a green tint to them. Using a bare flash under these lighting conditions will turn the walls green, and your subject balanced. This might be the effect you want, but you can eliminate the green surrounding areas by changing your flash to match the fluorescent lights by using a 1/2 Plusgreen gel.
Also included in the MagGel Kit as part of our standard 8 color correction gels are the following gels:
• 1/2 CTB (color temperature blue, or cooling). These gels would be commonly used to “cool” tungsten light sources to make them more white, but since our flash is not a tungsten color temperature, but daylight balanced, this gel can be used more as a special effect. If you’re shooting during sunset, and you had a 1/2 CTB gel on your flash to light your subject, this will make your subject cool. But later in post-production, you can alter the white balance so that your subject is now daylight balanced, and the environment will be pushed warmer, making your sunsets even more dramatic.
• 1/2 Straw. This is very similar to 1/2 CTO in that it is a warming gel, but 1/2 Straw has a tad bit more yellow hue in it which is best used for warming people and skin tones. Sometimes a 1/2 CTO can be too orange, making it harder to later properly white balance in post production. The 1/2 Straw will make skin tones appear a bit more natural, without as much orange hue.
• 3x Neutral Density. A neutral density gel is the same as what would be used for landscape photography when you want to reduce the amount of light reaching your sensor without any color bias. A 3x Neutral Density gel will reduce the light output of your flash by 3 stops. This is helpful when you want reduce the power output below the minimum output your flash is capable of, allowing you decrease the effect of your flash when using large apertures. This would be necessary when attempting to shoot indoors in dark environments where the minimum power setting is still too bright, like at a wedding reception or other event photography situations.
• White Opal Frost. This is a special gel designed specifically to diffuse light without significantly reducing light output. Diffused light will reduce contrast, minimize specular highlights, and help soften the harshness of direct flash output.
The MagGel Holder allows you to hold 3 different gels at once, allowing you to change the color temperature (1/2 CTO), reduce light output (3x Neutral Density), and diffuse the light (White Opal Frost) all at once. No other flash gel system is as flexible and customizable as the MagMod MagGel!
Creative Flash Colors
Sometimes you want to intentionally alter the color and hue of your flash for dramatic effect. There are really no rules that apply when changing your flash color, you are only limited by your creativity. The MagMod Creative Gel Set includes 8 different colors, including Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Cyan, Magenta, Purple. Use one gel or multiple at a time to change your flash color. Experiment with different scenes and situations and unleash a new set of photography skills!
Photographer Jason Q Tran demonstrates an awesome technique using the MagMod Creative Gels by contrasting the blue and red colors with this couple.
More Resources and Training
If you need training on how to get the most out of color correction gels, please check out some of the few articles below:
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Gels are gels. These gels are nice because they’re firm and thick, so they will survive the day, from day to day, unlike the thin sheets that are cheap that you can cut (which is what I typically do!). These gels fit into the Mag system nicely. I was able to slit in my 1/4th CTO gel into the MagSphere without fiddling around in the field and it was comfortable and easy to do it. The other gels are useful for creative stuff (blue skies for example), but I mainly use the CTO’s for blending natural ambient late evening light here in Florida. They do the job. They fit into the Mag modifiers (all of them). And they’re durable, I put one in my pocket and sat on it all day and it’s still good to go and still has it’s form.
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0 of 0 People found this review helpful
The gels themselves are great. But I would like to see the name labels on them. There is enough clearance on the edges for a label. It’s difficult sometimes telling which filter is which and holding them side by side to figure out is a bit of a nuisance. A sticker would do. Please consider it.
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11 of 11 People found this review helpful
Great gel set. The CTO options make mixing flash with tungsten light a breeze, and the other gels allow you to get a bit creative with your flash usage.
These are well-made and have not let me down.
I suggest getting the Creative Gels set as well to expand upon what you can achieve with the MagGel. The wallet is also a great way of carrying around your gels!
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2 of 2 People found this review helpful
The gel kit was exactly the thing I needed to get me to being creative out of the box once again. I like to experiment now with the cto 1/4 or 1/2 straw to save me precious post editing time when the ambient lighting levels don’t quite match to what my aim is.
Although it’s hard to put an exact amount of how much time is saved in post, I’m delighted to see the more accurate colours & skin tones to what I’ve envisioned in person.
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1 of 1 People found this review helpful
These are great gels to add to your flash.
I’ve used it plenty of times to make sure my flash matches the ambient lights in the room.
Another plus is that you can stack multiple together if you feel like one gel by itself isn’t matching correctly.