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Utilising coloured gels

Utilising coloured gels - Join Damian McGillicuddy for part one of his photography article series for ePz.

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Portraits and People

Words and images by Damian McGillicuddy.

It's been a great privilege to be ask to write articles for ePHOTOzine and I’ll do my best to both educate and entertain. So lets kick off the articles with a quick insight into utilising coloured gels by creating a beautiful, apparently sunset lit, fashionable portrait with the bare minimum of kit.

I’m a great believer in minimum kit maximum effect, well I am getting old and the less to carry the better. I’m also a huge believer in the fact that its the photographer that creates and makes the image... not the kit!

Utilising coloured gels on fashion shoots

I captured the image on Nikons marvelous D700 twined with their equally fantastic 24-70mm f/2.8, a very capable and versatile combination.

The illumination was supplied courtesy of two Nissin Di866 speedlights. Now these babies are my little secret. They are an absolute doodle to use, the menu is so simple even I can navigate it, and everything is there right at your finger tips. Plenty of power, these are the most powerful hot-shoe guns in the world and frankly they have 99% of the functionality of the camera manufacturers own units but at about 2/3’s the cost... why wouldn’t you use them!

The “key” or main light was shot through my own personal favorite modifier, the www.damianmcgillicuddy.com collapsable beauty dish and the second light was teamed with the bare bulb enhancer from the www.damianmcgillicuddy.com portaflex kit.

The Nissin’s were triggered with Elinchroms universal skyport and metering was taken care of courtesy of a hand held unit metering both flash and ambient light in the incident mode... in MY opinion the only sensible mode!

Utilising coloured gels on fashion shoots - behind the scenes

OK, so we want to create an effect and colours that aren’t really there, its nowhere near as hard as it sounds at first, but before we look into the “mystical” lets look at the overall image aesthetics.

As you can see the scale and design of the location (Oddfellows, Chester - one of the locations we use on our training days and workshops) is very grand and linear in its design. In other words absolutely ideal to use as a contrast against the curves and beauty of the elegant female form, the extreme crop only goes to emphasize these points.
Words and images by Damian McGillicuddy.

I decided to photograph the subject in profile to further enhance the contrast of curve and form against the graphic linearity of the environment, every angle and subject line has been “molded” to curve and flow in contrast to the environment. Now the best way to light a profile is to place the “key” light behind the subject and allow the feathered edge of the light to skim over the form of the mask of the face, a virtual back or rim light in effect.

Now you will see lighting placement very easily from the “behind the scenes” image. This particular image was shot at our resent “Bridal boudoir. portrait and fashion” event, live and in front of delegates, literally in a matter of minuets. I’m passionate about passing on the truth that good photography need not be equipment or effort specific, there are just right ways to do things!

The second light with the bare bulb enhancer place to camera left is doing two things for us. Firstly it is acting as our fill light and allowing us to control the depth and density of the shadow on our subject and the location, its approx EV-2 7/10’s to the key. To mimic the sunset light we are after we have to keep the ratio quite high to sell the fib that it was sunny. The easiest and most expedient way of making the ratios work for you is to decide what your after and then meter the lights accordingly. Of course your shutter speed selection will influence how much of the natural ambient light present is recorded and the speeds can be “walked” up and down to taste.

This is my preferred way of working and over many years of doing high level shoots have not found a more accurate and straightforward way of working. Automation is all well and good as long as it doesn't remove you, the creative artist, from any of the important imaging decisions.

Now the “mystical” bit! Our fill light was un gelled, where our key light was covered with a “cut and a half” of CTO (colour temperature orange - a gel used to modify, in this case warm, light). That means that the wash of “clean” white light from the fill can be used to reduce the “tango” effect from the key. All very obvious and straight forward once explained.

The zoom was set at the 70mm end to make use of the slight compression of perspective and a moderately shallow depth of field was selected, f5.6, to make use of isolating the subject as the primary focal point against ever increasing areas of milky out of focus gorgeousness... job done!

Simple, straight forward and easy to replicate, simple when your shown how. I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed reading this mini article as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing it with you.

Until next time.

Damian McGillicuddy.

You've read the article, now go take some fantastic images. You can then upload the pictures, plus any advice and suggestions you have into the dedicated Photo Month forum for everyone at ePHOTOzine to enjoy.

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