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Flash Filters the Inexpensive Way


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Flash Filters the Inexpensive Way

19 Aug 2021 9:22PM   Views : 525 Unique : 387

If you thought plain flash is boring, how about mixing things up a bit. There are flash filter kits out there but they can be quite pricey. Time to look at an alternative.

Using colour filters (or gels as they are referred to albeit they aren't actually gel as that's something you iuse in the shower but made from a sophisticated polymer composition) on your lighting is an option to expand your creativity. I'm going to talk about their use with camera flashguns rather than studio flash or LED units as they do require heat resistant material.


A blue filtered backlight

Back in the day when I got my first flashgun, a hammerhead Sunpak Autozoom 3600 hammerhead style unit (40 years ago this yea if I recall correctly) there were various accessories available. One such accessory was a set of coloured filters that snapped onto the front of the gun. As I was still at school and of limited means I never bought them, which was probably a good thing as I'd have ended up with images having strong colour casts. The effects would have worn thin I suspect, rather like that of some of the more outlandish filters from Cokin which were making heir appearance a the time.

Then ideas developed. I got interested in low light and night photography. Walsall council put on a superb display of illuminations in their Arboretum. Sadly they stopped doing so few years ago now. As well as themed sets and lighting displays, the buildings and trees were lit with coloured floodlights. I'd also come across the technique of light painting. Put those two together and I could use my flash off-camera to illuminate a scene, with light from different angles and with different colours. The image had to be created entirely in-camera, on a single piece of film, no blending of multiple frames in those days. And it worked.


Aliens have landed,oh yes

There was, however, a stumbling block. That was sourcing some colour filters. Remember, before the days of having the ability to search for all sorts of accessories and gadgets knowing where to go or what to ask for in a local camera shop was fraught with difficulty. Sure, if you wanted a fisheye converter or other such device that you'd use only once there were plenty of ads for those in the photo magazines.

Christmas was coming. I don't mean that was an opportunity to ask for a present. No-one in the family would have the slightest concept of what I was after, except perhaps my father who used to do photography. No, it was all to do with the ubiquitous tin of chocolates that everyone had at that time of year. More specifically the cellophane wrappings. I think perhaps you're with me now. There were numerous colours and densities which could be combined to create a wide variety of different filter effects. Much greater than any 'filter kit' you could get. When sealed together inside some clear plastic covering (Fablon was one brand name I recall, that was used to cover oir school exercise books) you had a durable and easy to use accessory. Using a rubber band to attach them to the flash head may be seen as Heath Robinson but was easy and secure.


Vampire tree (it is on the Shropshire border)

There are some filter kits available today, but with very few colours, and they are quite expensive. That's unfortunate, as sweet and chocolate wrappings have changed considerably. However, Lee Filters have a range of gels for studio lighting purposes under the Colour Magic name. I have a couple of sets of these, and while I can use them on studio flash units I can also cut off small pieces for use with camera based flashguns.

The Colour Magic sets have specific warming and cooling filters as well as stronger colours so effects can be subtle. While my cheap versions may provide a splash of colour, for example for background illumination, mood or effect I'm not after 'colour accuracy', though that's the point with strong colours. I still have and use those I made over 30 years ago. Subtle differences such as cool blue or soft orange are best handled with the appropriate Colour Magic set.


It may look crude but it sure works

Photography isn't all about the latest and expensive kit. Go back to basics, look at inexpensive solutions and make your photography fun!

[color=#aaf4a6][size=6]All text and images Keith Rowley 2021[/size][/color]

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Robert51 Avatar
Robert51 15 14 147 United Kingdom
21 Aug 2021 9:09AM
If I remember way back didn't a lot of good flashes come with varios coloured filters you just clipped on.
The first good flash I got was a The Vivitar 283, who thought you would need a manual for a flash. This
had load of of things that you could add to it. I still have it along with th bracket that you put a reflective
board on, Also the camera bracket as the weight would have ripped the hot shoe out of the camera.

Oh happy days...
dark_lord Avatar
dark_lord Plus
19 3.0k 836 England
21 Aug 2021 12:41PM

Quote:If I remember way back didn't a lot of good flashes come with varios coloured filters you just clipped on.

A few did, I think, most didn't or they were extra to buy.
That Vivitar is a classic.

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