Flash gels play several important roles in photography. Gels can convert the colour temperature of your flash, helping you balance your flash’s output with any ambient light sources. Gels can reduce light output without impacting colour for times when even a low-power flash setting may be a bit too much for your subject or environment.
Gels can diffuse light (i.e. make it softer) or add a dash of colourful for creative effects to your scene, like dousing colour across a subject’s face or changing the colour of a grey background to purple.
There are an overwhelming variety of gels from various manufacturers in different cuts (strengths) together with a wide array of colours, resulting in an abundance of ways to gell your flash.
If you are new to using gels and there uses, I think following information will is a good starting point.
ND GELS Cut down on the amount of light emitted by your flash without changing colour temperature.
Great for: Subjects in dimly-lit areas when shooting with a wide-open aperture where even the lowest power flash setting might be too bright.
DIFFUSION GELS As the name suggests, diffusion gels take the concentrated burst of your flash and soften/spread it out. You can purchase diffusers based on light loss, measured in stops. Diffusers won’t typically be coloured, though some vendors sell diffusion gels that have slight colour casts to complement skin tones. Great for: Anything (even faces) with shiny surfaces that may produce glare. A wide-angle diffusion gel is also useful to push light out to the corners of your frame if you need more coverage.
CORRECTION GELS (PLUS GREEN, CTO, CTS, CTB) Corrective gels are sold in varying strengths measured in fractions, with full strength typically indicated with a “full” in the product name. You can add gels together to boost their strength, so if your ½ gel isn’t cutting it, you can add a ¼ on top of it and the combined ¾ could do the trick.
COLORED GELS Available in nearly every colour of the rainbow, these gels will transform your flash’s output into their colour. Most gel manufacturers make starter kits that bundle a selection of corrective gels and a few coloured gels; they’re an ideal place to start if you haven’t already stocked up. With coloured gels, there are no hard-and-fast rules. You’re free to experiment with their effects to your heart’s content. Or until your flash battery dies. Great for: Creative effects and adding more drama to your image.
CTO (COLOR TEMPERATURE ORANGE) Converts your flash’s daylight output to a warmer tungsten. Great for: Balancing ambient tungsten lights. It can also be used creatively to create a warm vibe to your photo.
CTS (COLOR TEMPERATURE STRAW, OR OFTEN JUST “STRAW”) Similar to a standard CTO gel but with a more yellowish hue. Great for: A nice alternative to standard CTO gels if those are giving your subject too much of an orange tint. Straw gels are ideal for warming skin tones.
PLUS GREEN Balances your flash output to match fluorescent lighting, which gives off a green cast.
Great for: Shooting in spaces with fluorescent lights. Note: The colour temperature of fluorescents continues to change so they’ll no longer throw out a putrid green cast on your subject. Best to first take a few test shots without a plus green gel under fluorescent lighting.
CTB (COLOR TEMPERATURE BLUE) Converts tungsten light to daylight, the opposite of a CTO gel. Great for: Creating a cooler, bluer tone to your image and corrects for tungsten ambient sources.
Which Is More Effective For Marketing As A Photographer? I decided to write this blog for two reasons. The first was to question my perceptions in relation to which is the most effective way to display my photography online and the second was to examine if I could make any improvements to make my marketing more effective. I am certainly no expert on marketing, I am meaerly sharing my thoughts and conclusions, bust most importantly I discovered an incredible WordPress plugin that may help you? As a photographer is a website still the best way to “sell” yourself to potential clients, or are the Social Media platforms more effective? Personally, I think having an online presence is the easiest way to display your photographic content and I think it’s expected in today’s technological age. Moreover, an online presence certainly provide a greater potential in relation to reach. In relation to a Social Media presence, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube all have their own templates into which you can place and display your content. However, it is worth paying close attention to their terms and conditions, they can and do regularly change their T&C’s, but I guess that’s the price you pay as their services seem to be free. You may have noticed recently advertisements encouraging you to pay to reach your target market audiences? How effective paying for this service is I don’t know, but the general social media feeds, incur no financial outlay and can be an effective way to market your work with a huge potential in terms of reach. An alternative to purely relying on social media is having your own website to display your work. Today it’s certainly a lot easier and affordable than it was five years ago to have a website, there are numerous options available for every budget and requirement you may have that provide far more control of how your content is displayed. So, is which is better, a web site or social media? Personally, I concluded that they all have elements to play in relation to what I am trying to achieve, I am still looking for a silver bullet, but I think anyone trying market their services and products themselves will always face the same challenges. I have bookmarked websites both well-known and less well known, but recently I started thinking about how did I find the less well-known websites in relation to the Google Search bar? If you really want to understand how the Google Search Bar works. Here is a link: https://computer.howstuffworks.com/internet/basics/google1.htm The simple answer is SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) which is a whole complex area in itself, but a useful to use when trying to learn how to optimize a website is GTMetrix.com I recently learned that GTMetrix can display a poor ranking if there are too many redirects for a URL to the landing page and after Googling how I could fix the redirects issue, although I was able to understand the problem, the solution in relation to changing some code still left me in the dark. The good news for people with no or limited coding skills is that there is a plugin that will identify and solve the redirect issue for you. The Avoider plugin, examines the redirects and then issues a suggestion for a solution. By simply clicking on it, the plugin makes the necessary settings in the .htaccess file – including backup of the existing file and the plugin itself is only 4kb in size. An Example of a redirect issue: If a visitor enters http://domainname.com in the browser, the visitor is redirected to httpS://domainname.com and finally lands on httpS://www.domainname.com. This double redirection is punished by numerous search engines and will affect your web page speed Prior to addressing the redirect issue of my website using Avoider plugin, using GTMetrix my Page Speed Score performance ranked at B 82% & my YSlow at B 86%. Since using the Avoider plugin and running GTMetrix to measure my websites performance, my Page Speed Score performance has now ranked at A 96% & my YSlow at A 93%. That’s certainly a big improvement and should also improve my SEO ratings. If you have website and have not already done so, it’s worth using GTMetrix to see how your site is performing and if you encounter any redirect issues and are not strong on coding, the Avoider plugin is worth a look. Avoider plugin link here: https://en-gb.wordpress.org/plugins/wp-avoider/ GTMetrix plugin link: https://gtmetrix.com
The Coronavirus is having an effect on everyone and everything so lots of people are finding themselves with more time on their hands, which could be a good or bad thing depending on one’s financial circumstances. Before the Covid19 crisis, distance and travel were not an issue, it is perhaps only now that we are missing the ability to where and when we desire. I personally am trying to keep my photographic brain active even if we are confined to our local area, although this has led to Fran & I discovering some beautiful local Green Lanes and making the most of our one form of exercise a day. I don’t always take a camera with me on these little escapes from the house, but I decided to revisit one of Green Lane we have discovered and take a flash, a Magbounce and a very small and portable light stand on the walk and take a few images whilst out walking keeping kit lighting kit as portable and light as possible. As my main focus of photography work is equestrian and lifestyle photography, I mainly use C Stands for my lighting, so keeping kit light and ultra-portable is not so important. I think the last wedding we photographed was about three years ago and used to bounce flash and or use a reflector. We had a wedding booked for July, but since the lockdown, this has now been cancelled. However, I had planned on using some very portable lighting kit during the wedding (Magbounce & Magsphere) as wedding are fast paced small and light becomes a priority. I have had some Magmod kit for a few years now and to be honest it rarely gets used, but I have never owned or used the Magbounce, so decided to give it a try prior to the wedding we did have booked before it was cancelled. I purchased the Magbounce just before the Coronavirus pandemic, as my intention was to spend the spring and early summer playing around with it and see what was possible with it, yes you can bounce light off of walls and ceilings, but I was curious as to what the Magbounce could do where there were no wall or ceilings, it was the portability that really appealed to me. As far a testing out the Magbounce out fully, it’s still early days, but for a really small portable lighting mod, so far, it’s growing on me. Will the Magbounce replace the lighting mods I use for equine and lifestyle off camera flash? No, it won’t, but I do intend on trying out some new ideas and for locations where there are no walls or ceilings and I want ultra-portability, this little lighting mod does have a lot of potential.
What will help you improve your flash photography?
If you type that very sentance into Google, the first thing that will no doubt be at the top of the page will be:
• Bounce the Light. • Diffuse Your Flash. • Make Use of Ambient Light. • Use Coloured Flash Gels. • Use TTL Technology. • Enable High-Speed Flash Sync. • Use More Than One Flash.
I think the first YouTube video is about bouncing light? Although Youtube’s videos are free, sifting through them to separate the good, from the bad and the commissioned can be a bit of a laborious task. What about books, which ones are worth reading? When it comes to books on lighting it can be just like YouTube, there are just so many on the subject of lighting.
So, which books will really help you improve your flash photography? The simple answer is if you rely on reading alone, none of them on their own. However, the old school book is still a good option combined with practice and watching videos. Personally, I don’t think anyone ever truly “masters” photographic lighting and although there are some very well know names out there that create incredible images using flash and make it look simple, even their photographic lighting technique continues to evolve.
Due to Covid 19, like most people I am stuck at home, so I thought I would share five of the books on lighting that either inspired me or taught me something about lighting. I think they are all fairly easy to read and understand and explain techniques very well. I am also using this lockdown time to play experiment, make mistakes with my lighting and try to improve it.
The below books are available as either eBook’s or PDF’s so as long as the internet continues working through the social distancing policy, you will be able to access them without the risk of spreading Covid 19.
My favourite time to take Horse Portraits is in the Autumn, I just think that the natural hues and tones are at their best, but I also think that creating dark & dramatic horse portraits can also be very rewarding visually.
As I use flash for all of my equine portrait photography, I have decided to write a blog about the equipment I use and share some of the reasons why I choose different equipment in relation to the equine images I enjoy creating.
I will start with a barn or large stable, as these are both locations that often work very well in relation to lighting. The ambient lighting in these environments is usually darker than outside, so the advantage you have is that flashes don’t have to work as hard in terms of competing with ambient light, it’s also far easier to kill the ambient light as it is already low and just light the areas you want to light with flash mainly the horse and owner
An example of a three-light setup in a barn. Two Godox AD200’s via AD-B1 in medium Octabox camera left. One boomed Godox AD200 with round head.
Depending on the time of day and location it is possible to kill the ambient light outside and create dark and dramatic horse portraits, but the two issues that are often challenging are having enough flash power and controlling the cameras sync speed. The image below was taken in the winter on a very grey day and the background behind the girl and horse were a tall hedge row of conifers, so I was able to start with a natural dark background, but I did have to use the equipment I had at full power. When I took this image, I had a Godox 360 and two Godox AD200’s, certainly not enough power for a full-length dark horse portrait, but enough power to create this image.
Although many flashes now have HSS High Speed Sync (shoot with flash above your cameras sync speed) you lose a lot of power and the flash have to work really hard, so although you may be able to shoot at 1/500th instead of 1/200th the amount of light loss may be too great to provide the amount of light you require for the image you are trying to create. You can use ND (neutral density filter) to reduce the ambient light, so that you can stay within your cameras sync speed, but you will lose flash power in relation the amount of stops of light the ND filter is reducing the ambient light by. HSS & ND use both have their places depending on your needs and conditions.
Hard Or Soft Light For Dark & Dramatic Horse Portraits?
If your amount of flash power is limited and you are struggling to kill the ambient light, you will benefit from using hard light and this is where reflectors and how you use them can really help, you will be surprised at how using different types of reflector can make your light more efficient.
Soft light has become the mainstay of most flash lit images these days, but if you are trying to kill the ambient using soft light, you are going to need a lot of power if the ambient light is challenging to control. Personally, I think both soft light and hard light can create stunning images, it’s really about your intention and the equipment you have or don’t have that can make the decision for you.
Once Coronavirus is no longer with us, I plan on making a video during my next Horse Portrait Shoot, showing the lighting modifier’s I use and the position in which I place the lights, so let’s hope I get the opportunity soon.
Soft, shadowless light has become the general direction that a lot of portrait photographers take, attaching fast lenses to their cameras, opening up the aperture as wide as their lenses will go, in order to blur everything behind the subject and I have been just as guilty of this technique myself.
I recently I watched Damien Lovegrove’s Lumen video that makes use of Godox Equipment and in particular, hard light. What really grabbed my attention apart from his images, was the limited amount of gear he used to produce images with so much impact, which got me thinking about embracing hard light, rather than steering clear of it.
I have been using Godox equipment with various softboxes and umbrellas for location shoots for just over three years now and although I am far from being a master of lighting, I am always looking to develop new skills and ideas in relation to lighting.
This weekend I decided to experiment with the Godox kit that I have and see what I could produce using hard light instead of using the light modifiers I normally use, so kindly Fran agreed to leaving her camera in her bag, so that I could experiment with hard light on her and stand around whilst I moved a light stand from one location to the next.
Godox AD200 with 5″ reflector
For much of the Lumen video, Damien uses 2 lights and two light stands, he does use a few lighting modifiers, but for the majority of the shoots that he walks through, he is using either 5” or 7” reflectors, so his kit is minimal. Apart from uniqueness of the hard-light images Damien produces, what really appeals to me is the simplicity and the reduction of the amount equipment he uses. Lighting modifier’s all have to be packed and carried to locations, so the idea of creating more edgy images with limited kit, is really appealing for numerous reasons. I also thought that learning to make use of hard light will also enable me to offer something different from my current equine work.
I am used to scouting out interesting backgrounds for horse portraits where I can make use of a shallow depth of field, but I decided to set myself a challenge, not to blur out backgrounds, so from the outset I would doing something different. Damien takes no longer than 10 minuets for the placement of his lights to create dramatic location portraits, which is down to a combination of his experience, knowledge and skills, but also his creativeness as a very talented photographer. However, it took me a little longer, “but hey, we all have to start somewhere in terms of learning”.
I think the first thing I experienced and learned is that the placement of your lighting with hard light is more critical than when I have used larger modifier’s and made use softer light. As I was not intending to blur the backgrounds, I thought I would try using different focal lengths and apertures to my normal 135mm to 200mm at f/2 to f/2.8, so the next thing I started noticing were textures and shadows, which I had up until experimenting with hard light overlooked.
There are numerous resources on the web that talk about soft and hard light, but when you start exploring and playing with soft and hard light, you start noticing many differences that you may have overlooked or even be aware of. By exploring and embracing the differences of hard and soft light, it is enabling me to further develop a better understanding of light and how it can be applied to create different types and styles of images. Playing with hard-light is rewarding and enjoyable no matter how many mistakes I make and I intend to keep practicing and learning.
Personally I think the Lumen video by Damien Lovegrove and his team provides more than just a look at how he creates images using hard light, it gets you to think about trying and doing things differently with light, and that’s what good education should do, inspire you to learn and try new things.
You can find out more about Damien Lovegrove and his training videos via the link below.