Rosco Lighting Gels in the Studio

Colour correction and colour effect (FX) gels have to one of the most underused tools in the photographers tool box, whether working in the studio or on location.

In the studio most photographers use coloured gels to light backgrounds, but what about the subject? Many proponents of off camera flash and Strobist style lighting seem to use the paler cuts of CTO (Colour Temperature Orange) gels such as Rosco Cinegel #3408 1/2 CTO, #3409 1/4 CTO and #3410 1/8 CTO. All of these for my taste are too red, so I either use CTS (Colour Temperature Straw) #3441 for daylight to tungsten/incandescent correction. For warming northern hemisphere pale flesh tones  Rosco Cinelux #02 Bastard Amber or the more subtle #302 Pale Bastard Amber.

Rosco Cinelux swatch showing
#302 Pale Bastard Amber and #02 Bastard Amber

Click on image to view larger

As you can see in the above dyptic on the left, Jamie's skin tone isn't his normal summer tan. But then with the summer we've just experienced in the UK I'm not surprised! On the right you can see the effect of adding a Rosco #02 Bastard Amber warming gel in front of the flash tube.

The background for the above images was white cyc paper lit only by the light spill from the key light, a large silver PLM brolly with a Canon 550 EX Speedlite set to 24mm to camera right, feathered so only the edge lit Jamie. 

When working with coloured gels, I try and shoot a control image without the gel, either for the just in case scenario where you need an alternative, or as a reference comparison as above.

You can also introduce gels to change the mood and atmosphere of an image. Most will go straight to a coloured primary or secondary colour for the background, but few will think about using a cinematographers lighting FX gel such as Rosco Cinelux #3152 Urban Vapor. This gel is designed to simulate the colour of sodium vapour street lights without the horrid green content to the light.

Rosco Cinelux #3152 Urban Vapor gel

Creativity with 3 small flash units in the studio.

Here I've used Rosco Cinelux #02 bastard Amber on the key light, which incidentally was a DIY homemade beauty dish. The accent back 3/4 light was a strip light made from a 3" diameter card postal tube lined with Rosco Cinegel reflection material #3830 Spun Silver (bright side) and diffused with #3030 full Grid Cloth, a diffusion material not dissimilar to that used to diffuse soft boxes.

The background was lit with a single Speedlite zoomed to 105 mm, single cut of Rosco #3152 Urban Vapor held in place with a Gel Clip and snooted with Rosco Photo Foil (aka black wrap) to give the shape and effect of a street light. Do remember with gels that the more light you push through them, the paler they'll appear. Here the light was close to the white background paper as I wanted a hotspot that faded off. I was able to achieve this as Rosco's Photo Foil can be moulded to shape, and in this case an opening left to spill light onto the background giving the hot spot.

You don't need complicated gear to get some great effects in camera - just previsualisation, planning and some relatively inexpensive kit. In my experience, the cost of a camera and lens can far outweigh the cost of lighting kit. All it takes is practice and imagination to create some great images.

You can learn more about Rosco's vapor gels in use here with Joel Svendsen.


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