Using Gel Filters & Speedlights for Outdoor Portraits

1/200 sec at f/14 and ISO 200

A digital SLR’s Tungsten color balance setting is amazingly useful; it’s like loading a film camera with Tungsten-balanced color slide film. It’s useful when shooting under living room incandescent lamps but you can also use it outdoors with a filtered flash to create a special effect.

One of my favorite techniques for using the Tungsten setting is for portraits. This portrait was made on a movie set in Phoenix. The camera was in Tungsten mode, which accounts for the extra blueness of the sky and cool background but an orange (85A) Rosco gel was placed over the Canon 420EX speedlite to keep the subject color correct. This technique takes some practice and success ultimately depends on the flash’s power output and how “correct” the gel is to get a specific effect.

What’s the best way to attach a gel to a speedlight for this or any other lighting technique? While you can always duct tape’em on, there a better way: The LumiQuest FXtra is a compact gel holder that makes it easy to use colored gels on your flash. Eight Rosco gels are included in the integrated storage pouch: CTO, 1⁄2 CTO, 1⁄4 CTO, Plus Green, 1⁄2 Plus Green, Sky Blue, Canary Yellow, and Fire Red. FXtra is sized to use with most speedlights and the gel pocket accommodates the Strobist collection and both Rosco and Lee gel samples.

Any LumiQuest accessory can be attached to the speedlight while the FXtra is in place allowing you to colorize the light while using a variety of light modifiers. The LumiQuest FXtra costs $18.95 but if you already have a bunch of gels, a holder is only $11.50.

Author: Joe Farace

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