Testing Gels in the Studio with Kate

One thing I have lost touch with over the last couple years was the willingness to be creative with my work. More specifically experimenting with new techniques in lighting to push my creative output. When I first started my career I was non stop test shooting because I was learning and to be frank I had nothing to speak for when it came to my portfolio. Slowly but surely I built up the work and was ultimately pushed into the direction of corporate headshots and lifestyle work. While it has kept me busy over the years, it really consumed a lot of my time I could have dedicated to bettering my craft. So over the last couple months I have really pushed back on taking on smaller jobs to spend more time in the studio to push my skill in lighting and will jumping on a couple personal projects to refine my skills of shooting on location.

As for working in the studio, I have always wanted to incorporate gels in my headshots and portraits so I had my intern Kate come over to work on shooting my gels. While I am limited with space we have, I think we were able to nail down the look I was going for.

For this test, I really wanted to dial in getting the backdrop the right gradient and vibrancy with my gels. After watching this shooting with gels tutorial by Lindsay Adler, I went ahead and created my own setup. Similar to Lindsays tutorial, this is a three light setup with one modification. Instead of an optical spot light I went with a gridded octabox as the key, but kept the rest the same with a diffused white umbrella boomed behind my subject facing down to the ground, and finally a strobe sitting on the ground with a 7″ reflector pointing at an angle towards the backdrop. The biggest key to gels is making sure all your lights don’t bleed into each other, especially your key light. So there is two ways to make it work. Either you have to put your gelled lights far away from your subject and keylight or the keylight needs to be very controlled. So this is why I went a gridded octabox and made sure it was feathered off to the right of the subject so as to avoid hitting the backdrop as much as possible. Additionally, I flagged off the top of the octabox for added control.

Once I had it all dialed in, I got a little more experimental and shot through an extra red gel sheet I had lying around to frame her face. A couple items to mentioned about shooting through the gel sheets. One, because they are plastic, they pick up reflections very easily. So if you have lights on in the room or if you stand in front of your strobe, you can pick up some reflections which can create some cool effects. Two, hold the gel as close to the lens as possible to get the nice soft gradient lines you see below.

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