Portrait Using Gels

Using gels and adjusting your camera’s white balance are a great way to inject some pop into your pics.

This is a quick 2 light portrait in Jakarta around 5.30pm. However, I wanted to recreate a moody night shot of my subject sitting on the vespa surrounded by harsh street lighting. So to achieve this, I simply played with my camera shutter speed, white balance and gels.

The main light is a Canon 580 EX II set high and to camera left. This creates a street lamp feel with light beaming down. However, if I set my white balance to 5,500k (As it was still daylight), the light would have been a dirty white as below.

Vespa Set Up-4
5,500k gives a messy white look to the image

So I dialled down my camera’s white balance to 3,100k. A lower colour temperature (Kelvin) cools things down and turns white light blue. It also gives a deeper black to shaded areas (See below).

Vespa Set Up-3
3,100k turns white light blue

I set a 2nd Canon 580 EX II on the ground to camera right but placed a full CTO gel on it to warm up the light and give a nice orange glow. Finally, I tweaked the 2 lights until I was happy with the balance.

Vespa Set Up-2
Corrugated shutters work well with the lighting

The directional but contrasty lighting set against the corrugated shutters really give the final image a moody street feel.

Vespa-Portrait
The final shot gives a harsh street lighting look with dramatic colour shifts

Exif: 1/200th, f5.6, iso 200, 3,100k shot using Canon 5d mk2, 24-70mm f2.8L II lens, 2 x Canon 580 EXII speelights + CTO gel

Playing with your camera’s white balance, shutter speed and colour gels really add creative lighting opportunities that can turn an ordinary image into something much more fun!

To see more of my work, visit my web esam hassanyeh

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