Using Gels to Light Background

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by 45mphK9, Sep 8, 2009.

  1. 45mphK9
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    45mphK9 New Member

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    I am needing advice on using gels to create different backgrounds. I understand that black or dark grey works the best. Is it best to use seamless paper? Would it work on the muslin backdrops? I envision that it might look cool with the crinkle looking muslin backdrop (I'm okay with that kind of wrinkle). Any opinions?

    Also, I am using strobe lights. I can find all kinds of info on using gels with flashes, but not much on strobes. Any advice there?

    I will be using this in my new studio. However, the first use will be at a preschool shooting "school" pics. Is there a way to set up the strobe so that I can change the gels quickly?

    PS. Anyone thinking of shooting preschool pics should think twice on how sane they are! ;)
  2. Big Mike
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    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member

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    You can use gels to light anything. Sometimes you use them to add color, sometimes you use them to balance your lights with an existing light.

    (by strobe, do you mean studio lights?)

    Pretty much the same. You put the gel in front of the light...although, you will need a much larger sheet to cover a studio light than a hot-shoe flash unit. Also, you have to be careful about heat. You don't want to melt you gels.

    There are many ways to attach the gel to the light. If you have a typical reflector dish, you can just clip the sheet to the edge of it. Also, many light companies have accessories that allow you to slide the sheet right in. Or, if you have gels that are mounted, they can go right into the proper holder.
  3. Derrel
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    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    One bit of advice is that dark, charcoal gray eamless paper or muslin works quite well with a gelled backlight. Black paper also works well, and tends to create a darker, more-saturated looking background color at the same,exact watt-second output.

    One danger is having excessive bounce-back of gelled lighting hitting the neck and hair areas of the subject,which is worse on paper than it is on muslin or canvas backgrounds; paper tends to reflect the light a bit more than fabric. Shooting a gel onto a light gray background can cause a pretty fair amount of blowback lighting or "wrap" on your subject. To minimize the chance of that,try using a reasonably low power output on the background light,especially if using light-colored gels in the pink or yellow families--those blow back very easily!

    Black seamless paper works very well with darker hued gels like purple, blue,and red. Interestingly, I have some purple-looking gels that, on digital, produce a very deep BLUE color in the final result, but looking at the gel in regular light, it looks purple to my eyes.

    You can try angling the backlight upward at 30-40 degrees, which will produce a graduated color backdrop,lighter in the middle, darker at the top and top corners of the frame. A pink gel fired onto a brown Old Masters canvas can look nice too.
  4. 45mphK9
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    45mphK9 New Member

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    Yep. Sorry, I do mean studio lights.

    Have you ever used gels on the wrinkle kind of muslin?

    Derrel, I think I read a post where you indicated that you've done school type pics? If so, how important is it that I offer a variety of background choices? I was thinking of getting a background with blues & browns, but if I could get something like black that I might actually use more -- then I'm all for that. I just don't want to use black as the background for preschoolers.

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