Colour. Just because.

That is often my answer when someone asks “why did you use those gels in that picture?. “Because I could”., “Why not”.  And you start adding colour here, there and everywhere. Consider this:

(100 ISO, 1/20 sec, f/16, 24-105 f/4 lens).

Private student Tim made the picture yesterday. And I put the yellow gelled flash inside the car why, exactly? Because otherwise it would be dark. A little colour adds a lot: think matching, or opposite, colours. Deep blue skies go well with yellow: blue and yellow, like red and green, or green and purple, constitute one of nature’s favourite combos.

And it’s so simple, with a Honlphoto gel:

Just strap it onto the speed strap and bingo. (If you do the Honl photo modifiers thing, go and don’t forget code word “Willems” at the end to get another 10% off. Look at the kits: they rock, especially the last one).

I use gelled speedlights to:

  • Add opposites to relieve boredom
  • Warm up cold subjects (half CTO gel does wonders)
  • Get creative
  • Add a little red to skin in low key portraits
  • Correct colour when shooting in tungsten ambient light
  • Turn backgrounds blue

…and so on. Once you get into the habit, you’ll see how good your photography gets. Speedlights, and easy-to-use, sturdy gels, make all this not just possible. They make it convenient and affordable, too.

This site is called the speedlighter for a reason: speedlights unlock the potential. Just get another flash or two, get some gels and other modifiers, and get creative.



In yesterday’s shoot with Vanessa Scott in Timmins, Ontario, I used gels to recreate the sunlight that was fast fading below the hills. All shot with Canon’s amazing 85mm f/1.2 len.

(1/200th, f/4, ISO100)

Vanessa looks like she is in that light, because I put a CTO (Colour Temperature Orange) gel by Honlphoto on the main flash, like so:

You will see also that I am using a second flash, fitted with a grid, for the hair light. Two flashes driven by Pocketwizards—that’s all.

One more from this amazingly versatile young woman:

1/60, f/5, ISO100 — I had to adjust for fading light

Again, the flash allows me to offset the subject against the background, which I keep dark. Without the flash, I would lose the nice colour and I would have to make everything, including that background, very bright.

And that’s how the cookie crumbles.


Studio Tip

Look at these photos from yesterday’s studio lighting workshop to see how light makes a picture different.

Here’s Roxy with one gridded flash on the left, giving us split lighting; and one gridded and rust-colour gelled flash aimed at the background. Both are speedlights driven by Pocketwizards and set to manual power. The image is a little desaturated; otherwise SOOC (“straight out of camera”).

Here. a softbox on our right (s small Honl photo softbox), and the same background light. Just two flashes!

Now let’s turn off the softbox flash:

Now kets’ light up the background more, to get wraparound lighting:

And back to normal, but now with an additional snooted flash for rim lighting on our left:

Here’s two of those flashes visible. Note also the reflection: a plexiglass sheet she is standing on. Note, I “Lightroomed” out the edges of that plexiglass, which took only seconds. Otherwise, like all, SOOC.

Can you see how each shot looks different depending just on light? It behooves you to learn about light, it really does, since with light you can translate a vision into reality. That’s what this is about!


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Challenging Shots

Some shots can be a little tricky. Like this one, from Sunday’s shoot:

Tricky why? Because the model is jumping, making it hard to focus.

The solution? You could try AF-C/AI-Servo, i.e. continuous focus. But often in these cases a better solution is this (and that is what I did): pre-focus, then hold that focus while he jumps. So I had the model stand where he would be when I take the shot; then focused there and held that focus while he moved back and jumped; then I shot when he was once again in the same place.

Why is he not blurry? Because he is substantially lit by the flash, which fires faster than 1/1000th second.

Another, different challenge was presented by this shot:

Why? Because the original plan was to light the aquarium in part from behind. But I was shooting TTL, and guess what? I found out on Sunday that the light-driven TTL does not work through an aquarium. Fancy that. You learn something new every day, even when you have been doing it forever.

The solution was to light it from the sides instead, after removing the aquarium side doors. Sometimes you just have to change your plans a little bit!

Enjoy your speedlighting, everyone. I am off to sleep – finally, at 3AM.

Quick portrait

Prior to a class the other day, I decided to do a very quick self portrait or two. Let me share, and explain how.

How? This is how:

  1. A 1D camera with a 580EX flash on it – with that flash used as a master, and disabled otherwise, so it only drives additional flashes.
  2. The camera set to manual, 1/125th sec, f/5.6, 400 ISO.
  3. An additional flash A on our left: a 430EX on a light stand, with a HonlPhoto grid to avoid the light spilling onto the wall.
  4. An additional flash B on our left: a 430EX on its little foot, equipped with a HonlPhoto gel.
  5. A 1:1 ratio of A:B flashes.
  6. The camera set to choose its own focus point for once, since I am holding it myself!
  7. The camera in my outstretched arm, tilted for diagonal line effect.

Not bad eh?

Finally, one more with a different gel on the background flash: egg yolk yellow, my favourite colour.

Total time taken: Maybe two, three minutes.