Tips for Using Colored Gels on Lights

Author: David W Sussman

I often wonder why more photographers don’t use colored lights for photography. The movie industry has used this technique for many years to give subtle to dramatic effects. The gels I most use are blue and an orange or amber colored gel. Not only are they complimentary colors to each other but simulates natural and man-made lighting we see every night.


One of my favorite and simple uses is to take a blue gel light and bounce it off a white ceiling flooding a room with saturate fill. I then use a spot grid to project a warm beam onto a subject. To enhance the effect gel this spot light with an amber colored gel and instant mood is created.

Play Chess

While working with colored lights try experimenting. Sometimes I like to use the amber light as the fill and blue light for the spot. Go even a step farther and use a spot light with amber gel, white fill and against a black seamless background streak a gel blue spotlight. Why not use just two colored spots in the studio. One to light half a book yellow and the other half blue.


Does it always have to be blue and amber? What makes steel look hot and cold? Well blue and red.


The examples are endless. Just remember to have fun, experiment and yes when watching a movie what are colored light effects, open your minds eye and see.


What are spot grids? It’s a honey comb filter that helps control light in a beam to isolate areas much like a flash light effect. Most studio light manufactures make these attachments for their products. What about colored gels? I buy mine from B&H. They are a polyester gel 12×12 inches and come in an assorted package. Just trace your light shade and cut to size.

Submitted by David W Sussman
Panama City, Florida

See also: Photography Tips

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