4 Ways to Add Color to Shadows Using Gels

Are you stumped on how to add some creativity to your portraits? The Slanted Lens demonstrates how Jay P Morgan includes gels in his photography work to add color to the shadows. This is a highly effective tactic that can add powerful atmosphere and tone to your work, depending on your arrangement of lighting and color displacement:

The model that Morgan worked with was sitting in a position that cast a heavy shadow across the side of her face. The intense shadows create your dark area of focus.

1. Gel on White Board

Morgan took a piece of foam core white board and applied the gel as his fill card.

blue gel on white card

A fill card brings more light into a shadow without adding more light! This bounces the color of the gel into the shadows on the side of her face and gives a nice colored fill light, as shown below.

photographer uses camera equipment gels add color to portrait shadows

2. Gel on Mirror

He then tried using a mirror for his photographs. The mirror is such a strong light source that when you position it with the light, it gives you a hard color of light on the side of your subject’s face.

blue gel on mirror

The light bounces off the mirror and through the gel, effectively putting whatever color on the mirror into the shadows.

color gels fill light

3. Gel on Strobe Head

You may also put the gel directly on the light, which is a popular option for many portrait photographers. It gives you a rim light and a bit of hair light, depending on how you place it.

photography gels

4. Gel Inside Softbox

Or, you can choose to put the gel directly inside of the softbox. You can place the softbox lighting above the camera as a fill light and then add the gel. This adds color to all of the shadows, instead of selective areas like the options before this. Adjust as desired so that you don’t overpower the model’s skin tone with too much color!

add color to shadows

There you have it! Morgan used these four different methods in his video to demonstrate the ways that he applies gel and changes the shadow colors for some of his portraits. He used a Tamron 85mm prime lens, a strobe, and a softbox. Have fun incorporating color into your portraits!

“The deeper your shadows are, the easier it is to show your gels in that shadow area.”

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