Glamour Photography TipsSubmitted by Michael on Thu, 2010-10-14 07:02

The lazy way to use CTO gels on your speedlights

It’s going happen every 2nd Thursday of the month over here at SmokingStrobes: You will get a new Glamour Photography Tip. I’m going to give you tips regarding the photography techniques and issues that I get the most questions about. So make sure that you let me know what your biggest obstacles are and what you would like to find a solution for. Please write it in the comments below the videos over here or tweet it to @MichaelZelbel.

Today I will start with a short video on why you will want to use CTO gels, which ones you should use and how. A number of my cousins already noticed in my videos that my speedlights always have CTO gels attached - either in front or ontop of the flashhead. I got plenty of questions regarding this. Today I encourage you to pimp your Speedlights in a similar manner.

Have a look over here on eBay for

==> Lee 204 Filters

If you'd like to go full kit and get yourself Rosco Strobist Collection Gels (contains 5 CTOs and many others), then you find it at Amazon via this affiliate link:

==> Rosco The Strobist Collection, Strobist 55 Piece Cinegel Filter Kit, 1.5


Some photos from this photo shoot:





Model: Emily
Photography: Michael Zelbel
Postproduction: Gina Hernandez
Graphic Design: AlexZlatev


I wish you good light!
-- Michael

Related Links:






Great post again, I guess my question is how you had you light setup for the photos that accompanied this photo tip?

The lighting setup was very simple: One speedlight with shoot through umbrella camera left next to the bed. It bounces off enough in the room to through even a little bit of light into the models shades.

See the area of the bed on the left where there is so much light that it can never ever come from the bedside lamp? This is where the umbrella is standing just outside the frame.

I see, is it a small umbrella you used? Everytime I use mine, the light gets bounced everywhere and turns the photo to be more of a high key feel rather than your moody more low-key photo. I dont get as nice of a shadow as your photos, or was that done in post processing?

The size of the umbrella does not matter so much. But it is vitally important that you bring the umbrella as close to your subject as possible. In the examples that I show here, you can see that in my case it lead to the fact that the bed and the furniture on the left side started to "burn" a bit.
Next thing you have to do is zoom the head of your flash to a value so that it's beam covers the umbrella, but nothing else. Probably 50mm? Better zoom too tight than too close here. So when in doubt, go to 80mm.

In post you can add a vignette. In fact I added 15% vignette to the examples. However, you can't add any of the nice shadows on the body or the bedsheets in post.

Thanks for your detail help.. I definitely need to practice more. Just tough to find models or subject to shoot for me. Sigh..

Hahaha, yes, that can be a toughy. Especially if you want to into the more explicit direction like in your examples. It comes down to a set of skills which I teach to my students in my advanced coaching. But I feel like on this blog I cannot go into that sort of advanced skillset since I would scare away a lot of viewers here once I start talking about psychology and stuff. And furthermore my students pay me reasonable money to learn it so it would be unfair to post this lessons over here.
Are you already into the scene in which you want to acquire talent? You are from the UK, right? In other words- is it likely that I ever saw you at the night of the senses in London? You don't need to answer - but it's a pretty darn good question to ask yourself, right?

Another question Michael. I'm in love with Chase Lisbon's lighting in all his images. I'm just curious if you have any idea if you'd be able to backward engineer how he perhaps lights most of his images? You can see some of his work here, http://www.latenightfeelings.com/flngsblog/index.php?option=com_myblog&b...

Thanks again,

What I see is directed, quite hard light, usually from camera left pointing directly at the model. I see he uses bigger lightsources, video light i guess, but if you simply put your speedlight onto a 4 feet lightstand, move it 5 feet left from your model, zoom it to 80mm, then you should get pretty darn close.
Give it a try.

In other way, use a snoot.

Hi, Just one question, don't you also have to change the white balance in the camera to tunsten?

Yes, if you don't want a color shift, then Tungsten would be the setting to use. In my example the bedside lamp would be slightly warmer, since the light of the lightbulb is filtered though a very warm, creamy lamp. But the main ligthsource is the flash so Tungsten would be spot on... from a scientific point of view :-)

However, how about using a color shift to your advantage? If you dial up the color temperature to let's say 4000K, then the whole scene get's a warm and fuzzy cast. I had a couple of bouduir assignments and I always asked the client upfront if she prefered the "correct" neutral color temperature or if she would like to have this warm orange color toning. So far ALL of my clients went for the warmed up tone. For none of them this was a tough decision.

That's why you will see this warm tone also in the example photos of this post. Try it out!

Thanks once again for such a quick response, i would just like so say that i love your videos very
informative and witty, keep up the good work

Love the finale outcome great video and photos.

Nice and easy!
In fact, dear cousin, I use some stationery cellophane orange or green foils, depending of the incandescent or fluorescent ambient light, much cheapier than Rosco or Lee filters, with great results.

Awesome! Can they be ordered somewhere online? Got a link?

Love the idea of this pose. Could let me know what kind of lens would be preferable to get the best results. I am using a Nikon D300S.

Love the short videos!

For photos like in this post a 50mm prime lens is probably the best choice. 50mm is just enough to avoid funky perspective distortion effects, while it is still wide enough to be used in a regular bedroom- at least if the bedroom is not sooo small.

Stop it down to f/2, in or even to f/1.8 if your sensor got a crop factor (and a hight DOP respectively).

Hey Michael, I'm a big fan of your work. Wanted to know if you think I could use a diffuser like the Gary Fong/ Amberdome to capture that same type of imagery. I don't have anything against gels, but wanted to know if you've tried that as well....?

Hi MrFlowers, sorry no, you can't make that happen with a dome. No way. This photos require soft light from the sides of the bed. It not only makes the models body 3 dimensional, it also cares for the folds in the bedcover to pop out.

By the end of the day the dome is still an on camera light. The dome is makeing a very diffused light by letting the light bounce of everywhere in the room. This flattenes your subject out. Sometimes this is what you want to have when doing portraits, but for sure you don't want to have this in boudoir.
My particular thought regarding the amberdome, a diffusor that gives me half of the light in 5600k blue and the other half in 3200k tungsten orange, well... Let's say I believe you have to be a pretty darn good photographer to make use of it - in my opinion. I tried it out myself, but being a beginner, I'm not so good on photography and lighting yet.

I'm a beginning photographer and your posts help me much. I think that the set of light is a great problem for me sometimes. Your photos are great...so soft light. Such simple and wonderful ideas and all the explanations are so clear. Thanks a lot for sharing.

Hard to get my thick German accent? Here's the transcript!

 Hey, fellow photography friend, how is it going? I’m Michael Zelbel and in today’s GLAMOUR PHOTOGRAPHY TIP, I would like to talk to you about CTO gels for your speedlights. Why you need them, which you need and how you use them.

Let’s say, you want to shoot a nice warm boudoir scene, like this bed site scene, with a tungsten lamp in the background. You want to incorporate the bed light into your photo.

That’s cool, but it will never ever be strong enough to really lighten your photograph. I put this little lamp on steroids. It is usually a 25-watt lamp. I put in a 100 watt bulb, but it is still way too dark for out photo.

So you will fill in with a speed light, but if you do so, let’s give it a try, it mix the speed light with the tungsten. Then, see, it is getting all blue. Yeah, if you photograph somebody as pale like I am, then you are photographing a ghost, yeah, or a dead body. You don’t want that, so you attach such a gel on this flash. I already have one over here and with that gel, you color the light of your speed light warm, a little bit orange, a little bit like a tungsten light source, approximately the same color. If you now shoot a photo, ha, then we are in the area of the living people again, right?

Okay, so, which gels do you need? I would suggest you go for a LEE 204 gels, that is from the company LEE, the gels No. 204. You can buy sheets, big sheets of that on Ebay for very reasonable prices. Another thing, another option would be to buy the Rosco Strobist get kit, which is a little pack with a lot of color gels and they are already small. This one you still have to cut. You just cut the big piece out of it which fits your speedlight and don’t go crazy on cutting etc or something. You just cut the big piece and glue it with Scotch tape in front of your speedlight. Just like that, some Scotch tape, there you go; Some Scotch tape at the other side, there you go. Done! Now it’s attached to your flash.

And if you don’t need the gel because you are not shooting mixed light, you just pull it off, put it on top of the flash and glue it over here, then it stays on flash all the time and you never have to search for it. That’s pretty much it. That’s how you use them, very easy, very straightforward. Easy, peasy, lemmon squeezy.

Okay, that’s it for today. I hope I see you in the next video, next Thursday, until then, I wish you a lot of fun with your boudoir photo shoots, with CTO gels, and I wish you, good light!

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