Gel Light Photography | Aminah Othman | Skillshare

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Gel Light Photography

teacher avatar Aminah Othman, Photographer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

9 Lessons (32m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Class Project

    • 3. What Are Gel Lights

    • 4. Equipment

    • 5. Technique 1: Silhouette

    • 6. Technique 2: Motion Blur and Ghosting

    • 7. Technique 3: Basic Lighting Using Gel Lights

    • 8. Editing

    • 9. Final Thoughts

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About This Class

Gel Light Photography


Are you ready for a totally new style of photography?


Hi! And thanks for joining us here talking about Gel Light Photography! I'm so happy you came! Work with me as I show you guys how to use gel lights in several different way to get bright, saturated photos different from many of the other photos you see.


This class will focus on the interesting style of photography using gel lights to get colorful photos very different from the dark and moody photos that are currently on trend. I'll go through different setups of how to use the gels to show you the many ways you can be creative with this vibrant style.

This class is a walk-through and behind-the-scenes type course that will teach you a colorful take on portraits and product photography. We will be going over topics like:

  • Gel lights/studio lights
  • Different lighting setups
  • Three different gel light techniques
  • Motion blur
  • Silhouettes


This class is focused more towards the intermediate photographer looking for inspiration or ideas as to what they want to photograph. This class will require gel lights.

Meet Your Teacher

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Aminah Othman



Hi everyone!

My name is Aminah and I am a photographer hobbyist. I've been taking photos my whole life, but have only become serious about photography the last couple years.

For many years I focused my energy on portraits using natural light until I moved to Korea and realized street photography was such an interesting style. I worked on that for a while until taking a class on studio portraits and fell in love with that. After doing that for a while, I started looking more into editing styles. And that's currently where I'm at now. With so many styles of photography, there's no time to waste. Come and explore with me :)


For those of you interested, I have an instagram and Facebook page and have been trying to be more active on my website.

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1. Introduction: have you ever looked at a photo? And you were so inspired by this photo that you tried to recreate it again and again. I've done this so many times more times than I can count, and I'm constantly trying to find new images to recreate. As photographers, I feel like people are always trying to say to pick a style and stick with it. I enjoy getting that spark of excitement and inspiration. I think it's important that all photographers, especially newer ones, get exposed to new styles and try new things, because that can sort of give them the ability to make their own style. Throughout this class, I'm gonna teach you gel lighting, different lighting techniques and some different long exposure techniques that will bring a new look to your photos. My name is Amina, and I am a portrait and lifestyle photographer hobbyists from Chicago. There hasn't really been a style of photography that I haven't fully loved, but there's something about July photography that I can't seem to get enough of when you're using words like bold, edgy, saturated, bright, different and colorful to describe a photograph. It's hard not to get excited, and that's really what I want to do. I just want to excite people about photography and trying new things. I think the fun part is trying a lot of different styles over and over again until you can see yourself improved. This class is aimed at all photographers, Whether you're the budding photographer looking for some influence or trying to sort of find your niche, or whether you're a seasoned photographer just looking for something new or maybe trying to get inspired, the lessons in this class will work for you. I personally think gel like photography is best for products or portrait's, but you're more than welcome to use this on. Any type of photography would be interesting to see if someone wants a family portrait done in this style. But that being said, this class is not for beginners. You're going to need the understanding of manual mode, and you're going to need to know how to use off camera flash. So maybe you're someone like me who's a photographer. Hobbyists and you want to find new styles to practice with. Or maybe you just sort of want to awaken that spark of inspiration. I would honestly say this class is good for anyone because the skills you learn in this class, you can apply to other kinds of photography. For example, lighting similar to taking photos and black and white. You have to really focus and make sure your understanding light gel light photography is very similar to that. So the more you practice with gel lights, the better you will get at lighting. By the end of this class, you will not only be able to use gel lights, but you'll also learn new techniques like Cilla, wedding motion blur and ghosting. I will also teach you cheaper versions of do it yourself gel lights you can do at home. So if you're feeling inspired and ready to try something new, let's get started. 2. Class Project: So for this class project, I want you guys to take two photos of any of the styles that we learned in jail lighting. So you need to take the two photos. One should be a product product photo, and one should be a portrait. So it doesn't matter which technique you use in either one. Whatever you like is fine, but two photos and then product and portrait. If you can't choose only two pictures, that's honestly great post as many as you like. But I do want to make sure there's at least one product photo and one portrait photo in this class. We talked about different techniques, and I want to make sure that with the class project, you guys are able to kind of practice all of them. I don't want you to just pick one and then keep going with that. The whole point is to try new things, to see what you're enjoy doing and try to see your improvement. So because we had so many techniques that we talked about in the class, I want you to try all of them if you're able to. I want to make sure we're seeing your best photos, your most favorite photos, and I want you to tell us a little bit about them to Community is so important for talents like photographers. So what I want you guys to do is go ahead and leave a comment on someone else's project. Tell them something that you liked about their photo. 3. What Are Gel Lights: So what are Jill? It's delights are transparent colored sheets that are used to basically add colored light to the photo. They look kind of like this on, and they come in a lot of different colors. In the beginning, people used a lot of different ways to color theater lights, and then eventually down the line, they developed a sort of gel, too. Add that color. And even though nowadays we don't necessarily use that gel, the name just kind of stuff. So the gel filter is placed over the light, and then the light basically becomes colored. Very easy with the way I usually just put mine on. Let me bring my light. So usually what I do is I'll just stick with some tape up at the top here and then just kind of let it hang. I heard this is actually better, cause it lets out less light. You could put a binder clip, but I just find randomly those just kind of pop off and then you I don't know, maybe get hit with them, so I usually just put a little bit of tape and then set it on the top like that and then that's it. I would be careful because I'm not. I don't use a model light, but if you do use a model light, you have to be careful, because if this touches the model able melt, so you need to make sure that this is far enough away from the model light to where you don't have any issues with that. So the gel, like Jill filters, are actually not that expensive. Um, I bought mine online a little while ago. I think I got like, a pack of 12. It was around 20 bucks. It's pretty cheap for how maney colors I got. They come in a lot of different sizes. They come in smaller ones. If you want to, just put it on your speed light. Or you could probably just cut these fit, especially in film. People used them for color correction. For example, if the room is being lit by a tungsten light, they will use a color correcting gel in order to account for that, because those are really common, like coloring correct er's. They have very specific names, So some of those names you may have heard C T B or C T. O. C. T B stands for color temperature blue, so that's used to correct the orange nous of a tungsten light. And C T. O is an orange color, and that's used to correct for a bluish daylight tone. Here is the CTB gel filter. You can see that if I were to have taken a photo in tungsten light, then the photo would be very orange. But when you add the CTB filter on top of that, then it balances out the lighting in that photo. And then here would be the C t o gel filter, so the color temperature orange. So if I were taking a photo in daylight that had a more bluish tone, that wasn't white balance. You can go ahead and put this over the light. It should balance out. All right. So I'm gonna go ahead and quickly show you guys how these gel lights can affect the photo. So in order to kind of fake an issue, I'm going to change the settings on the camera and make the camera think that the daylight is actually tungsten light. So when we take this photo setting the white balance settings to tungsten light the photo should come out very blue. That's because the camera is trying to compensate for the fact that the tungsten light is very orange so you can see that the photo is very blue. We could go ahead and use one of these gel filters in order to make the color of the photo less blue, so the filter we would use is an orange filter. In order to balance it out and look more like daylight, this filter would be called a C T o filter. So if I go ahead and I put this in front of my light and take the photo, you can see that the color now is back to being daily. Now let's say, for instance, the lighting in here wasn't tungsten, but it was really bright daylight outside. So I'm gonna change the white balance settings and we'll go ahead and take the picture and the picture will end up looking quite orange. What we would uses the CTB gel, which is the blue gel filter and that will counter act that's a little balance it out and be a nice color. You'll also see these in different fractions of filter strength to adjust for slightly bluer or slightly for injured tones because with DSL ours nowadays, most of us can just change the white balance in camera. I mainly just used the gel lights for a visual effect. These air called neutral density filters. These are the kind of filters you would use for light being a little bit too strong. So on my strove, my light. Actually, the lowest setting it goes to is 10 which sometimes I find that to be a bit strong. So I'll just use this black filter over the top of it, and that will sort of dim down the strong light. So one of the next filters we have are called neutral density filters. I only have one of them in this shade. It just came with my pack. I'm gonna go ahead and crank up the flash, and then we'll see how pride it gets. So that photo is really bright. I'm gonna go ahead and put the neutral density filters over the flash, and then we'll see how it turns out. And then another kind is called diffusion or frosted gels so you can see like it makes it a little bit hard to see everything sort of blurry. So all this does is make it so that a harsher light appears softer around the edges. The one I have isn't a very strong gel, but if you look at the photo, you can still see how the edges of that shadow have definitely softened up a bit. So for this, I am going to take off this little mini soft box in order for us to actually see it. And as you can see, I went ahead and took oil. Those books. I think this one's easier to see if you just have one object and one shadow as opposed to a lot of the mixed. I'm gonna go ahead and stand up for this in order to get a deeper shadow. All right. So you can definitely see a difference when you're using the gel filters. And then we have these color gels, thes air, more theatrical type tells this is probably what I'm gonna be using today. Um, I prefer using purple, blue and sometimes green, maybe orange. Those are usually the colors I stick with, so you'll see a lot of that in this class 4. Equipment: All right, so I'm gonna show you everything I'm gonna use today already showed you a little bit about the gels. I'm going to use my trusty rebel T to why I only used my 50 millimeter lens today that the lens honestly doesn't matter. I thought I would use my other lens just to get a wider shot. But this one ended up working out, and I'm obsessed with using it, so I just use the civil time. As for lighting, I am going to use my speed light, my strobe light, and I will use my bring light, starting with my speed light. I am using the cannon for 30 e x two. It just looks like this. I've had this for about a year. It's honestly, really easy to use. It has an auto button when it's Comte mounted on the camera. When I was taking a photography class while living in Korea, my photography teacher recommended this, and so I literally just went out and bought it right away. I also have this little kind of soft box thing that I add to my speed light. Sometimes I don't want such a harsh flash that comes from the speed light, so I just use this on top of it. It's really easy you just to make sure this doesn't block the little red sensor at the bottom. So when I'm using my speed light for the gel photography, especially when I was doing it for the silhouette shot, you need to be careful when you're setting this up. So I usually just set it up against the wall like this, and then I will put this. Just lean it up against it. I don't really want to cut my gels because I don't often use thumb with the speed light, but for this case, I would literally just set this up against it and have it shines through like that so you don't have the tape or do anything like that. I also have a ring light, which I am currently using. You can see that's hovering light looks. I don't think I had much use of for it when I was taking photos, but I did attempt to use it when I was working with Motion Blur and that sort of thing. It didn't work out exactly how I wanted, but it's definitely an option if you wanted to do it that way. I think I ended up just using my cell phone the flashlight on my cell phone in order to get that kind of motion blur light. But a flashlight works just as well. I think at one point I used a PlayStation remote because it has that little blue light. So anything that has a light coming from it would work for the motion blur shots. And then lastly, you guys kind of already saw a little bit of it. I have my newer 400 watt strobe light. So, um, I usedto have a foam X. I don't know if you guys know that brand of foam x 400 watt. I bought it in Korea, but the voltage is different there, so I can't use that in the US But I use this a lot of the time. I have this little cap on the front, this diffusion cap, just cause that also softens the light a bit. And if I don't want to use like my giant soft box, I can just go ahead. Plus, this fits the gel filter way better than using my soft box. So I just go ahead. And like I showed you before, just tape it right on. Another thing you guys are going to need is a transmitting remote and receiving remote. So I have the two of mine right here. This small one is the transmitting remote. So I will put this on my camera and the receiving one, which is a little bit longer, will go on my speed light. So the reason I'm doing that is because my speed light is not going to be connected to my camera. So there's no way for my speed. Like to know when to fire Huff. So I used these remote and then it signals to the speed light that it's supposed to send a flash while the camera is taking a photo. If you are using a strobe light, you're going to need something for that as well. If you have a transmitter for that that works, I do not. I only have those two so you can go ahead and use this slave mode. So that's just that little light. You see if I can get on camera this little light thing here. So as long as your flash from your speed light hits that little button on the top of your stroke. You should be OK. So if you don't have all these things and you don't necessarily want to spend the money, even though like really, gel filters are not that expensive. But if let's say you just wanted to test it out cheaper, they do have things that you can use just at the grocery store. Like if you go in the school supply section, they have those sort of transparent colored boulder things that kids use. You can definitely go ahead, and just by that, and then cut it so it's the shape you want. They also have those sheets of the cellophane that colored clear wrapping stuff. I don't actually know where you'd find that. I think it's in the wrapping paper section. They have different colors there. All of that stuff would work just fine. And then, if you don't have a speed light or you don't have a stroke, that's also OK. You could use a lamp. You just have to be careful That won. The bulb is a daylight lamp. You don't want it to be that like soft yellow or software. It has to be like a bright daylight lamp, and then you also have to make sure that you're not letting any of the light out. Otherwise, there's not gonna be much light left for the photo. So if let's say, for example, you have a lamp, you can go ahead and get that cellophane wrapper stuff and then just wrap that around the top. Please be careful that you don't melt anything, but you can go ahead and do that. It'll just light up the whole room in that color, so all that stuff works as well. You don't have to have all of the things that I just showed you. 5. Technique 1: Silhouette: all right, so the first technique is going to be silhouette. A silhouette is where there is light behind the subject, but nothing in front. So that's what creates that sort of shadow. So when you see those photos with the bright light behind the subject and the subject is all in shadow, that's a silhouette we're going to do today is we're going to do it a silhouette shot. But the difference is we're going to be using a gel light. The way I have it set up right now is I have a chair, and then on top of the chair is a box. The box is just used to make a flat surface. If you have a table, you can set it on. That works even better. And then on top of the box, I put my glass. It doesn't matter what you use. If you have some sort of object that has a shape that you like, that works fine. I am going to use a wine glass, whatever. You're useful work. Then behind the chair is where I'm going to place my light, so I'll put my light with my jell filter behind the chair and then that will face up against my wall. You just want to make sure that the wall that the gel Lyte is reflecting off of is white so we can see that bright color. And finally, I have my camera set up across from that. So when I take the photo, the one glass will be blocking the light coming through, so you'll get a nice little silhouette shape. Since my speed light is not going to be attached to my camera, I'm going to need a remote that transmits and a remote that receives. So the receiving remote. I end up just putting on the bottom like this. And then the transmitting remote will be on top of my camera, sending the message to this so it knows when to flash. And then in order to make this stand up, I have a little shoe that it sits on, and I attach it like this. So I'll set it up like this up against the wall and then be sure to set the gel light here in between the wall and the flash. So then, if I'm using this blue on the wall will be a bright blue and then that wine glass will be creating the shadow. So then we have our silhouette. I think it would be interesting to try to maybe split the colors down the middle. So I'm gonna go ahead and I'll try to do maybe a blue and pink and see what that looks like . 6. Technique 2: Motion Blur and Ghosting: So this next technique is motion blur now. Motion blur seemed a lot more complicated than it is. It's really not that difficult. I would definitely practice with it before using the gel. It's just because that might make things difficult going in all at once. I am going to be using myself in this. It does make it a little bit more difficult because you have to keep going back and forth in order to check your camera. But I would still choose to do that over taking pictures of Justin object so the wine glass works for silhouettes because you're focusing more on shape. But with this other technique, you really want sort of movement in the photo, especially because with this second technique, I'm going to teach you. You definitely need tohave movement. All you have to do is make sure that your shutter speed is set to a low setting, so you want it to be slow. What's gonna happen is the light from the flash is going to go off, and the camera's shutter speed is going to be left open long after the flash is gone. So we'll have is brightness from the flash and then a darker, lighter image later with when the flash is already gone. So it's kind of difficult to explain. It's easier to see the image and understand through that. But as long as your subject is moving, then you'll have that kind of blurring effect. So if you stand in one place, the flash goes off and then maybe you move your head or you move your hands than that movement that comes after the flash is done is going to kind of be a lighter, more blurry sort of image. So this technique you can use in a lot of different ways it looks really cool. You just really need to make sure that you practice it before the gel lights. Another kind of way you can use motion blur is instead of the subject moving, you can move something a light around the subject. So say, for instance, you have a flashlight as long as the subject is holding incredibly still, which is very difficult to do if it's like you're if you're taking a picture of yourself as long as the subject is very still, all you have to do, take the picture. The flash will go off as soon as the flash finishes going off. You'll take like a flashlight or some other kind of light, and then you can shine it around the person as long as that person is holding. Still, it'll just look kind of like lights around the person as soon as the image is finished, depending on how long the shutter speed is left open, that will affect what kind of shapes and how bright that flashlight is going around their head. 7. Technique 3: Basic Lighting Using Gel Lights: so another technique you can use is similar to the silhouette, but instead, this time you're going to light up the subject so you'll still set that flash with the gel filter facing against the wall, and your subject will be in front of the wall. But this time you're gonna have a second light. The second light will not have a gel filter. It will just be a regular light, and that will face on the subject. So when you take that photo, the background will be one color, and the subject will be lit with just a regular standard light. It just makes for a more kind of exciting portrait. If you didn't wanna have a basic background, the next technique we can use with the Joe Lights is having a light shining on our subject . With this technique, you kind of have the option of using one flash or as many flashes as you want. I'm going to use to because I like the look of mixing the two different gel filters. So if you only have one, that's perfectly fine. You couldn't just shine that wherever you want. If you have more than one, it's fun to play with different angles. So I usually face one on me coming from one direction and then the other one coming from the other direction and on my face, with all like my nose in the shape of my lips and all like that. Then you'll have the different mix of those two colors along with behind me on the white wall. You'll also see that kind of line where the two lights are meeting, so you'll have a really interesting picture through that, - But 8. Editing: Hey, guys. So we're gonna move on to editing. If you look at the left side of the picture, you can see that it's not a very bright color. Like you can definitely see the blue. The blue is on the left side of the picture. You can see it on my face. You can see it on the wall. But if you look at the left side, it doesn't look a strong of a color that's actually supposed to be pink. I don't know if you can kind of tell by my life by the color on my shirt it's not as bright because this was my speed light and my strobe is much stronger. So that's something I need to fix. And editing is kind of helping that speed line out to make the color brighter so we can actually see the two different gel filters. So I'm gonna go ahead and get started. We'll definitely want to crop this picture because I don't know it's gonna boring so usually what I'll do or I like following the rule of thirds. Uh, I don't think you have to. I mean, if I left the photo like this, it wouldn't be that bad. But I actually do like following the rule of thirds for some photos and this one in particular. If I go ahead and crop it, you can see I don't know. After we see both distinct gel light filter colors, I think the rule of thirds will fit this a little bit better. I don't know. It's my opinion. Honestly, if you want to keep your you want to just center your subject, that's perfectly fine. Honestly, it doesn't matter, so I'm gonna go ahead and adjust the exposure. The photo to me looks a little bit dark. I don't want to lighten it too much. I just want to give it like a hint so that my face kind of pops is. It's just kind of like hidden under my hair. At this point, I will add contrast because I like strong contrast. The photos, especially with delights, highlights. Usually I'll just have a certain technique with highlights, shadows, whites and blacks. So I decrease the highlights and I increase the shadows. When I'm doing that, I feel like it balances out the photo a little bit more. Even just by doing this, you can already see that the photo has gotten a little bit more color. So we're gonna go ahead and keep going. Clarity. I used to be very into decreasing clarity and kind of having that soft tone, but it looks really fake. Ah, lot of the time. So I'm or into increasing clarity. I don't want to do too much, but I do like the sharpness that it gives. So I will increase the clarity. Vibrance. I don't want to do too much, because if you do like too much saturation, too much vibrance, it starts looking a little bit fake, like you can see here around like I don't want those kinds of colors. So I'm just gonna increase vibrance just a bit and then usually decrease saturation just a tiny bit because I increased the vibrance and I preferred increase vibrance over saturation saturation. Just a preference. Um, go ahead and head to tone curve. Same thing as I did before. This will just kind of do it a little bit more than me using the controls, the basic control above now colors kind of tricky because I don't want to mess with it too much, but I do kind of want to increase the blue. I like playing around with it because, like if you change the Hewitt changes, this kind of seems little greener. I do like the deep blue. So I'm gonna head towards the said again. I don't wanna There's purple. I don't really want to make it that far. So just increase it enough to get that kind of hue that I like and then saturate just a little bit and then luminous, actually, I'm gonna decrease that situation is just a little too much, cause I'm gonna add more later. So for now, that's good. And that's good for blue. Now this color, Like I said, you can't really see the pink on this side like you can tell in the shadow a little bit on my face, a little on my shirt but I wanted to be bright, like I want you to be able to see two very different colors. So I'm gonna go ahead and go to Magenta and we'll try and bring out that pink a little bit more split toning. I love split toning. I always do split toning are want my photos to look cooler rather than warmer, so I always even if it's not a lot, I always try to add a little bit. So I try to keep it around. The blue purple range really depends on the coloring of the photo. How higher low I have to go so you can already see. They're like, If I before I even adjust the shadows, there's not much pink in the picture. But then like when I increase it, you can see the pinks already coming out. So that's what we want. I'm gonna go ahead and drag it to get this. I definitely don't want, like a purple pink, So it's gonna be a little bit higher than I normally dio. I do like sharpening, really only use distortion. The vignette through lens correction is I don't find does very much just kind of playing around to see what looks best. So again, we want to bring that pink out. So I'm gonna kind of lean this towards the Pinker side rather than that orange blue so we can go all the way to that end versus this end. I mean, this purple is kind of a cool photo, but that's not the photo I want. I want to see those two different colors, so I want to make sure I'm sticking with the blue and pink. All right? No, this is where I'm going to have to make the left side of the photo more pink. So I'm going to use the tool up here to select this side of the photo. Now, I don't want to my face because I don't want my face to get any more pink. So I'm gonna go ahead and select where I can see the mask overlay and just follow through with this. I'm gonna go ahead and adjust the coloring now and hope I can get that kind of rich pink color. Okay, now that we kind of have the background how I want it, I need to go through. I really don't like how pink my face is. So I'm gonna go ahead and see if I can lighten it just a little bit. So I'm going to go ahead and do that same tool. We're just gonna do a new selection and see if I can cut some of the saturation in my face . You can definitely see how this photo has gotten two very different July filter colors now , so it's definitely improved 9. Final Thoughts: All right. So I want to say thank you guys. So much for taking this class. We learned a lot of stuff today. We learned about motion Blur. We learned about ghosting. We learned how to use our gel lights. We learned all these different things. All of this stuff at once could be quite overwhelming. And I don't want it to be that way. What this is supposed to do is give you a whole new style that you can practice and get better. You can use some of these techniques towards a style Maybe you want to try in the future. My hope is that you guys feel excited and inspired to try new photography. Not just jealous but new styles that you see out there instead of just being like, Oh, that's really hard. Or that might be too difficult or I don't think I could do that. What I really want to do is get you guys to try new things. You know, the point of photography is are there shouldn't be a right way to do things. So even if I did something a certain way in the class, that doesn't mean you have to necessarily follow that way. It's a way of kind of making your own and doing your own thing. That's the whole point of photography. That's the point of art. So if you walk away thinking gently, photography is not your thing. That's totally cool. That's fine. But I hope you walk away knowing that you'll be willing to try the next style that comes up instead of thinking, Oh, that's too hard. Please do not forget to do the class project. All you have to do is just submit your projects down below under the project section. And please don't forget to comment on someone else's project just so that way we can share in this community. So again, thank you guys so much for joining me. Um, I can't wait to see the projects.