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Creating Impact with Color Gels

Lesson 3 of 11

Shoot: Manual Model with Gels

Alexis Cuarezma

Creating Impact with Color Gels

Alexis Cuarezma

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Lesson Info

3. Shoot: Manual Model with Gels


Lesson Info

Shoot: Manual Model with Gels

This will be a nice quick demo on showing why I use saw manual. So Rod, just take a few steps back. Okay. Keep right, this one will just be like real real simple. All right. So, these lights right here are like the modeling lights, and I think this is also what confuses people, too, when they shoot with strobes, I don't know why manufacturers do this, but when you have light right here, the model in the light is always tungsten, so this is 3,200 Kelvin, right? So it kinda gives it a warm look already. And when the light pops, it's daylight balance, so it's generally 5,500 Kelvin. So, I think, I know when I first started out it kinda makes people confused a little bit, because they kinda see it one way, and then it kinda looks another way when you shoot it. It looks colder. But I am just gonna shoot it with, step forward a little bit, if you can, close to this. So I am just gonna shoot it using just the model in the light, so you can see it right here. And show you why I use it ...

on manual setting. So, knowing that I'm gonna use just continuous light and it's not that strong, going to manual settings, I'm gonna be at a high ISO, probably like 4,000, because this is a slow lens, this is F4, and I'm just gonna check my white balance. So to make this look neutral, since that tungsten balance is gonna put it at 3,200 Kelvin, so let's check the exposure here (camera beeps). I could actually go lower. So, ISO 2,000, and I'm still, it's showing me a little hot, let's see. (camera shutter clicks) Let's keep that right there. So, let's see how it looks. There you go. It should be showing up here. There you go, so that should be showing up a little bit, it's still a little bit warm, I'm at 3,200, but let's see. So let's take it down to 2,700, keep it like that. (camera shutter clicks) We're probably getting some light pollution from these because these are daylight balance. But, let's see how that one looks. Should be on Kelvin. There you go, this is 2,800 now. Let's get another one with the same one, just hold it right there. There you go, so this is a lot more neutral right here. So this is at 2,700 Kelvin. It should be showing up. There you go, like that. That's perfect. And the reason we're actually getting it naturally warm, I was gonna do a shoot demo with this with strobes, it would look a lot cleaner, but we're actually getting this naturally right here. So, this is the equivalent of what I do all the time with those nighttime images. Since these studio lights are daylight balance, and I'm shooting at 2,700 Kelvin, they're turning blue in the background. And since I'm making this look normal, he's looking normal here. So, we're getting that effect. That's basically, that's what I do, and I exaggerate it when I shoot with the strobes, which I'll be doing. So this right here, since we're doing it with continuous light, is ISO 2,000, at a five. So I would never shoot something like that when I have the option to light it. I'm always usually ISO 100, or if not to get a really clean image. And I personally like to be at least F/16, if not F/22 because I shoot with different cameras. And I like to have everything in focus so my subject could relax and I know I tend to move a lot when I shoot, so I rarely shoot with a shot with depth of field. I use color and visual contrast to give my image impact instead of a shot with depth of field. So this is the setting right here, and, so let's go back and let's make this super warm right here. So if we wanted to change the mood, let's go to 5,500 Kelvin. So this background is gonna look normal now and he's gonna look super warm now, if that's the look that you want. Keep right here, just hold it right there, Rod. (camera shutter clicks) There you go, that's perfect. So he's looking real yellow and super warm. So now the purpose of a CTO and a CTB gel, which is right here, I could show this now. So this is a color tint blue gel. When you're getting gels, you wanna make sure you get a CTO or a CTB, because the purpose of these gels is to correct light exposure. So if you have lights like this, like if you were shooting the video interview, if you put this right here, over him, it balances this with those daylights. And you get a neutral color right here. John, actually, can you hold this up right here? (John) Yeah. Just hold it up right here, like that. And generally, that's what gels are used for. Like that, to balance lights like that, and if you shoot it here, now at 5,500 Kelvin, (camera beeps) keep right here, we lose a little bit of light here, so it might look a little dark. Because every time you use a gel like that, you use it to stop a light. So now he'll be balanced with this, and it'll look more neutral and normal. Keep right there, and it's got a little, thank you, you can put that down. So you see right, that's generally what these gels are used for. And then the CTO gels are used opposite. So, if I was shooting with all tungsten lighting, and I wanted to balance those to that, I would be putting one of these full CTOS on all these lights, and it would make everything neutral. That's generally what they're used for, like that. So, we're done with this part, the shoot demo, yeah. So any questions on that? This is from Lola in Canada, and so again, clarifying, so do you only use Kelvin settings? (Man) Yes, I do. Yeah, and also the reason why I like doing that as well, if, for some reason, you're off, you're at least consistently off, so if you ever need to do anything in the post, then you could fix one image and you fix them all. I know photographers that shoot weddings or shoot a lot and they shoot auto white balance, they generally don't do their own post production on it. They have someone else do it and outsource it. But, if you're gonna do all the work, I like the control and, if it's gonna be off, like I said, I want it to be consistently off so you can fix one, you can fix the other ones.

Class Description

Light is essential to creating cinematic images as well as color. In this class, join five time portrait photographer of the year Alexis Cuarezma as he breaks down his process for using color gels to make an image that grabs your attention. He will teach how he sets up his camera, creates a color scheme, and selects gels to get the desired image in camera. He'll go over simple color schemes that can be done with only two lights, as well as a full stylized image using multiple lights and color gels.



This is a great class on the use of gels although I don't like the abrupt editing between segments as it always leaves the impression something valuable has been missed. The photographer has a simple approach to gels that produces outstanding images (although he could use imprecise language like 'this' etc a little less). As a teacher, I have viewed many of the CC Live classes and almost all are well produced with great information. (It is admirable and worthy of support that many of these are presented for free.) This class is one of the best and is a great investment if you want to give your photography extra impact. By way of coincidence, I was watching the movie Marshall the other day (the story of the great Supreme Court jurist Thurgood Marshall) and was struck by the use of color in almost every scene. A great inspiration for using it in still photographs. Get this class, it is outstanding.


Alexis Cuarezma is hilarious, very talented, and a creatively energetic instructor and artist! If I hadn't been attending Photo Week, I wouldn't have chosen this course, but boy am I glad I was in it! Gels have been an enigma to me for years (in the way that studio strobes used to be), and I was surprised at how easy and useful they were when Cuarezma explained and demonstrated them. His creative process is a joy to watch and learn from. I highly recommend this course to ALL photographers!

Xavier Finch

This class is still super impactful 1 1/2 years later!! I really hope to see more of Alexis at CreativeLive. He has so much insight and is an excellent teacher. His explanations are clear and concise with ample context.