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Creating Impact with Color Gels

Lesson 9 of 11

Shoot: Use Water to Add Effects

Alexis Cuarezma

Creating Impact with Color Gels

Alexis Cuarezma

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Lesson Info

9. Shoot: Use Water to Add Effects


Lesson Info

Shoot: Use Water to Add Effects

So we'll have one person. Actually that apple box might be perfect right there. Put it, how you call it, LA style, all the way down. There you go. Proper apple box terms. Chicago, New York and L.A. Yeah, that's L.A, Chicago and New York. (chuckling) So we gonna go L.A style. So what's your name again? Claudia. Claudia, so lets have you sit down on this one. And get as small as you can. No sit, sit so long. Yeah, you want to get low. And spray the mist kind of in this direction right here. Lets see, oh actually you know what, let me make sure that's in mist. So whenever you're spraying these make sure they're in mist mode, because they have a mist and a stream. Yeah don't put it on stream. Oh, yeah, don't put it on stream. Point it at the floor and try it, there you go. So let me see, just when you spray. Spray like your life depended on it, just keep spraying it. There you go, that's perfect like that. So you could come in, what's your name? Nicole. Nicole, so you c...

ould get low here and spray it up in this direction like that. Yeah, that's actually good like that. Get a little bit closer. Very refreshing, a little cold. Keep right at it ladies. We might get some of them in the background but we'll see how this looks. Go ahead and when I say spray, spray like your life depended on it, go ahead keep spraying. Hold it, hold it there. Nicole can you get a little bit closer still? There you go, like that and keep spraying. Alright go ahead ladies, spray. Keep like that. (camera clicks) Alright, relax, relax ladies. Ah that still is not showing that much, its not hitting, its not hitting either of the spray. You can see it a tiny bit there, like you see it on the head, but you can see it more on that side and not over here at all because that lights coming from this side. But I don't know if you guys can see it. You can barely see it right here. With the spray. And usually I have one person with two spray bottles on each side. So that one would be, give her that one. So stand here on one side Nicole. Yeah try with that. (mumbling from group) What happened, uh oh, spray bottles down. Grab another bottle. So you know what if I change the angle right here and I go here, you might see a little bit more. Like that. There you could see it here, relax. You could see it in this one a lot more. 'Cause I changed my camera position so its more backlit. But if you have it on the boom, you'll see it a lot more because the boom will be right overhead. So if you can see right now how it looks perfectly just like that in blue, so if it was on the boom, it would look perfect. She has two right. Well lets try it. That actually looks really cool. Lets try it with two, go ahead. Make sure its on spray mode. Keep like that, go ahead. Whoa, hold on one of them was like. Keep right here. Keep spraying. There you go look right here at the camera. Keep like that, that's great. (camera clicks) Alright relax, want to take a picture. There you go, its looking good, keep it like that. So you're getting a little bit of the soft box on this one. I don't know if it came up, but that is looking good. So when you do that one, look down at the camera, give me eye contact. Right over here, keep her here. Alright go ahead and start spraying please. Keep her, that's great. (camera clicks) Alright cool, relax. There you go, that came out okay. That's the best we gonna get with the spray on like that. The way to make it better will be just get the light directly overhead him, and then she'll be literally right behind him. And when you're spraying with two bottles like that it comes up, it comes down and you get the even spray. But since there's not a boom directly over him, that's why you're only kind of seeing it on that side. So one of the things that I wanted to do, after I did this shoot, we're good with the spray for now, thank you so much. And thank you Nicole too. I thought this one in there would look pretty, John, if we could switch this to a blue gel. (mumbling) Oh you need to take one out from there right? Yeah lets just do that. When we're talking about the color palette and everything. If you light in here on top with red, and underneath with blue, so you get that color combination right on him. And your main color, your fill, your main, will have two tones on it, will make your shadows blue and will give you a nice effect on it. So that's something I wished I had enough time to do when I photographed the boxers. So we'll actually do it right here and change that up. Make it a little bit more dynamic. I tend to stay away with doing stuff in post, as much as I can, I like to get stuff in camera as much as I can. And do little to nothing in post, just a little bit of toning if you want. You could do stuff like this in post, but it would probably be difficult to make it look realistic. If you're doing like a straight one color, its easy 'cause you could just add a tint over it in Photoshop, and it would be fine. But when you start mixing in colors like we are with the highlight and with the little bit of yellow in this one, when it combines. That's gonna be more difficult and confusing to make it look realistic in post. And you're gonna have a nightmare trying to make that look real in post. You could do it, but you're gonna have to selectively mask out colors and combine them together to make it look like its actually wrapping around the person instead of a flat color layer over him. Exactly. And the way I like, the way I use all these lights is 'cause I like using everything in camera, and when you photographing your subject or your talent and you show them how it looks in camera, they're generally blown away. Instead of saying, oh it looks neutral but when I Photoshop it for three hours then its gonna look cool. I tend to stay away from that. A lot of the stuff that I do, that I photograph, looks in camera, how it does. I'll go through some samples here, this looks pretty much in camera like this. He loved that. A lot of the samples here, actually I could go through this really easily. In camera, like that, that looked like that the light in there, I just toned it a little bit. He loved this picture. He looked at it like three times and he said, god it looks like I'm gonna play for Jesus. (audience laughing) And again he loved this one as well. These are pretty much straight out of the camera. Right you gotta be prepared and do everything. You gotta shoot, this was a 30 second shoot with him. 30 seconds shoot with him. All these right here, were done in camera like this. I'm not gonna sit down and Photoshop like this forever. These are done again in camera too as well. This is shot outdoors, so I did the same exact principle that I did when he was sitting down there. The only difference is that I usually just use a half CTO, and the reason why I do that outdoors is to make the sky extra blue. And to give it that color here, so we see those colors popping and we see them extra blue. And these are two Profoto D2 lights, maxed out at full power to shoot at a F-22 to get a starburst like that. Done on purpose. So that's just the way I like doing my work, just doing it all in camera. And again, when I shoot for black and white I just shoot for more harsh contrast. And I would say this is, the only maybe thing I would do. You consider post, because you can shoot digitals in color and you just convert it to black and white. But in this one, I just changed it to black and white on the spot and it was done like that. But like all this stuff, well this is obviously done in post cause I have to. When I shot this, a still for a magazine, I had one minute with each player and when you shoot like that, at least for SI, you have to shoot raw plus jpeg and they want all the jpeg files from the entire shoot. So if you shoot 800 pictures, they want to see all and make the slice on the actual raw files. So it has to look good out of the camera, 'cause you're sending them the raws, that's the way they work at least. So that's generally how I got working, you know what I mean. That's the mist right here again. That's just the light, its on a boom, and I had one person in the back with two bottles. When you have it boomed overhead you can get a lot of mist in your picture. And again, this is all done in camera too as well. This is one shot, the only thing that was composited was the mist in the back cause I had four assistants with sprayers and its done like this. Yeah, I tend to do everything, as much as I can, in camera. The only thing I'll do, is like this one had to be toned. 'Cause it was shot with HMI lights but I get everything in camera as much as I can. The beginning pictures that I was doing with the warm/cool when he was wrapping his hands, that's all done in camera and its all done with gels. And I avoid doing that, that would just be a nightmare for me in post. And I do that in camera and then also like I was talking about him earlier, with wardrobe too. He's wearing a warm, I specifically talked to the stylist and told him that I wanted him with a gray shirt and warm shorts on it. Cause it was gonna be finalized like this and it pops like that. If you look at this shot, its all done with light and composition and action that gives it a visual impact. If you look everything's in focus. But since you have over exposure right next to under exposure and you have warm and cool and good composition, it gives it visual impact if you like this image. I rarely use shallow depth of field to give my image visual impact. And the reason why I rarely use that is 'cause that's what everyone else does and that's really easy to do. So if you look at my work and you see why it looks different is because of that reason alone. I'm using light, color and contrast, visual contrast in camera, to give the image visual impact. That's the thought process I go through everything, yeah.

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.