Color Theory


Lighting with Gels


Lesson Info

Color Theory

I like quotes. You know, this one's from Matisse. Right? And he says with color, one obtains an energy that seems to stem from witchcraft. Right? So, mystical, right? But I do think color has that power, you know? It has that energy. It has that other-worldliness. Has that surreal dream-like quality. And, that may be somewhere you wanna bring your pictures. You know, more towards the surreal. You know, just the color wheel. You know there's definitely complimentary colors which are opposite each other in the color wheel, you know? Red and green, we got Christmas. Sometimes I think of like Easter. Purple and yellow, you know they work with these things at holidays. You know, blue and orange. You know, those are sort of complimentary colors opposite each other in the color wheel. You know, we got monochromatic colors. So we got these blues over here, reds over here, you know, duel complimentary colors. You know, it's its own crazy deep world. And I just think we should just look at this ...

diagram for a second, kinda wrap our heads around it, and just kinda understand that there's a whole, you know, there's a whole landscape here that we can kinda walk around in. The thing I really wanna talk about is little bit about this. You know, subtractive and additive. Here this is how light operates, right? Here this is how inks and colors operate maybe in your printer. Lights gonna operate a little bit differently. Lights gonna mix and turn to white. Inks are gonna mix and turn to black. That's a little bit of different thing that's gonna happen here with light that doesn't happen with ink, you know? So that might be a little bit different and, you know, one thing that's a little bit different is you know, maybe you're used to the primary colors in painting being red, yellow, blue, and here they're red, yellow, green, right? So there's a little bit of a difference there, right? But the colors of light are a little bit different. But, let's just think about this. You know, like just how is red working in this picture? You know, and you guys can just shout it out. How does the red work here? (student talking) So it compliments its color for sure. (students talking) Works with the ball, yep. And it separates it from the background. How else is it working? Yep? (student talking) The red, white, and blue color harmony works together. Yeah sure. What else is it doing? Framing in, yep. Creating an attitude, yep. Totally creating an attitude. I don't know like painting with red, if anybody's painted with red it can be intoxicating. You know what I mean? Like red I think is an intoxicating color, very powerful color. And I think it's giving him a lot of power, you know? And something as simple as a color background can just add a little bit more punch to your picture for sure, right? And also, at the time this was a cover magazines when you look at world of magazines, they wanna separate from each other. You know, red's gonna jump out at the newsstand. And it's just a a punch. And like, how is blue working different in this picture? (student talking) Softer mood crew. What else? Just-- softer mood, the mood is somber-- What were you saying? Surreal to you? Yep, it's monochromatic this time. She sings bluesy songs. And what is blues? Blues is a relationship to sadness, right? I heard that said once. You know, like blues is a relationship to sadness. So you kinda want Norah Jones to feel that way, to kinda have that sort of-- It's also Blue Note Records, you know. You know, Blue Note okay, yeah, let's work with that, you know. Yeah, it could be subtle. It could be aggressive. It could be a lot of things. Or it could just be a background like it is in this picture, right? And why use gels? Again, make the ordinary extraordinary. It's captivating for sure. It creates mood, mystery, and emotion. It's cinematic, right? Always in movies. We're seeing mixed color temperatures and stuff. It's seductive, right? I think you know I teach advertising. The things I say to the students all the time. What do I say? What do you say, Clay? (man laughing) I say it's gotta seduce me and that's what I think adds to, you know. They lure you in. Don't I say that? I've heard that. Yeah okay, cool. It's trendy. All the kids are doing it. Isn't that right, Chris? That's right, Clay. Okay, kids are doing it, okay. Alright? And it introduces more options to your clients, you know? So, color meanings. You know, we talked a little bit about this, right? Red, intense, fire, blood, energy, danger, love, passion, strong, right? So, isn't it funny that red one moment could be danger, and the next moment it could be love. And like, isn't love kinda dangerous, right? Like, all that stuff kinda gets baked into it in a weird way, you know? You know passion in that picture of Iverson with the ball, right? There's a lot of passion there, and you know, that picture's very big in the sneaker head community. People love this picture. So, it becomes a lot of those things. Red violet, royalty, power, nobility, wealth, ambition, dignified, mysterious, right? You know, these are just meanings that are kind of peeled from the ethos. Certain colors might have their own meanings to you, right? They might ring different bells to other people. But blue, of course, the sky, the sea, depth, stability, trust, masculine, tranquil. None of those things were in our blue definition, right, of that picture, right? So, you know, it changes depending on your subject matter and content. Green, neutral, growth, fertility, freshness, healing, safety, and money, greens. Yep, yellows. Just talk about sunshine, joy, cheerfulness, intellect, energy, attention. Even like golden hour, right, when we shooting golden hour, right? Doesn't that have its own sort of just romantic beautiful quality? You know, this like end of the day, next day sort of this fleeting moment, you know. There's even apps for golden hour on your phone. Does anybody have one? I have a golden hour app. You have a golden hour app? Yeah, alright. Orange, warmth, stimulating, enthusiasm, happiness, success, creative, autumn, right? You know, so I use it. Sometimes I use it real simple, just a little kiss of blue in this shot, right? It's just a little blue, and the white's cooling it down. Just give it a little more ambiance, you know? Or, we're gonna look at this first, when we first review it's like you know, maybe we just wanna warm up a space or person a little bit. We're just gonna kiss it into the shadows, you know? It could be sort of subtle, and it could be a great fix when-- I'll say this again, many times I'll have to go photograph they'll be like, oh, we want you to photograph so and so millionaire boxer at this beautiful hotel, right? He's got a suite. You're gonna shoot him in his room. Like great. I go into that suite and it's just a big, beige room with nothing going on, you know? And I have to kinda make it feel like a space in a way, so, just a little kiss of warmth can just give your picture that little thing to keep it from just a blah sort of room, you know? Or here, you know, this record was supposed to be called The Saint Valentine's Day Massacre, you know? So, I just brought a little red gel into the bottom of the picture, a little edge light from the top, you know? Look, I even drew lighting diagram here for you guys. Yep. So this little just edge light coming down from the top, main light is a bank coming from the side, and then I have a red, soft box just kind of filling in the shadows back here, just adding a little bit more mystery to it, you know? Super excited about this class cause I tried to teach myself gels, and my problem was I wasn't getting enough saturation. Oh great. That's a good thing. And then I was trying to do like a spot color in the middle, and then like another color around. Like I was trying to go big way too fast. So, I'm looking forward to the step I may be missing or steps. Cool. Anybody else questions, thoughts on gels? Anybody mess with gels and struggled? No? You struggled? Yeah, how have you struggled? Just get that mike, please. Be honest here, real talk. Cause I'm gonna struggle today. I will mess up I'm sure. You think that's how we gotta figure it out. I mean, typically when I've used gels in the past, my struggle comes from paring multiple colors in a pleasing way. And typically I just end up shooting with complimentary colors. I'm hoping to find a way to move beyond that. Yep. Cool. Yep, that's a good question, and you have one more? Okay, cool. Yes? No I just, you know when I was thinking of gels I think of bold colors, so when you showed those other ones, it's just very subtle-- Yeah. That interests me a lot. Okay, that interests you, cool. And Clay, Play-Doh fun factory says I tend to like soft light but have trouble getting good transitions when working with gels in a soft light source. Yeah, that is a challenge, and we'll look at that. And I do think, I don't know how you bought your gels, you know? Like if you buy them sometimes in this like party pack that they come in, they're very canned. So, I do encourage people to go to like a good lighting house store, where they have racks and racks of them, and they have like the whole rainbow and you can find some more subtle colors and match some up, you know? Cause I do find that it gets a little bit weird quickly. But, you know, sometimes I work with it, sometimes I try to pull it back, but we'll take a look at that. Yep.

Class Description

Color has a way of making the ordinary extraordinary. In this course, Clay Patrick McBride will explore the power of gels. He’ll show how to light and create dynamic images by balancing and accentuating color.


Vitamin Dee

Great class if you're wanting to learn how to work with gels! This class will take you through the process step by step as you build your shooting playbook. I enjoyed Clay's honest and simple approach. Clay and his assistant, Chris, make a great team as they show how gels work and show you what not to do. They make learning fun!


Enjoying every minute of this class.

Doug Richardson

I found Clay's classes and teaching style worked very well for me. For example, Clay's method of first testing one light in a multiple light set-up and the adding the other lights one-by-one was great. I recommend this class for anyone working to add different lighting styles to their work.