Friday, August 27, 2010

To Gel Or Not To Gel, That Is The Question

Good Afternoon Everybody,

Tunnel-Vegas Whew! We are almost at the end of the week and that ol' bear is receding into the distance. We got just about everything wrapped and packed for Photoshop World and are looking forward to heading to Las Vegas tomorrow. Hopefully that means a little R&R over the weekend.

I spent today putting together a 1 hour long demo video on a brand new lighting technique I'm going to be first showing at Photoshop World. Let's just say it has to do with my old Mini Z-Rays now renamed "LOVE Lightz".  I know, I know, you're thinking what is Ziser up to now. Can't tell ya' yet, but I promise I will real soon ;~) WAY cool and way fun!!!

To Gel Or Not To Gel, That Is The Question

Do Not Gel Today, I’m going to the Skribit widget for our topic today. The question that was raised recently was, "Do you gel your flash to match your ambient light or post process the image to remove the yellow tint?

The quick answer in no on both counts. I've gotten this question a number of times over the years. When people see my "shutter drag" images from church interiors, they always wonder how I soften the warm tones. The fact of the matter is that I LIKE the warm tones.

Magnificent Beauty Think about it. If I light my subject with a cool light source like my flash at 5600 K, slow down the shutter to pick up some of the ambient, and balance the final print for the cooler light source, you would think the background would really shift orange.

Why doesn't it shift that much? Here's one of the reasons. For those of you that have read my CBTL book, in Chapter 1 in the section entitled, "Balancing the Flash With The Ambient" starting on page 40, I mention that I underexpose the background slightly. That amount of under exposure may be up to 2 stops underexposed from the correct exposure on the subject.

Groom Shot

That means what? It means that the orange cast is two stops less noticeable. I still get a warm cast to the background, but I said earlier, I like the warm tones surrounding the properly color balanced subject. Compositionally it makes the subject project out from the scene.

Once I did gel the flash and made the exposure for the tungsten color balance. The result for me was that the subject sort of blended into the background. I just didn't like the result and I decided to return to my original procedure NOT gelling my flash.

Said another way, it you expose the ambient without underexposing it by a stop or two, you will definitely see the orange cast. You will also have problems with it mixing with your flash illumination which could cause you fits in Lightroom and Photoshop. So remember, under expose the ambient to reduce the amount of orange cast in your images.

Max Fish

One last thing, if you do follow my technique, you may sometimes get a bit too much warmth in the shadows. The easy fix is to desaturate the Yellow color channel in Lightroom slightly. This works like a charm. I actually showed the technique in a recent Technique Tuesday entitled, "Go Away Green". In that case I was dealing with the green tint of overhead florescent fixtures. Here is the link to the post right here.

So there you have it folks. That's an update on how I photograph in ambient light situations. Give it a try and see if it works for you.


Hey gang, that's it for me today. One more busy day and then we head west. I'll plan to see everyone next Monday, with my pixel winnings falling from my pockets:~). Have a great weekend.

If you are going to be at Photoshop World, come on by and say HI. You can catch me at one of my programs or we will be hanging out in the Tech Expo at Booth #342. You just might find me at the Peachpit, Manfrotto, and Westcott booths too.

See ya' in Vegas!


1 comment:

  1. "Said another way, it you expose the ambient without underexposing it by a stop or two, you will definitely see the orange cast."

    It is my understanding that the shutter speed controls ambient light. So to underexpose the abmbient light, you just increase the shutter speed a stop or two, correct?