What are flash gels?

As you make advancements in your DSLR camera skills, you’ll want to explore new pieces of equipment that can help you create shots that have a unique look. When shooting with a flash, you’ll have additional equipment available that provides further opportunities for photos that are difficult to recreate using any other method. If creating unique looking DSLR photographs is your aim, flash gels are a piece of equipment that can help you. Continue reading to learn more about flash gels and how they’re used.

What are flash gels? A flash gel is a colored gel or filter or sheet that fits over the flash, giving the light from the flash a tint of color. Some flash gels are made to fit into a slot on the flash unit, while others will just fit over the light itself. You can purchase flash gels at photography stores, or you can make your own flash gels, using colored cellophane or even thin wrapping paper. Experiment with different materials and colors to achieve the look you’re seeking, as different thicknesses and transparency levels in the gel sheets will cause different results. If you find that a certain flash gel sheet is too thin to provide the color tinting you want in a scene, you can use two or more sheets stacked together to create a deeper tint.

Reasons to use flash gels. You can create a certain mood in a photograph by making use of flash gels, as the subtle color tints in the light from the flash can significantly change the look of a common scene. The use of flash gels can also spark some new ideas in your photography, as maybe a certain color can give you push in a different direction. And don’t be afraid to experiment with flash gels. A flash gel attached to a strobe to the front and above the subject will create an entirely different look than the same gel attached to a strobe directly to the left of the subject, for example.

Equipment to use with flash gels. You should be able to make use of flash gels with the flash units or strobe lights that you already own. The gels should be able to work with a flash unit that’s connected to the hot shoe of your DSLR or to a strobe light placed off camera. You also can use a continuous lighting source with a flash gel, but the heat that this type of lamp generates could cause damage to the gel over time.

Attaching flash gels. Photography stores sell frames that can fit onto your lighting sources, and the frames hold the gel sheets. This is probably the easiest way to ensure the flash gel remains in place. Some lighting units have slots in which to slide a gel sheet too. Or if you want to use a DIY method, you can use duct tape or a rubber band to ensure the gel sheet stays in place on the flash unit or strobe.