Better With Gels


My Mother-In-Law gave us an amaryllis some time ago and despite our neglect, it not only didn’t die (which is par for the course with us), but it actually bloomed. Being in awe of this invincible plant I wanted to mark the occasion with a photograph as proof, not every plant in our home dies (immediately). So I took the flowerpot out to our backyard to try and photograph it, but the light was really just blah and needed some help. I was fully intending to just use available light, but it wasn’t going to turn out well with what was there, so SB-28’s to the rescue!

I started with a single flash just to add to the ambient light but I really didn’t like the state of things so I opted to add another one and cross light it to get the most light in all of the places I could to avoid all of the shadows as well as let me shoot with a high depth of field to provide detail in more than just a sliver of the flower.

At this point, I had good, even light and acceptable depth of field, but something was missing. There was no color in the sky so I tried to remedy it by stopping down the ambient by a couple of stops to see if that recused the background. It started to help, but the flat, lackluster sky needed some more assistance; Time to break out the gels!

I’m a big fan of using 1/4 CTO gels when shooting portraits outside because it adds some (much needed here in Oregon) color in people’s faces. But today I thought I’d try to shoot with full CTO gels on both flashes which would normally be way too much orange for a good looking picture. But I set my white balance to Tungsten which sets the full CTO’s color to about 1/4 CTO and turns the sky a nice deep blue, restoring the much needed color back into the background. Why does this work, might you ask? Well the Tungsten setting on your camera’s White Balance adjustment adds a blue hue to the images to compensate for the orange cast caused by Tungsten bulbs. This not only cancels out most of the added orange from the CTO gels on the flashes, but that same blue hue adds to the blue of the sky, making it look how it normally looks when it’s not so gloomy out. Pretty simple, right? But it’s a neat trick that makes a big difference when the light isn’t in your favor.

So now, I have some great looking photo evidence that not every plant we bring into our house dies.


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