How I got the shot: Working with gels

Lately, I have been having so much fun creating portraits using colored gels. It really doesn’t matter if you use strobes, speedlights or continuous lights, gels can add a totally new element to your work. I put together exactly how I got the shot of a model using two LED light panels and working with gels.

One of the final Images with blue/yellow gels.

Staging the scene

I used a black background (painted canvas); you could use cloth or seamless paper. Using two Neewer LED light panels — one on either side of the model — and playing with various different colored gels; red/red, red/green, blue/yellow and pink/yellow combinations. My favorite has to be red/red and blue/yellow combinations.

Staging the scene

Camera & light settings

Now, this doesn’t mean the exact same setting will work for you, but it may give you a good place to start. We had the lights turned up fully (it was really dark in that space) and it also required turning the ISO up to get the shot, but totally worth it.

I shot with my Sony a7R III and my Tamron 28-75mm lens in Manual mode, with settings of f/2.8, ISO 640 and 1/125s. My white balance was set to Auto, with spot metering on. My focal length was 28mm.

For my lights, they are manual and turned to the brightest setting for blue, I had the yellow turned down. The gels are plastic cellophane sheets that slide in front of the LED panels. As the lights do not get hot, there was no risk of them melting the gels.

  • Camera mode: Manual
  • Exposure: f/2.8, ISO 640, 1/125s
  • White Balance: Auto
  • Metering: Spot metering
  • Focal length: 28mm


I edited the shots in Adobe Photoshop, as there was a bit to clean up in the background. I also added a red/green (or matching gel color) gradient fill and a Color Lookup Table (I really like the TealOrangePlusContrast LUT). Finally, I finished things off by adding a texture to the background.

working with gels
Photoshop edit

Model: Axe; Hair and Makeup: Em Mrietta