Orange backgrounds can be a casualty of using flash at night. In this quick guide we’ll show you how lighting gels like an orange CTO gel can help neutralise the colour in your backgrounds.
Pop-up or hotshoe flash is a necessary evil when taking pictures of people after dark. But one of the reasons that simple flash images don’t look great is that the colour of flash is so different from the ambient lighting.
Shoot indoors at a party or out on the high street, and the background will look unnaturally orange, due to the predominantly tungsten bulb lighting that surrounds you.
For more pleasing flash portraits, fit an orange filter to your flash – this gel is known as CTO (or Colour Temperature Orange). With this gel in place you then turn the white balance to its Incandescent setting, and use the flash as usual.
How to use CTO lighting gels
01 Get gelled up!
Coloured gels are available in rolls from pro dealers and stage lighting specialists. Companies such as Rosco, Honl and Rogue make kits of pre-cut gels for photographers. You can also buy them cheaply on eBay.
02 Stick on an orange
You put the orange-coloured CTO gel over the diffuser panel on the flash head. You can use masking tape or a rubber band to hold in place if taking lots of shots, but holding it over the flash is easier for one-off shots.
03 Set white balance
Adding the gel corrects the colour temperature of your flash from daylight to tungsten. Make sure your SLR doesn’t give you completely orange pictures by adjusting White Balance to the Incandescent setting.
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