Using Gels to Create Unique Backgrounds

Written by: Travis Curry, Published on: 18 May 2015

Model w/Sunflower | Model: Abbey Ford | HMUA: Carolyn Thombs
Photographer: Travis Curry | Model: Abbey Ford | HMUA: Carolyn Thombs

Savage has a huge selection of backdrops, whether you're looking for seamless paper backdrops, muslin backdrops or a specialty backdrop - Savage has got you covered! If you're looking to switch things up for your shoot I would consider using gels and lighting to get different effects. I use gels for a lot of my beauty & fashion work; I love adding a pop of color against a dark background for drama. Recently I’ve found that working with lighter backdrops allows me to create new colors and different lighting patterns in my images. 

For headshots and portraits, I keep my lighting setup pretty simple with just 1 light but when I'm shooting bright backdrop colors I find that adding an additional background light punches up the color and gives my shot a vibrant look. I was shooting against my pink backdrop one day and wanted to see what would happen if I added another color to it. I added an orange gel to a 7" silver reflector and feathered it toward the background. After playing around with the power of my background light and its position, I found a sweet spot that made a light gradient from a nice soft peach to a pink as you can see in the image of Abbey above. 

Now I know that you can add in gradients with post production, but that always seems too fake for me, and the images can come out a bit too perfect for my liking. I think that experimenting with light, shapes and color in your background can give you endless possibilities in your photography!

Girl in Bathing Suit Photographer: Travis Curry | Model: Dani Stup | HMUA: Sara Elizabeth

For the image above, I shot on Fashion Gray - I wanted to create a sun-flair, hazy look for this shot. I knew that by adding some orange as a side light, with nothing else to bounce or stop the light that I'd have some light spill onto the background which would change it from Fashion Gray to something else. I loved the results I got in camera because it was such a unique, hazy color that I created. 

Girl in Bathing SuitPhotographer: Travis Curry | Model: Dani Stup | HMUA: Sara Elizabeth

Experiment with Gels!

Gels can be used to offset or balance out color in your image. For Weddings & Events some photographers use CTO gel to match indoor ambient light (ie/lamps). I find that I use Gels for a more creative purpose over technical purpose. For the two images below, I wanted to have a more defined change in color rather than in my top two images that were more soft. When using gels - it can be really easy to completely change your backdrop's color completely - you just change the power and placement of your background light. For these images, I wanted to have more defined colors rather than a smooth gradient, so I placed my light (silver reflector) closer the background which in turn created a dramatic light falloff which translated into a more defined gradient for the images. I also experimented using flags to block light and cinema foil to further shape light around my reflector.

Model with short hairPhotographer: Travis Curry | Model: Amanda Campbell | HMUA: Sara Elizabeth

Model w/short hairPhotographer: Travis Curry | Model: Amanda Campbell | HMUA: Sara Elizabeth

Model with short hairPhotographer: Travis Curry | Model: Amanda Campbell | HMUA: Sara Elizabeth

Use Shadow to Your Advantage

Another way you can create unique backgrounds is to create shadows. Whether you use something like a GOBO to create shapes of light or shoot through a set piece to create a shadow. For this final image, I set a circular reflector on it's black side, which blocked any light getting to the backdrop. Using objects to create shadows in your images can be a really creative way to make unique backdrops and bring something different to your images.

Blonde model purple backgroundPhotographer: Travis Curry | Model: Ryan Leigh | HMUA: Sara Elizabeth

What's next for me is to branch out and use different gel colors, multiple gel lights, shadow makers and new savage backdrops to see what new backdrop combinations I can come up with next! 

I hope that this post has sparked some interest in different ways you can use gels and lights to change up your backdrops! 

 

About Travis Curry

Travis Curry

Travis Curry is a Professional Photographer who specializes in Fashion, Beauty & Portrait photography. Growing up as a music-loving kid that wanted to be in a boy band & dance in Missy Elliot music videos, Travis has always been drawn to the visual and performing arts. He started his journey as a Photographer in 2008 when he was asked to photograph a wedding with a friend. After falling in love with the art of Photography, Travis used every moment he could get to develop his skills as a Photographer, often photographing many of his performer friends as test subjects. This lead to the true start of his Photography career in 2009. In 2012 Travis began to delve into the world of Fashion Photography and has since grown the commercial side of his business while maintaining his private clients (Headshots + Weddings). Travis is excited to be a Featured Photographer with Savage Universal and hopes to share his creative process and experiences to inspire other photographers! Travis’ work can be seen in publications such as: Jute Magazine, Ellements Magazine, Papercut Magazine, Baltimore Mag, The Baltimore Sun, Washington Blade, Bayside Bride and Glitter Guide. Check out his website here!

  

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