I did a quick proof of concept test with my gels and SB600 today – it was pretty cool.
The thought behind this is: If we use a orange gel over a flash or strobe to add orange to a light on the subject to balance out the orange sun light on the background what we are also doing is using orange on our subject to add blue (orange’s compliment) to the background.
If that is the case – flip your thinking around and don’t use a gel to match your subject’s white balance to the background – bring out a color in the background by casting it’s compliment onto your subject! I wanted to bring out the spring green in the trees by using a red (green’s compliment) color cast on my subject. Read on to see how it went. Here’s a hint – it worked 😉
To learn more about complimentary colors check out the wikipedia entry on complimentary colors.
So I grabbed a kid’s toy, for it’s bold colors and headed outside. These test shots were taken using a SB600 strobe, camera left about 2′ above and 1 ‘ in front of the subject.
Toy – Strobe Red Gel to Boost Green Outdoor Background Setup
Toy – Strobe Red Gel to Boost Green Outdoor Background Results
My results came out really well – I was super pleased with what I saw!
It needs some refinement but it’s almost there! I used the ‘red’ gel from my Nikon SJ-1 Color Filter Set equivalent to the Rosco Roscolux #26 Light Red available in the $1.95 Rosco Gel Sample Pack at B&H.
Green up the Background with a Red Gel
I had gotten this far I just needed to prove this on a portrait. In comes B my roommate / landlord / best friend. I agreed he could keep the white balance card in front of his face since I was just using him for his skin tone.
This time I put a white shoot through umbrella in front of the gelled flash. and moved the umbrella directly over the camera about 2′ away from the subject and 1.5′ above the camera. I chose a flat light setup to make sure I was evenly distributing the red color cast.
Outdoor Portrait using a Red Gel on Subject Setup
Outdoor Portrait using a Red Gel on Subject Results
Heck yea – the umbrella spread the red nicely as we can see in the middle shot and really bumped up the green int he background while filling in some shadows the first shot that didn’t have flash missed out on.
Proof of concept – proven.. Special thanks to B for playing along!
Joel Svendsen says
Joel from Rosco here –
Admittedly, I’m a lighting nerd – but isn’t color theory fun?! 🙂
First of all – would you mind sharing these fantastic photos from your study in our Flickr Photo Pool?
Now that you’re immersing yourself into color theory and complimentary colors, you should look into our Academy Award Winning CalColor system. They are a patented system of gels consisting of primary & secondary colors calibrated for camera in different densities.
To make your greens pop, I would recommend using either CalColor 15 Magenta #4715 or CalColor 30 Magenta #4730. These colors were used, using the same technique you explained, when shooting the movie ‘Kicking and Screaming’ starring Will Ferrell. The movie had a bunch of shoots on soccer fields and they wanted to make the grass look greener.
One final note – have you seen the Rosco Strobist Collection gel kit made for speed light flash units? This gel kit does include the Roscolux 26 that you talked about in your post.
If you’d like to learn more about these Rosco products, feel free to contact me directly.
Photo, Film & Video Manager