Photo Notes A place to talk about making images.

July 12, 2010

Filtering Lights

Filed under: Lighting Technique — John Siskin @ 6:24 pm

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So many people seem to think that filters are something in Photoshop, rather than something we use on a light or in front of a lens. Certainly Photoshop gives us many creative tools that offer wonderful ways to manipulate an image, but there are many reasons to use filters when you take a picture. The first one is that you preserve the idea you had for an image. If you think when you make a shot that it would be great if the left side was blue and the top of the frame was darker you will be disappointed when you see the image as a raw file. You may think, now why did I take that shot? Another consideration: if you are shooting a hundred shots of a model in the studio do you want to have to change the color of the background in every shot? Filters give you a way to control the light in a shot as you make the shot.

The background color is added with a filter

Used a warm filter to color the background

Mel, the background was lit with a warm light

Used a warm light to create the background color

Here are a few ways I use filters: I like to filter the light on a background. I can add any color to a background with gels. I use a mottled gray background most of the time, but I can change the color all over the spectrum. When you do this try to reduce the amount of light from your subject that falls on the background. The less white light you have the more saturated your color will be.

Used a blue filter over the lights to warm up the background

You can also change the color of your lights then remove the color in Photoshop. Why would you want to? Well this allows you to change the color of the continuous lights in the shot. So add a 1/2 CTB to your strobes then filter the blue out in Photoshop. All the ambient light will be much warmer, really a simple way to filter ambient light.
Polarizers allow you to control reflections, especially with daylight. This is much easier than using the cloning tool to fix a shot.
I like to use warm filters over some of my strobes when I shoot a portrait. This give the hard light a feeling of being sunlight.

I used warm filters on several of the lights to give a sunlight feel to the shot

The kit I use for my lights includes several warm filters, and a couple cool filters. I also have color filters that I mostly use for backgrounds. I generally get filters from Rosco: they have a tremendous selection and their filters don’t burn. Filters are a great inexpensive way to bring more control to your images.

For more thoughts about photography please take one of my classes:
An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio
Getting Started In Commercial Photography

Or buy my book: Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting: A Guide for Digital Photographers(ok it won’t be out until November, but you can order it now).
Thanks John

1 Comment

  1. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Anyway I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.

    Comment by Brooke — June 25, 2011 @ 2:52 pm

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