‘How To’ Full Version – Colored Gels Fashion Shoot

Adding colored gels to your lighting setup can result in some really eye catching and interesting results. In this photography class Karl teams up with Broncolor’s Urs Recher to show you how you can get creative with different lighting gels.

Course Overview:

  • Fashion photography using colored gels
  • How to use reflectors for fashion photography
  • Lean how to control shadows and add color
  • Different lighting modifiers for fashion photography
  • Working with models and giving creative direction

For this shoot I wanted to incorporate colored lighting by using a combination of colored gels and reflectors. In previous classes you may have seen me use gels to add some subtle color, but for this I wanted something far more aggressive and dramatic.

To do this I used a total of seven lights (five of which had gels on them) but it was important that I carefully control each light, it’s direction and power, if I was to achieve the shot I had imagined.

To create the colored effect that I wanted I used blue and red gels to reflect color into the shadows on my model and carefully blended my two background lights to create a more purple light.

Fashion photography lighting setup

The lighting setup used for this fashion shoot.

Of the five lights used on the model, only two were direct light. I used the broncolor Satellite Staro as a gentle fill light for the face and shoulders and a picolite with a snoot as the key light on the face.

To add some color and light into the shadow I used carefully positioned reflectors with gelled lighting shining into them. I used two blue lights to the left of the model and one red one to the right.

Using reflectors for fashion photography

We used reflectors and gels for this fashion shoot.

To control my light I used a variety of modifiers. I used fresnels, snoots, P70s and grids to shape my light and minimize the spread. These allowed me to create precise pockets of light and color, allowing me to both blend and isolate particular colors.

Lighting equipment for fashion photography

A selection of the lighting and modifiers used for the shoot.

Once I was happy with the lighting I asked my model to run through a variety of poses — from hard, angled poses to fierce and angry or sexy and sultry — and added a ‘wind machine’ (in this case a large, handheld piece of card).

Although I used quite a few lights for this shoot, the effort and time it took to perfect everything was definitely worth it as we got some really interesting results.

The final image:

Colored gels fashion photography

The final image from the colored gels fashion shoot.

If you’d like to learn more about using colored gels or fashion photography, visit our Portrait and Fashion sections for some inspiration and tips. I’ve also put together a list of other courses that you’ll find useful for understanding light and how to control it.

If you have any questions about this class please post in the comment section below.

Note: This photography class is available with English subtitles.


  1. Hi, this shot looks amazing! I’ve tried to recreate it and even though exposure seems to be pretty much the same not getting the colour effects (much much lighter colours). I’m thinking due to different version of red/blue gels – what specific colour codes are they since Lee have so many! ?

    1. Hi Cameron they were the primary color gels. But don’t over light it aim for a little underexposure as that saturates the colours more and play with the RAW file settings a little. A bigger studio space or black surrounding walls will help.

  2. Thank you Karl, it was a very interesting class! I really like the result. It’s cool that your education classes cover such a variety of topics. Special thanks for the price. Will it be new Photo Critique series and if yes, how can I apply my photos?

  3. It only takes one image to make all the effort worthwhile. The final image at the video end is a superb result. Everything in balance, and that’s what makes it stand out to me. I think you do great fashion work Karl. It’s your niche. You are truly in touch with it and that’s what makes the difference … keep it up.

    1. John, thank you very much for your kind words. I very much enjoy beauty and fashion work and the concepts it makes a nice change from my usual work as a product/advertising photographer.

  4. Great setup; I like the concept of using the gels to fill shadow, instead of straight on key lights. The results look to be great straight out of camera. Was there any extensive retouching required?

    1. Hi Peter, thank you, hardly any retouching at all, a little bit of burn and dodge and that was about it.

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