Sometimes you do not want your flash to produce near-daylight white balanced light. And when the flash's light color is not right, the ExpoImaging Rogue Flash Gels Universal Lighting Filter Kit is the right solution. Adding gel filters to your flash can significantly improve the quality of your images. The Rogue Gels Kit, compatible with all standard medium and large-sized shoe mount flashes, is beautifully simplistic and highly effective.
Why use a gel filter on your flash?
One primary use for a gel filter is for color correction. If the light from you flash and another light source are both included in your exposure and that other light has a color that is different from your flash, the result is at least part of the image will be improperly white balanced.
Perhaps the most commonly encountered scenario requiring flash color correction is when shooting under incandescent lights. Incandescent lamps have an orange-toned color temperature of around 2700-3200K (K = Kelvin). Your flash likely has a more daylight-like color temperature of 5200–5800K. If including ambient incandescent light in your flash exposure, your subjects close to the flash will likely appear neutrally white balanced, but the subjects being lit by the ambient tungsten lights will appear orange.
By using the proper color correction gel filter – probably a full CTO (Color Temperature Orange, 6500K to 3200K conversion), you get a similar light color reaching your entire scene and the proper white balance for that entire scene can then be achieved. Let's look at an example:
The first example was captured using only a single tungsten light bulb and was white balanced using the "Tungsten" white balance setting. The second image was lit by a combination of bare flash and that same single tungsten light bulb. This example shows an uneven white balance that would require some very challenging post processing work to evenly correct.
By adding a full CTO gel filter to the flash, the flash's light color matched the ambient tungsten light. Lit by the same light color, the "Tungsten" white balance setting evenly corrected the color in this image.
The other reason to use a gel filter is to add color to your image – to give the image some additional pop. Most frequently, the gel filtered flash is used for the background and to accent a primary subject lit by an unfiltered flash.
A more advanced/complicated gel filter technique can be employed when the background is too large to be lit by a flash or even by multiple flashes (such as the great outdoors). In this case, the flash lighting your main subject can be gel filtered and the image then properly white balanced for the subject. Depending on the color effects filter used, adjusting to proper subject white balance can cause the background to go out of neutral color balance – to produce an effect. I'll leave further details of this technique for another day.
When you need to balance the light color in your exposure and/or when you need to add some color to create more-dynamic imagery, the Rogue Gel kit is what you want in your bag.
What comes in the ExpoImaging Rogue Flash Gels Universal Lighting Filter Kit?
Let's start with a picture of the complete kit:
First, you get a hook-and-loop-closure nylon pouch to store your kit in. And you get separator cards that provide the filter color, color name and f-stop loss of that filter. Yes, filters block light and you should expect between .5 and 3.5 stops of light loss depending on the individual filter being used (don't worry, your camera's auto-exposure system will automatically adjust for this light loss).
You also receive a gel band that holds the filters in place on your flash.
And you receive the filters themselves – 20 of them. There are 14 color effects gels, 5 color correction gels, and 1 diffusion gel.
What are Rogue Gels made from?
"Rogue Gels are made from the highest quality filter materials from LEE Filters. LEE Filters is the world's leading manufacturer of lighting filter materials for the photographic and motion picture industries." [Rogue] The gel material has great photographic quality and good durability.
How large are the Rogue Gel filters?
Each filter measures 6" (15.2 cm) including the tabs. The flash coverage area measures 3.0 x 2.5" (76 x 63mm). This size is adequate to comfortably cover large flash heads including that on the Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT Flash. For smaller flash heads, the filters can be trimmed to a smaller size or simply used as-is.
Which filters are included in the Rogue Flash Gel Filter Kit?
Rogue Gel Kits contain the following selection of LEE Filter colors:
If that is not a big enough selection for you, stack any two filters together to get the color you want.
How do the gel filters attach to the flash?
In this case, a picture is worth a lot of words:
Put the elastic band around the flash head. Lift on side of the band and slide in one of the two filter tabs. Lift the other side of the band and slide the other tab in. Installation is really that easy.
I suggest that Rogue add a small pull-tab on each side of the gel band to better-facilitate grasping the band to make filter installation even easier.
Update: I received this response from Eric Sowder at ExpoImaging: "It’s funny that you mentioned placing the pull tab on the Rogue Gel Band because I am already waiting for prototype samples from our supplier with pull tabs." Expect to see the new gel band style in use in the future.
The gel band is a quality one and, especially with the rubber on the sides of Canon's flash heads (the 580EX II shown above), the filters stay solidly in place. You can even slip other small light modifiers into the band including flags (to block light from reaching somewhere not desired) and snoots (to allow only a spot of light) made from paper or a similar thin, light material. The paper spacers that end up between the filters during manufacturing (you can remove them from the kit) can make good flags.
A closer look at the filters
Each gel filter has printing on it as seen above and below.
Included is the Lee Filter color name, the number of stops of light reduction they create and, for the correction filters, the Kelvin color temperature correction information. Rogue has measured the bare flash vs. filtered flash f/stop loss values using a Sekonic light meter.
Putting the filters into action
For all of the sample images in this review, I used a pair of Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT Flashes controlled by a Canon Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT. When the background layer can be lit independently from the foreground layer, it is easier to control the balance between the two layers and the two remote flash system works very well in this scenario. The background can be lit without influencing the lighting on the foreground.
One bare or with-gel flash was used for the background layer lighting. I used a paper spacer (mentioned above) as a flag to prevent any background light from spilling onto the flower. A Rogue FlashBender Softbox XL was used on the main subject flash for most of these images. The softbox provides a soft light on the main subject and, aligned properly, prevents the main light from contaminating the background.
I used my extremely-useful white shooting table to hold the subjects and to provide the background for the photos.
With a white background and no gels, you can have neutral tones ranging from pure white to solid black depending on how much power you light that background with. Here is that demonstration:
Hit with enough light, the entire background can become pure white (blown). This type of image is commonly referred to as a "High Key" image. Note that a common problem when lighting high key images is that the background lighting reflects onto the subject. I often want to avoid this and I avoided the problem in this example by separating the subject from background by a sizable distance.
An example is not included here, but if you separate the subject from the background from the main subject by enough distance and use an aperture narrow enough to let no noticeable ambient light into the exposure, you get a black background. I didn't think of completely removing the background flash until this setup was long taken down and thus not reproducible. But the concept is solid and quite useful.
The various shades of gray are achieved by adding various amounts of power to the background flash. This is a very easy setup, but only neutral tones are available.
Add a gel filter kit and everything changes. If you have a white background, you can make it nearly any color using gels. Following are examples from each of the Rogue color effects filters:
Because your subject's colors may clash with some of the filter colors, a kit with many colors to choose from is very helpful for getting just the right result.
Just as a sans-gel flash can produce varying levels of background brightness, a gel-filtered flash can also deliver varied levels of brightness. Multiply the number of filters included in this pack by the range of brightness levels available on your flash and you have a serious number of colors to choose from. The examples below explore some of the Follies Pink and Moss Green filter brightness options.
If you still lack the color you need, stack two filters to create that color. Or, use two filtered flashes to create the light you need. Stacking the Heavy Frost Diffusion filter can expand the low light levels producible.
To get the lighter/brighter colors requires a higher power setting on the flash. High flash power settings generate heat and heat can cause deformation of the gel filters. "Rogue Gels are made from dyed polyester film with a maximum recommended operating temperature of 356° F (180° C). At or above the maximum operating temperature the polyester film will begin to deform." [Rogue] A couple of my filters have been slightly deformed from heat from the flash head, but all continue to work fine.
Another good use for gel filters is to add color when the subject has none. Glassware is a perfect example:
Here, the gel filter creates a lively pink background for the clear and frosted glass.
Additionally, by using the fall-off characteristics of light, a gradient background can be created. The background closer to the light source will be the brightest (the bottom-right in this example) and the most-distant background will become darkest. Only a touch of gradient was used in this image, but more can be created.
To make a more-evenly-lit background easier to accomplish, move the flash back and zoom the flash head to a telephoto focal length. The flower sample pictures above utilized this technique.
If your subject is not especially exciting, use a gel filter to add the needed pizazz. While heat sinks are very exciting to some of us, they do not have much color excitement to them. With the heat sink sitting directly on the shooting table, separating the background lighting from the main lighting is not easy. In this case, I used a gel filtered flash to light the subject from camera-right and used a bare flash on camera-left to add a touch of neutrally-colored light that shows the product's true color.
The blue color delivered by the use of the filter creates a far more interesting image than had it not been in place.
Need a green screen image? There is a Rogue Gel for that:
The transparency in this flower's petals will challenge the green screen usage of this particular image, but hopefully you can see the usefulness of the filter.
For lighting larger backgrounds, two of more flashes are sometimes necessary and in that case, multiple Rogue kits may be needed.
I've only scratched the surface of gel filters capabilities. Truth is, your creativity is going to be the limiting factor in your success with the Rogue gel filter kit.
Thanks to ExpoImaging for providing the Rogue Flash Gels Universal Lighting Filter Kit used in this review – and for doing such a great job with the design of this kit. This inexpensive kit is nearly weightless, consumes little space in your case and will have a big impact on your images. The ExpoImaging Rogue Flash Gels Universal Lighting Filter Kit is a beautifully simplistic system made to create simply beautiful images.
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