definition of gels
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What are Gels?

Gels Definition

Gels are thin, transparent, colored sheets of plastic used in lighting equipment, primarily in photography, film, and theater. These sheets are placed over lights to modify the color, intensity, and nature of the light emitted, thereby influencing the mood and look of a scene or photograph.

image of colours

What are Gels for?

Gels serve multiple purposes in various visual production environments. Primarily, they are used to correct or alter the color temperature of a light source. For example, a gel might convert standard white light into a warm sunset glow or a cool blue tone, depending on the needs of the scene. This ability makes gels invaluable in creating atmosphere and depth in visual storytelling.

Additionally, gels can be used to control light spills and reduce the intensity of light. This is particularly useful in scenarios where lighting needs to be subtle or highly controlled, such as in close-up shots or delicate lighting setups. By diminishing the light’s intensity, gels help in achieving the desired luminance without additional equipment.

Gels also play a crucial role in artistic expression. They allow cinematographers and photographers to experiment with hues and shadows, offering a creative tool to evoke emotions or highlight elements within a scene.

image of gels

What are Some Common Challenges in Using Gels?

Using gels might seem straightforward, but several challenges can arise, affecting the desired outcome of a lighting setup. One primary issue is the degradation of gels over time. Due to their plastic nature, gels can melt or warp when exposed to high-intensity lights for prolonged periods. This not only requires frequent replacements but can also lead to inconsistent lighting effects in long shoots.

Another challenge is the accurate color rendition. Different gels can have varying levels of transparency and hue intensity, which might not exactly match what is seen in previews or tests. Lighting technicians need to have a precise understanding of how each gel reacts under different lighting conditions to achieve the correct effect.

Furthermore, the physical handling of gels requires care. Gels are delicate and can easily be scratched, torn, or crumpled. Such damage can alter the light diffusion properties of the gels, leading to unwanted lighting effects and inconsistencies during a shoot.


What is the best way to attach gels to lights?

Gels can be attached to lights using clips or gaffer tape. Ensure the gels are securely fastened but not too close to the light source to prevent damage from heat.

Can gels be used with any light?

Gels are versatile and can be used with almost any type of light, including LED, fluorescent, and incandescent. However, it’s crucial to check the heat tolerance of a gel since some light sources can get very hot.

How do you choose the right gel for a scene?

Choosing the right gel depends on the desired mood and the color temperature of the scene. Consider the existing lighting conditions and the emotional tone you wish to convey. Using a color temperature chart or consulting with an experienced lighting director can help in making the right choice.

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