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gelling your flash

When photographing in an Incandescent environment indoors, it makes sense to gel your flash to make your flash blend in better with the existing light.

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61 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. 2 says

    You generally keep your camera set to the white balance of whatever is your dominant light source. But then .. you do shoot in RAW and that gives you a lot of flexibility in post-processing and adjusting your WB.

    Neil vN

  2. 3Daniel says

    Hi Neil,
    I’ve heard some serious complaints about SB-900 heat up shut down issues.
    Do you recommend SB-900 over SB-800? Is the difference worth the extra money?


  3. 5Eleazar says


    When taking outdoor portraits with the sun rising or setting, what filter sheet should I use? Do I set my WB to Sun/Shade? The sun’s temperature seems more golden and closer to Tungsten.



  4. 6 says

    Eleazar, here is an image I’ve used elsewhere on this site, and is an example of where I used a 1/2 CTS gel over my flash to warm the light from the flash a touch. This helps in balancing it with the warm light in the late afternoon.

    Neil vN

  5. 8Rory says

    I’m really enjoying your website. Thank you for the invaluable resource. I just bought the SB-900. I had been looking for a used SB-800 on Craigslist for quite a while and wasn’t having much luck. My wife suggested I just go and buy the SB-900, as it will outlast the camera and I’ll have it forever. Good to see you like the 900.

    I have an D90. I was going to buy an SB-600 but a number of people warned me away from it as they felt that the power of the 800/900 when used with a diffuser and bounced is a better choice in the long run. So, hoping it’s not overkill, I bought the SB-900.

    Here’s my question: why bother with gels any longer? I have been shooting in RAW and using the in camera NEF processing to quickly adjust the picture control, white balance, exposure and then I trim. (For pics I really like I use Lightroom. And for most, I just keep the initial jpeg file.) When adjusting the white balance in camera with the RAW file, I find that it mimics the use of gels. Is this a correct assumption? I know that picture controls can affect the histogram, so I sometimes use a completely neutral picture control I’ve loaded and UniWB. This seems to be even a better choice when adjusting WB in camera after the shot. So, is my rationale correct and gels now have limited value if you adjust WB in post?


  6. 9 says

    Rory, the idea behind using gels is to help balance the colour of your flash with that of the existing light. When there is a huge jump in the colour balance / white balance, it can lead to an ugly effect. This is usually difficult or impossible to fix in Photoshop. Yet it is easy to deal with at the time you take a photo, by gelling your flash.

    Here’s more on the topic – gelling your flash for Tungsten.

    Neil vN

  7. 10 says

    Hi Neil

    Just bought your book about On Camera Flash Techniques. Brilliant information for little money. I’m going to shoot my first wedding next week and there was plenty of useful information on it.

    Another thing. I have a Rosco Supergel Sampler here with me, but there is no information to be found which of the orange and yellow gels is equal to the Cinegels you are mentioning above. Do you know which one of these Supergels (#14 medium straw, #313 Light relief yellow, #13 Straw Tint, #312 Canary, #11 light straw,…) is equal to the 1/2 CTS? Should I just try to get a white paper to look white while setting to Tungsten WB and using any of these gels?

    Thanks already in advance for the information.
    -Horst (from Germany)

  8. 11 says

    Horst, I don’t know which would be a direct equivalent, but from what you mention there, the #11 (light straw), might be a good start. Are there no specs on these gels that will tell you what they correct the flash’s colour balance to?

    Neil vN

  9. 12 says

    Hi Neil,

    Unbelievable site. So much information. Thank you.
    I hated flash until somebody asked me to shoot Sweet 16.
    Lightning was terrible. I had only Nikon D700 with built-in flash. It was a disaster.
    Anyway, I ordered your book and SB-900 to learn how to shoot with a flash.
    Neil, I need your professional opinion and advice.
    What is your choice? Battery Pack Nikon SD-9 or Quantum Turbo SC?
    Do I need CCKE cable or CKE with Turbo SC?

    Thank you,


  10. 13 says

    Gennadie .. my first recommendation would be the Nikon SD-9 pack. In the same way I’d recommend the CP-E4 to Canon shooters. It is a less expensive option than the Turbo SC, and recycles only slightly slower than the SC.

    Neil vN

  11. 14David C says

    Hi Neil,

    I live in Singapore and unfortunately, I am not able to get hold of the Rosco CTS gels. There are other flash gels available here but they come in CTO flavors, not CTS. (Seems like Rosco is the only company producing CTS gels?)

    Do you know of any shop that I can order from and do they accept international orders?

    Thank you!


  12. 15Neil vN says

    David .. in that case, just get the CTO gels. Compared to the difference it will make to your flash photography when in shooting in incandescent lighting, the difference between the two gels are minor. I’d just get the CTO then.


    Neil vN

  13. 16David says


    Hey, thanks for the link.

    I checked out the local store and got myself a large piece of Lee Filter Straw No.103. A big disappointment. I went home and realized it is no different from the 1/4 CTO gel I’ve already had.

    I wanted to get the CTS cos I had just finished reading Neil’s book, and he mentioned CTS is preferred to CTO because the former gives better skin tones. I should have read more elsewhere.

    Anyway thanks.

  14. 17Tad G says

    Hi Neil,

    I wonder if you use internal SB-900 zoom during shooting on weddings, when you bounce flash? What is your settings on SB-900 in this situation? I think that is good to use zoom during shooting in bright day, when try to use max power of flash but when bounce flash in rooms, churches and closed places it should be turned off. What setting is good and useful, let me know.


  15. 18Neil vN says

    Tad, I do zoom my speedlight to the maximum setting when I bounce flash. This makes the flash a little bit more efficient. And since I am bouncing flash .. and will therefore have a large light source anyway.

    Neil vN

  16. 21olympus_fotograph says

    hey Neil,

    How do you fix your gels on your flash?
    something like this?

    i hate it to attach it every time with a small office tape.
    but if the gel holder is not clear, how much light loss will be expected?( on the lumiquest page it says it depends on the gel (itself) )….but there will also some loss of light if its not clear…negligible??
    i also use the black foamie thing, successful!

  17. 22Neil vN says

    I carry the pieces of gel around, stuck to my lenshood and just stick them with gaffer tape onto the flashhead.

    Quite low-tech.

    The loss of light is small. And TTL flash will take it into account, so no need to compensate for it then.

    Neil vN

  18. 23Chuck says


    You mentioned zooming the lens to get more bounced light.
    Did you mean zoomed in or zoomed out?
    Can you still zoom in while leaving the settings in TTL?

  19. 24Neil vN says

    Hi there Chuck ..

    In this instance we’re referring to zooming the flash-head. Not the lens. With zooming the flash-head you effectively get a bit more power out of the speedlight because the light-beam is more concentrated.

    Neil vN

  20. 25Ivan says

    Hi Neil,

    1. Canon st-e2 has ratio control, ratio control is same with flash exposure?
    2. How adjust flash exposure with canon st-e2 speedlite transmitter?

    Thanks Neil

  21. 26Neil vN says

    Ivan … ratio control on the ST-E2 (or Master flash) isn’t the same as Flash Exposure Compensation. That is something you’d adjust on your camera body … or the Master flash.

    Neil vN

  22. 27mike says

    Do i spend $500 on a sb 900 or go the extra yard and get the quantum?? is it over kill for everyday photography? do i lose anything with the Quantum system?? thanks

  23. 28Neil vN says

    Mike .. I love my Q-flashes, but they don’t offer the subtle control over your flash as a dedicated speedlight would. Where the Q-flashes are superior is in build quality … and that they are very robust. You can fire them for long periods without fear of them melting down like a speedlight would.

    So my recommendation would be to get another SB-900 over a Q-flash.

    Neil vN

  24. 29Trina Cheney says

    Hi Neil,

    Why don’t you use the nikon gels that come with the SB800/900 instead of the CTS gels? When I use the nikon gels my WB is worse so I go back to auto mode.

  25. 32 says

    Stephen …. 100 people individually? Then a speedlight would suffice.

    100+ people in a group shot indoors, with sufficient depth of field and with a reasonable ISO?
    Then you’re looking at higher powered setups like the Alien Bees or Elinchroms or Profoto kits.

    Neil vN

  26. 33Stephen says

    thanks for responding so fast . . .I’ve been learning a lot from your site.

    Referring back to my question, I’m asking about a group picture with 100 people together with a depth of field of 8f and 400 ISO. How much power of light do I need? Would 2 SB 900 on both sides and a SB 800 in the center work?



  27. 34 says

    Stephen .. this truly is a point at which you need to do physical homework. Set up the lights, and test it with a flashmeter whether you are getting enough light for the scenario you envisage.

    Neil vN

  28. 35Bahy says

    hi Neil. Have you ever used colored omni-bounce diffusers? Can they be used instead of gels? Finally what is your opinion on Nikon SB-400. I thought of it just to photograph my kids/friends? Thanks for the valuable website.

  29. 36 says

    Bahy .. I have one of the amber omi-bounce diffusers. They were very well.

    However, I use only the white omni-bounce now. The advantage with this is that if I have a gel on my flash, the color temperature of my flash doesn’t change as I pop the omni-bounce on and off.

    With an amber omni-bounce, the color temperature would wildly change if I removed it for some reason.

    Re the Nikon SB-400 … I would still recommend getting a more powerful speedlight.

    Neil vN

  30. 38 says

    Dragos .. the Eneloops are only 2000 mAh, but this year I have replaced ALL my rechargeable batteries with the Eneloops. More important than the power they can deliver, was the fact that they have an incredibly low self-discharge rate.

    A fully-charged Eneloop is rated to still have 85% of its juice left after a year on the shelf. This is hugely important for me, in that I can now keep a stash of batteries on hand, without perpetually having to recharge them before a shoot.

    Neil vN

  31. 39Michael says

    Hi Neil, awesome site, great info you have there!

    Just a question about the choice of flashguns… I looked at the 580EX II but it is actually quite pricey. What do you think about the 430EX II? Is the fact that the head only rotates by 90 degrees a big annoyance? I’m not a big flash user but I will get some wedding photography done in a couple of months so I’m considering the options!


  32. 42 says

    Neil, do the rechargeable batteries in the SB-900 lose their power equally to those in the SD-9 when used together? If so then my thoughts would be to use alkaline or lithium in the SB-900 which would have more pops. Therefor when the rechargeable SD-9 is depleted all is needed is to switch to another SD pack and not fumble with the four batteries inside the speedlight. I’m not familiar yet with the combination and this may not be a concern for you. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

    Loved your book and all your on going great information you share here.

  33. 43 says

    John .. I have no idea at which rates the flash’s batteries lose their power compared to the battery pack. Any mathematical solution like you propose there, just makes it more difficult compared to just using the same batteries (in groups of 4), for all the speedlights and battery packs. That makes loading new batteries a faster effort than loading different types into different parts.

    So for the practical consideration of this, it is easier for me to just use Sanyo Eneloops in everything.

    Neil vN

  34. 46Anoop Nair says

    Hello Neil
    Do you allways use Nikon SD-9 High Performance Battery Pack with D3? How do you carry the SD9 while shooting? attached to your Belt? Can i still put 4 Battaery in the Flash even iam using SD 9?

  35. 47 says

    I usually use the Nikon SD-9 or Canon CP-E4 battery packs.
    I keep them on the camera strap by fastening the pouch over the loop of the camera strap. This way it dangles from the camera. I have to make sure though it doesn’t swing around when I need the camera to be stable.

    You need the 4 batteries in the flash to have the flash work.

    Neil vN

  36. 48Anoop Nair says

    Thanks Neil

    I thing i need to understand the methode in little more detail, You Said ” I keep them on the camera strap by fastening the pouch over the loop of the camera strap. This way it dangles from the camera” i thing the SD-9 Put some extra weight on the camera . and it will not be easy to lift the D3S to eye frequently. i am asking your openion about attaching the SD9 on my waist on the Belt. do you thing its comfortable? iam planing to buy it today

  37. 49 says

    Anoop, you have to keep in mind that I carry my Nikon bodies in a specific way, due to the plate I attach to the bottom of the camera. It completely changes the handling of the camera and camera strap.

    I do this because I usually work with two cameras, and need their battery packs to be independent from me. But if you work with a single camera, it makes more sense to put the battery pack on your waist belt.

    Neil vN

  38. 50 says

    Hi Neil,
    I use the eneloop batteries (they are awesome by the way and I’ll never go back), but I am having trouble finding a decent larger capacity charger. Does the pearstone charger work with the eneloops?

  39. 51 says

    Ray .. that’s exactly what I’ve been using – the Pearstone chargers. They appear to work well and I haven’t had any reason to want to change to another charger in all this time.

    Neil vN

  40. 53 says

    I could be cute about it and say yes, Nikon makes a battery pack for it … but the SB-700 can’t take it since it has no connector for a battery pack.

    It’s the one major downfall of the SB-700 (and Canon 430 EX II) that they don’t take external battery packs.

    Neil vN

  41. 54mike s says

    glad you werent cute, so i guess its time to trade it for the 900, i guess its rechargables for now, thanks again……i would have had some time trying to plug a battery pack in!

  42. 55mike says

    is it worth trading up from the sb700 to the sb900?? other than an external battery option, is the extra reach worth it?

  43. 56Jonathan says

    Hi Neil,

    I have a little question for you … How you determine to use a Full CTS Gel rather than 1/2 CTS Gel in thungsteen light scenario ???

    Have a nice day !!!


  44. 57mike says

    According to Neil: The Full CTS will bring your flash WB down to around 2900K, more or less neutralising the look of the Tungsten light. The 1/2 CTS will bring your flash WB to around 3800K, which will leave your backgrounds still with a touch of the warmth of Tungsten lighting.

  45. 58Amani opulukwa says

    Hey Neil,
    can u tell me what is the full name of Learning Flash techniques people talking about in this articles i can go buy it please!!!!
    Thanks Amani

  46. 60Michael says

    Neil, I believe you posted once on a flash stand that you recommended. It may have been blue in color and had a locking feature. Do you recall?

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