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Gels seem to be making my images look worse

crossover37crossover37 Member
edited March 2013 in wedding photography
I shot a wedding recently and I used CTS gels on my flash for the ceremony (the walls were light beige). The lighting was about 3800k and so I slapped on a CTS gel on my flash to balance out the color temps but now that I looked through the photos in Lightroom, I noticed the skin tones are a funky orange/greenish and adjusting WB doesn't seem to fix the problem.

My second shooter uses only natural light and the skin tones in his photos look fine.

At what times do you not gel your flash indoors because I know you need to in order to match the different light sources but in my case it seems it made things worse. If you have any wall that isn't white does that mean I shouldn't bounce off it and if I do, should I remove the gel if the wall is already a litte warm like a beige?


  • any examples? full cts or half?
  • I'll post some example tonight sorry. I usually put a 1/2 CTS gels in warm light and two 1/2 CTS gels in really warm light. I will put my camera in Live View mode (Canon 5D Mark II) and see what temp the WB looks right at and then add 1 or 2 gels depending on the temp given (3700k I would put one 1/2 CTS and if it's 2800k I would put two 1/2 CTS gels).
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    I take it you are changing your WB in kelvin in camera to match the gels?

    Just a thought as you say you are putting on the gels to balance the WB of the ambient, but you must also alter the kelvin in camera to match the gel strength.

    So a 1/2 CTS will be around 3700 you then change the camera's WB kelvin to match.

    You may be doing that and am sorry if quoting the obvious, but I've seen where people put on a gel to match ambient, but think it's somehow going to auto change in camera even if they have left the WB to say 5200 or something in camera.
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator

    And did you shoot in RAW? And finesse your WB as part of your normal workflow?
  • crossover37crossover37 Member
    edited March 2013
    Trev - I am changing the WB in camera and setting it to K like you stated

    Neil - Yes, I always shoot in RAW. The flash image below has the WB adjusted to look as close to correct as possible. The skin tones in the flash image don't look milky white like the ambient only shot though no matter how much I adjust the WB.

    Ambient Only
    photo IMG_0039_zps2cf7117c.jpg

    With 1/2 CTS Gel
    photo IMG_4787_zpsde1c7fe9.jpg
  • ZenonZenon Member
    I'm not convinced your partners that much better. That first shot looks good. Very clean but I like that look. I may have added a little black during PP for depth and contrast. Skin tones look great. Compare the white dress to the pot lights above the couple. Both white and without gels the pots would be yellow. The second shot too. A little more red. I find many times people look too tanned or red or my taste.
  • ZenonZenon Member
    edited March 2013
    To summarize. The gel balanced your flash and ambient light. You can easily colour correct the entire image. Without the gel the pot lights in the back and subsequently the people would be more orange. You can either fix the couple or the people in the back. A tough fix if you are unbalanced and try to do both. When all is balanced with gels it is very easy.
  • ZenonZenon Member
    edited March 2013
    I downloaded this image and did a few brightness and contrast adjustments. Not easy for me as I am used to working in RAW :)

  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    edited March 2013
    email me the RAW files of both images.
    (and email me the .xmp as well of your edits.)

  • I opened the photo in ACR and selected the dress and then the backdrop as pure white as a baseline. You could then go into the HSL tab and bring up the reds, etc.. to reflect what you saw thru the camera.
  • ZenonZenon Member
    That is the ticket sovaphotos. I always lean to the cooler side for skin tones. The OP's final was too cool. I find the original too yellow. I would be somewhere in between. If I had no choice I would stick with the original as the people look more healthy.
  • ZenonZenon Member
    crossover. Is your monitor calibrated?
  • Neil - Files Sent.

    sovasphotos - Thanks for your attempt to fix the issue but images look too cool to me. I tried adjusting the HSL but it still looks off...

    Zenon - Yes, I'm using a calibrated monitor (Spyder 3 Express).
  • sovaphotossovaphotos Member
    edited March 2013
    Absolutely. I was pushing the tone to the opposite end. You have to come some where in the middle like Zenon suggested. You are in the best position to determine what looks natural or appropriate based on how it looked when you took the photo.
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    The files look fine.
    Your second shooter's file was about a stop over, yours under by about 1/3rd stop. No problem there.
    I edited both, and they look clean. No issues.

    I passed them on to Trev as well, to see what he says.
  • TrevTrev Moderator

    Neil forwarded the files to me for an opinion on the RAWs and apart from the walking down aisle exposure, they were fine. The WB I only tweaked a bit, but I then did a full edit on them both and have attached here.

    We both discussed it and both agreed the files [RAW] were pretty good to begin with.

    Settings in ACR - walking aisle shot: WB 3750 | -7; I had to bring exposure down a lot to bring back details in veil/dress. -1.85

    then edited normally in Photoshop.


    The seated shot, pretty much the same, WB 3800 | +1; exposure only -0.3 to bring details back in dress.
    Edited in Photoshop

    If you want the high res jpegs, just message me in Inbox above
  • crossover37crossover37 Member
    edited March 2013
    Thank you Neil and Trev for your help.

    I'm happy to hear the images weren't too bad and that the exposure was more the issue than the WB. Great job on the image edits Trev!

    Thank you again, you both are very considerate with your time.
  • Trev,

    Could you tell us what are the steps that you follow when editing normally in Photoshop?
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited March 2013

    In the link on Tangents http://neilvn.com/tangents/about/nvn-photoshop-actions/ I use similar to those but I have added many in subsets which adjusts the dynamic range as in lightening the dark-shadow areas, adjusting the highlights, midtones, blacks and sharpening.

    These do things differently to different sectors of an image as with masks, layers, etc.

    eg: If you note the top image I adjusted in the description I said I dropped the exposure by -1.85 stops to bring back the details in the dress. But this was 2/3rds of a stop more than needed as I knew what I was going to do once in photoshop.

    Obviously this meant darkening the background and slightly their faces.

    But my action allows to open up those areas without affecting the highlights and losing details in the dress. [that's also part of that action set on Tangents]

    There are a few ways to open up the dynamic range [btw, I am *not* talking about HDR work here, no multiple shots, or overlaid shots of different exposures, just 1 shot] and one way is:

    1] adjustment layer with Shadows/Highlights but applied through a layer mask.
    Try this yourself.

    a) Duplicate the background

    b) File menu on top choose 'Image' then 'Adjustments...' and choose Shadows/Highlights

    c] Check the box 'Show More Options' to expand

    d] In the Shadows section: Amount 60; Tonal Width 60; Radius 30

    e] Make sure Highlights are zero

    f] in Adjustments section you can add some color say 15-20; Contrast 0; Black Clip 0.01; White Clip 0; OK that.

    g] that will open it up, but overall, so to mask it, turn off that layer [click on the 'eye' beside the layer]; now click the background layer so that layer is the active one.
    [image will look terrible until you mask it]

    h] you need to see your channels palette, on Menu bar at top, Window, select Channels.

    i] making sure that the background layer is selected, hold the Ctrl [PC] or Cmd [Mac] key down and in the Channels palette, click on the 'RGB' layer. [see cursor]


    j] Your image will have have a truckload of 'marching ants', go to the top layer where you applied the Shadows/Highlights on, turn it back on, click on that layer to activate it, then click the 'Add Layer Mask' Button at bottom of that layers palette to apply the mask.

    this button here [see cursor]:


    now just adjust the layer opacity in say 20/40/60/80 percentage to suit.

    You will be amazed at how a dark background will come to life but won't touch highlights.

    Then similar to midtones/highlights/blacks using Curves [not S shapes] with masks to represent that particular value I am adjusting.
  • TrevTrev Moderator


    I have attached the image as exported from RAW. Too dark, no contrast, no sharpening, no life in it, but all the basic ingredients are there for me to work with.

  • Trev,

    Thanks, this is more than I expected.
  • Fantastic little thread! I have to admit, I needed to read this twice. lol New to gels... I attended Neil's wedding seminar a few weeks ago and bought the cts right after. I am guilty of just putting them on and not adjusting my wb to k. I'll be adjusting now!!

    Great edits, Trev. I alway learn something here!! I'll be rereading the workflow. :)
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited March 2013
    Thanks Wink11,

    I know it's a 'tired argument' Jpeg Vs RAW, but, just as a side note to anyone who thinks that shooting jpeg is the faster alternative, I have attached the top image of 'As Shot'.

    Save it, then open it in Photoshop, put your cursor on the whitest part of the dress, and making sure you have your Info Palette open, look at the values. 255 255 255. Zero details. Pure white.

    There ain't no way on earth you are going to recover details if this had of been in jpeg.

    This was a pivotal part of the proceedings, being escorted down the aisle, and it is a lovely shot, but more importantly, a salvageable one.

    Jpeg? Not a snowflake's chance in a hot oven.

    PS: It was better to be over-exposed than under-exposed, since that would have made the shadows really muck/muddy and introduced exposure noise.

    For comparison, I added the edited full-res file. Open that in photoshop, zoom in to 50% now look at the details back in the dress. Quite remarkable really from zero to hero by shooting RAW.

  • Great edit Trev. I usually edit my images in Lightroom and when i lower the overall highlights of the image and increase shadows, the faces get a HDR kind of look. When i use the brush for dodge and burn it's visible that i have darkened certain parts of the image. I'm interested in the photoshop actions Neil has put up. I need to re-read your PS streps and explore with masking .

  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited March 2013

    Thank you.

    Maybe you need to try other options in LR, and start using the 'Darks' instead of Shadows/Blacks, etc. you really need to experiment to try to see if something works for you or not.

    Actually, I will try an edit of this image in LR4. (I am not holding out hope, as 99% of my edits are PS]

    I tried in LR.... attached my settings Vaenka, so you can see what I mean with adjusting sliders, it's a play fest doing it though. Took me around 4-5 minutes adjusting, whereas in PS I can do it in 45 seconds. Admittedly I only use LR infrequently, so with time would get a lot quicker knowing what some things would do so I then would create a preset upon import which would get me into the ball park a lot quicker.

    Oh, in addition to those settings, I used a local brush 2 times with massive Clarity, sharpening on the dress each time to try to get it back up to something more pleasing in details.
  • Tons of great info in this thread. Thanks Trev for all the hard work!
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