Using colored gels on your Speedlite flash

February 1, 2019

Today was the first day of the “Hearts of Lewisburg Ice Festival” in Lewisburg, PA.  Many of the stores downtown have ice sculptures in front of their storefronts. I thought it would be a great opportunity to experiment with colored gels on a Speedlite flash.  This note explains how to use colored gels on your Speedlite flash.

For the colored gels, I used several in my Vello EZ-FLIP GEL SET ($20).  The set has 30 assorted colored gels that fit in a plastic holder that’s held on by velcro to the head of the Speedlite.  The set comes with a small case.

First, you want control of the direction of the flash.  That means getting the Speedlite off your camera!  To achieve this, I used a RF transmitter/receiver setup between my Canon 80D DSLR camera and Canon 430EXIII-RT Speedlite.  The transmitter (Yongnuo YN-E3-RT) fits on the hot shoe of the camera.  The Speedlite fits on top of the receiver (Yongnuo YNE3-RX).  This transmitter/receiver pair is a little more expensive (together $135) because they are compatible with Canon’s E-TTL (Through The Lens) protocol.  This is the same protocol used by a Speedlite when it’s on top of your camera.  This means the amount of flash will be determined by the light measured Through The Lens (TTL) by a pre-flash.  Cheaper transmitter/receiver setups mean you have to control the flash manually with lots of trial and error.

My Canon Speedlite came with a little plastic stand.  I mounted the Yongnuo receiver on the plastic stand and attached the Speedlite to the receiver as shown above.  For my ice sculpture pictures I placed the stand with receiver and Speedlite on the sidewalk near the bottom of the sculpture usually at a 45 degree angle on the right from where I stood with the camera.  I pointed the head of the Speedlite approximately at the center of the sculpture.

Here is the plastic stand, the receiver, and Speedlite with a red gel inserted in the Vello EZ-FLIP gel holder.

The Vello gel holder easily flips up so you can shoot without the gel.

Here is example ice sculpture without a flash or gel.

Same sculpture with flash and a blue gel.  The stand, receiver, and Speedlight setup was off to the left at 45 degree angle.

Dog sculpture without flash or gel.

The same dog sculpture with flash and red gel.  The Speedlight was on right side. This sculpture is smaller than the previous one so I was able to get the flash closer and throw more red light on it.

Ice sculpture in front of Bucknell’s Bookstore without flash or gel.

The same sculpture with flash and red gel on right side.  I think this image shows the real creative power that one can achieve with colored gels on a Speedlite.

If you live in the area, visit downtown Lewisburg and see the ice sculptures before they melt!


Posted by Dan Hyde

Dan is the Chair of the Lewisburg Photography Club.