A Simple Rig to Take Advantage of
Gels in On and Off-Camera Flashes
Gel is short for gelatin and gelatin filters have been used to modify the colors of light for theaters and studios for decades. For the Digital SLR user, gels can be a fun and useful tool in modifying light on your flash units. Gels are fragile and mounting them can be problematic. In response to the Strobist challenges for DIY solutions and using speed straps, I sought to build a rig that would hold these thin translucent conveyors of color.
Roscolux Sample Kits are available from many vendors and usually free or a nominal charge. The nice thing is they are just about the right size to fit the Canon 580EXII flash that I use as my main light. Mounting them usually means ruining them or a difficult arrangement to hold them in place. My goal was to build a rig to take advantage of the speed straps like those made by Honl or Lumiquest. After scrounging around my office for a morning, I found the necessary supplies to assemble my rig.
I needed a clear housing to hold the gel and discarded conference nametags provided a near perfect match for size and clarity. Strips cut of my old driver’s license and Barnes and Noble membership card were used to strengthen the rig. Velcro provided the attaching mechanism.
Finished Rig Prototype
After bending the ends over to wrap around the flash, I used self-adhering Velcro to provide attaching points. A thin strip of driver’s license was used to correct any bowing that would occur. Some of the material was removed from the front to allow easy removal of the Gel.
With a couple of Velcro straps, the rig is now easily fastened to the front of the Canon flash. This allows me to control light in a greater degree than before. I now have the ability to cast colors on the background, correct for color casts, fix lighting issues and create special effects.
The rig is surprisingly secure and holds up to four gels at once. It is easy to remove and folds flat for storage anywhere in your camera bag. A couple of more prototypes and I think I will have the rig fine-tuned.
Remember, there’s always room for Gel, Oh- that is bad.
Rikk Flohr © 2008