Nikon Learn & Explore

Adding Gels to Speedlights for a Trendy Lighting Effect

Behind the scenes at portrait lighting workshops with Speedlight flash master David X. Tejada

David Tejada photo of a man lit with green and red gels, for a trendy lighting design

© David Tejada

D850, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II, 1/50 second, f/5.6, ISO 200, manual exposure.

The Portrait Workshop Series

If you're visiting for the first time, we're presenting here a dozen photos taken at portrait photography workshops by the noted commercial photographer and Nikon Creative Lighting System expert David X. Tejada.

To get the most from his tips, techniques and comments, be sure to take a few moments to check out our notes on flash, metering and the CLS before viewing the photos.

Composition for Flash Quartet

This portrait was made using four SB-900 Speedlights. The main light is in a European 8x12 softbox, for which there are many comparable models on the U.S. market. here's one flash in each 16x16 Westcott Mini Apollo softbox, left and right of the model, and one aimed at the background reflector. The Westcotts are fitted with egg crate grids. "They help prevent light spill by channeling the light more directly at the subject without it contaminating the background color or coming into my lens," David says. A 30-inch Lastolite TriGrip reflector, with a Softsilver surface, bounces some of the main light's flash up to the model's face.

It's easy to tell that gels played a part, too: there's a cyan gel on the main light, red gels on the Apollo softboxes and an orange gel on the background light.   

Once again, David used the Creative Lighting System's group capability—with the main light Group A, sidelights Group B, background light Group C—and exposed the image by independently adjusting the power output of each group from the camera position.

There's a lot going on here, but due to his skill, experience and the capability of the tools at hand, David says that "shots like these take me about 15 minutes to set up."

David Tejada set up photo of a man with a lit background, lights set up and reflector in front of him

© David Tejada