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Time to be with loved ones

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Have any of you found a way to make inexpensive gels? I'd like to try using a few colors with my lights but have found most shops are mighty proud of theirs. My son saw me looking at them online and asked if photographers could use either plastic colored/see-through folders or colored page protectors? I'm sure there's an issue of melting and safety. If you've had any success with a cheap way of making gels, where to find them, I'd sure appreciate any tips.

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Whaaa? You're kidding, right? A 20x24 of gel in any color under the sun can be purchased for less than $6 a sheet... How much cheaper do you want them to be? –  Jay Lance Photography Aug 19 '11 at 0:57
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Free is always good, especially if you're just experimenting. I'd never try to make my own lens, but lighting mods I will almost knock up a solution with objects to hand MacGyver style to test the effect before even thinking of buying something. –  Matt Grum Aug 19 '11 at 11:17
    
Thank you, Jay, however, even at 6 bucks a sheet and if I were comparing that to buying 50 colors...adds up. I guess 6 bucks isn't too bad, although I was hoping to be able to buy plastic sheets at an office store or something where you get multi-packs for under 10 bucks. Probably just dreaming, but thought since I'm new to the biz, I'd ask some seasoned pros whom I admire. :) –  Kalai Kennedy Aug 19 '11 at 13:24
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@Kalai: It may seem like $6 per sheet is a 'ripoff,' especially when compared to '55 gels for $12' type deals, but buying big sheets and cutting them yourself is waaaaaaay cheaper than buying a precut pack. Remember that with pre-cut packs you're not actually getting 55 different colors, you're getting ~15 different colored gels and multiples of your CTO and CTB gels (usually 5 to 10 of each) in 2x3 cuts. With a 20x24 sheet properly stored you can literally make a single 6 dollar gel sheet last more than a lifetime (I'm still working on gel sheets my father purchased more than 20 years ago). –  Jay Lance Photography Aug 19 '11 at 17:23
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As if that isn't enough, with a 20x24 sheet you get the versatility of choice. You want to gel a bare lightbulb, studio strobe, or other 'unusual' lighting instrument for a certain effect you want to play around with? Good luck doing that with a 2x3 gel remnant out of a 'pack,' but with your own sheet you can cut a 6x6 piece and you're good to go. Store that piece you cut when you're done with the shoot and that gel swatch you cut will last for years. Seriously, you could invest $100 in full-sheet gels and then never buy another gel in your lifetime. –  Jay Lance Photography Aug 19 '11 at 17:31
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2 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

I would pick up the Strobist Rosco collection, $12 gets you 55 gels. You aren't going to be able to handcraft 55 different filters out of things you can find at an office supply store.

If you really want to make them yourself, head on over to instructables.com and read this tutorial.

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$12 for 55 gels?! Yeahhhhhhhh! Now that's what I'm talking about! Much better than $6 bucks for 55 colors? That's over 330 bucks, then shipping and tax--NOT cheap when you're on a budget and like to buy silly things like food and electricity. Ha. Thanks, DP, but I wouldn't mind finding some larger sheets for bigger lights if possible. But..maybe there's no way around buying "photography gels" and coming up with a creative way to make 'em. (shrugging) Oh well. –  Kalai Kennedy Aug 19 '11 at 13:18
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For subtle colour correction (e.g. matching the available light) then you really want a proper gel with consistent and predictable frequency response.

However for special effects you can use almost anything, candy wrappers, coloured paper, tape, fabric. In fact I have a harder time trying to prevent light picking up colour from mods.

When using plastics melting is a genuine problem, however it's easily solved if you mount your homemade filters with an air gap. An effective way is to create a short cardboard collar round the flash with a slot to slide filters into.

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Thanks, Matt!! That's what I hoping to learn from you guys; ways to come up with DIY gels and fun with lighting. –  Kalai Kennedy Aug 19 '11 at 13:20
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