I recently purchased a Canon Speedlight 430EX II, and have been experimenting with the flash on my camera. I have also ordered a 6 foot off-camera flash cable and a bracket that will allow me to move the flash off camera and get some angle to the additional lighting. In my experimentation I've found that the flash really does produce very white light with a slight bluish tinge. This doesn't really work all that well for many of the shots I've experimented with, nor for some of the indoor photography I'll be doing for a customer soon here.

I'd like to experiment with gels for warming and cooling color, however I'm not really sure where to start. I noticed that there are a few cheap Strobist sample kits and starter kits, but many of the comments state that those gels are too thin for most Speedlights and leave a strip above and/or below the gel of unfiltered flash light. Are there any reasonably priced gel kits with both warming and cooling gels that are recommended for a beginner?


I have the Roscolux Swatchbook, and the gels fit my 430EX very well...little longer to allow for tape.

I find using a white card during the shoot and using it as the white reference in editing photos removes any tints, so I really only use gels to add interesting background effects. However, many swear by 1/4 and 1/8 CTOs.

Adding a shot to show the fit on the 430EX: these are the above mentioned Swatchbook samples, and I accidentally ripped the gel, but there is still plenty to cover the 430EX flash head. These may be too narrow for a 580EX:

enter image description here

  • +1 - There's also the Rosco Strobist kit which is a little more expensive, but already cut.
    – Joanne C
    Nov 6 '11 at 18:43
  • These are cut as well. The Strobist kit are 1.5 x 3.25", while this sampler is 1.75 x 2.75", so measure your flash head and get the one that fits best
    – cmason
    Nov 6 '11 at 19:01
  • The Rosco Strobist and Swatchbook kits are the ones that people seem to say are cut too small. It seems like a normal cut is 2x5", but the Rosco stuff seems to be much smaller than that..1.75x2.75"...is the size really a problem?
    – jrista
    Nov 6 '11 at 19:02

If you want to experiment with colour temperatures, grab the Honl Colour Correction gel kit or similar. It has various strengths of CTO (toward tungsten), CTB (toward daylight) and green (fluorescent tint) gels.

While the flash does transmit the temperature information of the light it produces, it is usually around the temperature of the Daylight white balance setting, which is what most flashes are designed to produce. When you are shooting raw, you can easily change the white balance of the image to warm the image or skin tones, or cool them if the light temperature is too warm.

A CTO (colour temperature orange) gel will shift the light towards the colour produced by tungsten (since it is cooler, it produces a more orange light) whereas a CTB (blue) will shift the colour temperature of your flash past daylight (a hotter temperature, therefore more blue). If you, for example, use a CTO gel and set your camera white balance to Tungsten (~3200K), you will see approximately white light produced in the image.

A full CTO gel is often used to equalise the colour difference between an indoor tungsten light and a flash if they are both used in the same scene. Alternatively, using a mixture of CTO, none and CTB gels you can create a significant difference in colour temperature between your subject and the environment/background.

Here's an example of my using colour correction gels to create a warm environment but using mostly white light in my key light. I used a full CTO gel on the rim light and a normal daylight flash as the key light on the right.

enter image description here

  • The problem isn't that the flash color temp. is unknown...its that it does not match the rest of the light lighting the scene. If I have a scene lit with 2700k tungsten lighting, the 5500k flash light is so hot its almost blueish (not quite 6500k blue, but definitely bluer than a natural white.) Hence the need for correction. It sounds like I need a CTO filter though...
    – jrista
    Nov 6 '11 at 23:52
  • 2
    Yeah. A CTO gel (in whatever strength) will shift the colour toward the cooler, but more orange tungsten white balance. Nov 7 '11 at 0:08
  • CTB pushes flash towards Cloudy/Shadow.
    – Imre
    Nov 7 '11 at 3:23

Just to fill this out a bit, there's also the HONL Photo Gel Sampler Kit, which includes several cuts of CTO and CTB along with a few effects gels and a mounting system for your speedlight for about $22-30 (currently, depending on the retailer).

  • I use this kit as well and find that the choices of colors are just right for what I need. I also like the roll-up gel holders that allow me to keep them readily available.
    – smigol
    Nov 6 '11 at 22:05
  • I looked at this one...is that velcro strap necessary to use this stuff? Its HUGE!
    – jrista
    Nov 6 '11 at 23:53
  • It is, but to be fair, it's the anchor for a very large variety of flash modifiers, not just the gels -- snoots, grids, etc., all use the same attachment system, so when you're using more than just one of their products, there is less to carry around in aggregate.
    – user2719
    Nov 7 '11 at 2:55
  • I skipped the Honl brand strap and just put velcro on my flashes. The rest of the light modifiers I make out of foam paper and attach with velcro as well.
    – smigol
    Nov 7 '11 at 15:53

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