This question has been bugging me for a while, as I've been digging through filters on Adorama and B&H and various other sites for days now. I keep seeing numerous types of filters often tagged as "gels", like color correction filters, flash color adjustment filters, etc. I figured they were made out of some kind of gelatin, giving them their name...however, after more research, it seems they are all made out of polycarbonate, or maybe polyester in the case of Lee color gels and a couple other manufacturers.

I'm at a loss as to why they are called gels when they aren't made out of gelatin. Am I just missing something obvious?

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's not a dumb question. I took the liberty of editing out the self-deprecation. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Reid
    Commented Sep 19, 2010 at 17:42

1 Answer 1


Photography has borrowed the term "gel" (and the technology) from theater. The original colored "gels" were made out of gelatin (and tended to melt). Today, they are made out of other materials that are more heat tolerant (but can still melt....)

there's a nice writeup on this on wikipedia:


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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks Chuqui. At least I wasn't totally out of my mind. (I'm out of votes for the day, so as soon as I am able to up vote, I will. ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Commented Sep 16, 2010 at 18:24

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