What does a photographer do on a quiet Saturday night? Testing coloured gels portrait lighting setup on my favourite model, Helen, in our living room. Helen is a hairdressers mannequin we bought to  stand in for John when he got tired of his onerous modelling duties (you know the kind, “Please-please-please, just stand over there for ten minutes, I’ll test this lens for sharpness in back light”…)

Since the last summer Helen has become a silent yet willing participant in various ad hoc lighting experiments. These became more frequent when I fell in love with the fabulous Rossella Vanon’s Lighting People book, a reference guide to artificial/creative lighting techniques.

There was a surge of interest in gelled portrait and fashion photography in 2016 and tons of workshops mushroomed on the web.

Here I was, also keen on spicing up my lighting skills for more dramatic, theatrical headshot images. Two gridded Speedlights had thick gels gaffer-taped to them. I own a Strobist-branded set of gels but find them too thin and fiddly, so I definitely prefer to use the normal gel sheets for video and studio strobes.

John came by on his way to the kitchen and briefly joined Helen and I. Ha-ha, no escape from modelling!

two coloured gels lighting a hairdresser's mannequin
Testing coloured gels on Helen, my stand-in lighting model
A man and a mannequin lit with coloured gels
My two favourite models

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