Lighting 102: Assignment | Work That CTO

We've talked about the primary use for the CTO warming gel -- balancing strobe, which is (close to) daylight balanced to the color of incandescent light. In a tungsten room you CTO your flash, set your WB to incandescent, and Bob's your uncle.

But the CTO is such a useful, sweet little gel to have around, we can't stop there...

CTO Overdrive

Pictured above is Shadi, whose stunning good looks proved to be such a distraction to the ladies in the Dubai intermediate class that we had to move outside to disguise the fact that he was clearly making them all hot under the collar.

And hot it was. Dubai is about 172 degrees in the shade in the afternoon. But they make up for it by sucking all of the color out of the sky for your photographing pleasure. To call this sky a hazy grey is to do grey a disservice.

But that didn't stop us from getting a rich-blue, ad-hoc portrait of Shadi in the courtyard. We had to be quick -- people typically start to burst into flames after about five minutes outdoors in the afternoon there. So to get this shot of Shadi, we walked three SB-800s out, already on stands, and set him up in a triangle configuration.

We essentially dialed in the blue background by shifting the camera's white balance to incandescent, even though we were shooting in a daylight environment. The white balance "fixes" tungsten light by throwing a lot of blue in there. Hence our newfound color.

The back flashes were with no gel. We let them push a little bluish rim light to accentuate the sinewy muscles that define Shadi's neck. Ladies, you may wish to sit down and/or grab a glass of water at this point.

But take a look at that area, because that's what an ungelled flash gives you on a tungsten/incandescent WB setting. You can see the photo bigger in a new window here.

To light Shadi's face, we had to get the light from that flash to be appropriate in our new, tungsten WB setting. So we warmed it up with our CTO, turning it into the "correct" light for this setting. In effect, one little orange piece of acetate turned this whole environment blue.

Well, two pieces, actually, as I added another 1/2 CTO to bring the flash beyond "correct" and have it warm-light Shadi's face against the blue. This is a neat trick to whip out on a crappy day (or at twilight on a no-show sunset) when you need some atmosphere. I have used it for food shots and moody portraits alike.

You may also notice that we are underexposing the ambient by a couple of stops to get a good, rich color. It is not enough just to shift it -- you have to knock it down, too. We could have easily warmed up the rim lights, but I like the steely effect of that blue rim. Especially for a man who just oozes confidence as does Shadi.

You can do it indoors, too, with the daylight streaming through a window.

I faved this photo a ways back, 'cause I just loved it. Turned out it was shot in Dubai by none other than Sid Siva, (AKA Sid the WonderVAL) who I would be shooting with out in the UAE desert only weeks later. Small world, huh?

Sid used the exact same color shift technique on this biz portrait in Dubai. Set the camera to incandescent. Crank the exposure until it looks rich, and throw some CTO-gelled flash in where it counts.

Sid for the win.

You're Getting Warmer... Warmer...

So the CTO (plus another 1/2 CTO) thing is a staple for me when I need to drop back and punt on a colorless day. But I have been seeing some stuff come upstream from you guys which is making me wanna use my CTOs even more.

Check out this climbing photo, by Dr. Benny. This photo rocks. Just pushed a little CTO up in to there with the camera set on daylight. The CTO gives you the familiar warm of a tungsten bulb -- or that last hint of golden light at the end of the day when it gets really red.

That splash of light just totally makes the photo. Just a little beam of last-minute sun coming through a hole in the unseen rocks. Only not quite, you see as you take a second look. Because the daylight is coming from up top. The crosslight thing he has going on is totally sweet.

Think light balancing for a second while looking at this photo. What makes it sing is where The Doctor chose to expose the ambient light before adding in the CTO splash. He could expose for the highlights, let the rocks go darkish, and build that CTO right up in there.


And this photo, voted by me as the "Photo I am Most Likely to Rip Off" of the month. Mazzapix mixed some CTO light (through a straw grid) with some straight light from another flash in a daylight WB shot, and made a quick test for a headshot look like a movie poster.

That is what I am talking about.

You may sense that I get just a wee bit excited when I start talking about gels. And why shouldn't I? All of these photos were made with the help of a tiny little piece of orange acetate. And the samples are free. How can you not like that?

Your Turn

We have not done an assignment on L102 in a while, so it is time to break out the cameras.

This time, you'll be using a CTO gel in one of the two ways described above -- both technically "rule breakers," if you will. You'll either be doing the tungsten WB shift thing in a daylight environment, or throwing some CTO into a daylight WB setting in a daylight environment.

The subject matter is open, meaning that some of you will namby-pamby your way through it with a teddy bear, or a mannequin or an egg (please, oh please, not an egg.) But others will use this as an excuse to stretch. And you know I live for stretches.

Here's the Deal

For this assignment, your tags will be:

Lighting102 (note, no spaces)
WorkThatCTO (no spaces)

You can see all of the photos from this assignment here. Discussion for the assignment is here.

The assignment is due at the end of the day on June 24th.


Related Posts:

:: On Assignment: Spring Desserts ::
:: On Assignment: Man in a Boat ::

NEXT: Discussion - CTO Assignment


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