Using Gels To Fix An Ugly Sky

Yesterday I went out with the LA Shoot This! group to help lead a group shoot event but unfortunately Mother Nature was not on our side. The sky was gray and boring and it was raining on and off. While I like nice blue skies, there was no hope of getting anything beyond dark storm clouds. My friend Chris Diset was in this same situation a few months ago and used a little white balance trick to change the color of the sky. Taking a cue from his playbook, I used that same trick to help make something out of nothing.

As I said, the sky was just downright ugly with no color in it at all, and worse, it only looked like it was going to get worse. My goal of teaching how to balance flash and bright sunlight was certainly not working out so I decided to show how to make a blue sky of of the drab sky we were looking at.

To start off, I switched the camera’s white balance from Auto to Tungsten. What this will do is to add a blue color cast to the clouds. Here is how the sky looked in both Auto and Tungsten White Balance.

Auto White Balance

Tungsten White Balance

Now that we have some color in the sky, its now time to shoot our model. If we just used a flash, the Tungsten white balance setting would make our subject look more like a Smurf than a human. In order to compensate for the much cooler color temperature we have to reverse that by making the light from the flash much warmer. To accomplish this, I used the ExpoImaging Rogue Gel Kit with the 1/2 CTO (Color Temperature Orange) gel.

Using the gelled flash to light our subject, we get the natural looking lighting on the subject while retaining the blue in the sky.

You can use this same technique with different gels to create more dramatic skies by using the opposite of this effect with a nice sunset. Using a cool (blue) gel and setting the color temperature to a higher temperature will create extremely vivid colors. No lighting kit is complete without at least a few color correction gels.


Kerry Garrison lives in Castle Rock, Colorado with his wife and two dogs. With 10 years of experience shooting products and 5 years of experience in the wedding industry, Kerry brings a good deal of technical know-how and can explain topics in easy-to-understand terms.

You may also like...

3 Responses

  1. May 20, 2012

    […] Kerry’s post about using gels to fix the sky […]

  2. June 8, 2012

    […] Kerry’s post about using gels to fix the sky […]

  3. October 15, 2012

    […] love using gels on my speedlites, from basic color correction to faking a blue sky to creating colored backgrounds, gels can really come in handy. The downside is finding a way to […]

Leave a Reply