Color Me Any Color - Yeah, Let's Gel!

I've stumbled across a few references recently on the web about ways to attach gels to portable flash. Most of the methods discussed are rather rough, referring to rubber bands or gaffer tape. It thought I'd share a way I've found to easily and securely attach gels to my Vivitar units.

090619_gel_1a.jpgThis simple, easy, and cheap method comes courtesy of plastic name tag holders. These are readily available at office supply stores, and many of you have probably packratted away a few of them already if you ever attend or work at seminars, sports events, or other credentialed or "managed access" events. The one's I've used measure about 3 1/4" by 4 1/4". Some have clips to attach to lapels or pockets, others have lanyards. It doesn't matter which you have, because we are only using about the bottom two thirds of the holder anyway (uncut and cut-down tag holders seen here).

090619_gel_3a.jpgFor the Vivitar 285/285HV (seen amber-gelled at right), you will want to cut the holder's height down to about two inches. Try to cut it for a rather snug fit so it does not want to slide out as you hand hold the flash in different positions or, heaven forfend, if you use the flash in the hot shoe and turn the camera vertically. Different holders have different degrees of "flex" so I can't give a precise measurement that will work with every tag holder.

Now, just cut some gels to fit, slide the holder into the diffuser/filter holder built into the 285/285HV, and you're good to go. The gels will be less prone to wrinkle and allow unfiltered light leaks, your gels will last longer, and no tape or rubber bands are needed.

I nip off the corners of the gels so they better fit in the rounded corners of the typical name tag holder. Think of it as releasing your inner Commander Adama.

If you cut the tag holder slightly too narrow and it slides out too easily, or if the holder begins to get some wear on it, a couple of thicknesses of Scotch Magic Transparent across the bottom (as I did on the 285HV gel holder above) should restore sufficient friction to keep it in place without causing you any noticeable light loss. And, sorry, but freebie sample gels are really not large enough for this method. You just may have to shell out for a few actual gel sheets.

090619_gel_2a.jpgMy preferred flash is the Vivitar 283, and this same method works with the 283's accessory lens/filter adapter. I have about six of these and if you don't have one yet, they are available on eBay for ten bucks or less. While you're at it, pick up a lens kit LK-1 (also around ten bucks) so you can concentrate the light where you want it and compensate for some of the light loss from the gels (see red-gelled 283 with "L. Tele" lens at left).

Gel holders for the 283's lens/filter adapter need to be cut to about 2 3/8", but again, this is a guideline. Cut it slightly large, test fit, shave a little more off as necessary for a snug fit.

Are you gellin'? I am SO gellin'.

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