Gels have never really been my specialty. I love using off camera lighting and work out of a studio for a good majority of my work. But when it comes to gels, it’s not something that has ever really had a long term life in my equipment box. And that is because of the very nature of gels.
In general, I find gels to just be a messy situation. You buy a set of 8”x10” gels from your preferred store for $25, and in no time, colors go missing, nothing is ever labeled, colors used become bent and beat-up, difficult to use alongside modifiers, and the general experience seems to be more of a hassle than they’re worth. You see, I like my equipment and studio space to be clean. More often than not, the process of gelling is taking a piece of gaff tape, and haphazardly taping the gel to your light, and hoping it doesn’t fall off mid-shoot.
Profoto quietly changed that at WPPI and created an easier solution to gelling your lights, by creating filter system along with a variety of filters that are labeled and custom cut to the system. At $59-$99, you’re able to get a nice booklet of gel colors ranging from CTO and cooling gels, to various blues, pinks, and other colors to add creativity to your lighting. But the beauty of this system really lies in its simplicity.
For one, each gel is individually labeled, meaning you don’t need to double check if you’re using a full CTO gel verse a ½ CTO gel. Along with the label of color, you’re also given how much of a stop in light the gel will create, so if you’re at f/8 when metered bare, the gels will tell you exactly how much light they eat up, assuring your metering stays consistent and correct. These gels will eliminate the guessing game gels tend to bring into the studio, and in an elegant and simple solution.
And the book containing the gels is really nicely made. With a magnetic open and shut system, you don’t need to worry about gels falling out when in transport. The book also comes with plenty of space for additional gels to be added, and the filter holding system, while made of plastic, is well built and works wonderfully alongside their already popular gridding system.
Certainly there are some shortfalls to the system. For one, they only work with Profoto B1 and B2 lighting systems. So while the filter system isn’t terribly expensive ($59-$99 for a nice little filter booklet, mounting system, and variety of gels), it will only be useful after you have yourself a somewhat expensive lighting kit in the Profoto B1 or B2 system. However, it works and works with an elegant splendor. The filter system is a nice change to the standard gel solution, and the booklet has plenty of space for all the organization you’d need for gels.
However, I’ve found a nice money saving solution that you can use after already purchasing the Profoto gel system. The gels themselves can easily be traced, allowing you to create your own colors and variations using a popular Roscoe gel kit. While the hassle might be a bit much for most, it does give an option to those who prefer a specific color that Profoto doesn’t make. Additionally, you’ll find the beginner gel system comes without a red gel, which is a pretty important one in my eyes.
The Profoto gel system comes in three different kits, the light correcting system, the color effects pack, and the starter kit system. The light correcting system is much like it sounds, with a variety of CTO and cooling gels to help better mimic natural color temperatures when shooting on-location. The color effects pack is a bunch of bolder colors, used for actual gelling of colors, such as blue, green, pink, yellow and red. The starter kit is sort of a grab bag of each, with some color correcting gels, as well as some more vibrant colors for creative lighting. Currently, I have the starter kit of gels, and they’re great. However, left out of the starter kit is a red gel, which I consider a pretty common gel color. Either way, I’ll be purchasing the Color Effects pack soon.
So is the system worth it? If you have Profoto B1s or Profoto B2s, then absolutely. Profoto was able to finally able to create a system that makes sense for gels. I personally recommend the Starter kit, as it has many of the gels you’ll need for a one or two light setup. However, with the lack of a Red in the beginner kit, you’ll find yourself quickly adding the additional kits to your B&H shopping cart.