Despite their name, lighting gels aren’t really gels but rather simple sheets of translucent plastic, popular among studio photographers and available in many colors. Placing one over a light source can alter the entire mood of the space in which you’re shooting or fix undesirable lighting conditions. Depending on your chosen color, you can warm a room, add fluorescence, or create a dreamlike, surreal atmosphere. Because you can also layer them, the creative possibilities with gels are essentially endless. Before you pop one over a lamp, though, be sure your gel is compatible with the light source, as many can warp or melt if kept near a fixture that emits too much heat. We’ve rounded up our picks of the best lighting gel products to help you make a choice.
1. Rosco Color Effects Filter Kit
Rosco’s pack of gels offers a great variety of beautiful colors, sturdiness, and perhaps most important, excellent temperature resistance. You get 15 filters, with colors ranging from light rose to moss green, and you can, of course, use more than one to achieve even more lighting effects. Because they are made of a durable, high-quality plastic, you can use them with powerful lights or even leave them in the sun, and they won’t be quick to melt.
2. Neewer Gel Filters
This product is a great option for photographers who are curious about working with gels but aren’t quite ready to upgrade to a pricier product. It comes with eight square sheets in vivid and more subdued colors, giving you a good assortment to use and combine as needed. They are quite susceptible to heat, however, so we recommend using them with LED lights only, or taking extra care when using them with warmer bulbs to prevent melting—or worse, a fire.
3. Sakolla Gel Light Filters
Sakolla’s gel pack includes a lot of sheets at a lower cost than the competition. You get 16 sheets in eight colors, which can be convenient if you want to use the same color on more than one light. They are flexible and easy to cut but won’t flop over on their own. What they lack, however, is resistance to heat: Being made of low-grade PVC, they have a low melting point and can’t withstand hours of use. Like Neewer’s gels, we recommend using these with LED bulbs.
4. Selens Universal Gels
If your main source of lighting is a flash, consider Selens’s kit, which comes with small filters that you can attach over your flash unit using a rubber band. Each kit comes with 20 filters—14 to create colorful effects and 6 intended for color correction—allowing you to create a wide array of lighting conditions. Despite their small size, the sheets throw color effectively, as long as they properly cover your flash.
5. Lee Filters Master Location Pack
For gels that will last you years, look no further than Lee’s tried-and-true pack. These sheets are well constructed and rigid and have a good weight to them. They can tolerate the heat of powerful lamps, too. As for the colors, you get 36 sheets representing an excellent variety, from dark to vibrant to neutral tones, to correct or design the light of any environment.