Hell Freezes Over, Gary Fong on Strobist

$65 cheeseburgers all around! Step up to the bar. I'm buyin'.

Normally I am not a huge fan of $65 cheeseburgers. Don't get me wrong, I luuurve cheeseburgers. Just not $65 cheeseburgers.

Similarly, I love plastic diffusers. Just not $65 plastic diffusers. So normally, I am not a huge fan of, say, Gary Fong products.

But today, for the first time in the 2,000+ post history of this blog, we are running a video from the Fongster himself. And we are not even doing it ironically.

Because today, Gary has a great tip for you …

So this is cool. What Gary is gonna show you how to do is to take a gel—any gel—and use it and your camera's white balance to alter the color of a scene. And then, by putting the gel on your flash you get your subject right back to neutral.

Coupla things to remember: This needs the ambient light to be pushing almost completely from behind the subject.

Oh, and because you are who you are, you really don't have to use on-camera flash for this. You're better than that.

Also, this might be a great time to bust out a snoot or a grid on that off-camera flash to keep your gelled light from re-contaminating the whacked-WB ambient.

But the idea is cool. And for that I am typing the following words for the first time, and completely without irony:

I salute you, Gary Fong.

Thanks to Bill Millios for the tip. (Sub-$65) cheeseburger photo by Strobist reader Victor Shum.


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Blogger dwbell said...

David, weren't we doing this 5 years ago?


June 30, 2012 3:43 PM  
Blogger Charles Tibbs Photography said...

Very cool post, will have to give this a try.

June 30, 2012 3:58 PM  
Blogger Marshall said...

Not sure if anyone is asking yet, but yes, you can do this same thing on Nikon cameras using the WB pre-set function (at least Nikons I'm familiar with). This reminds me a little of the warm flash/cool WB trick Dave Black's been talking about for a while in the Workshop at the Ranch (and which I think we've read about here, too). This is just a way to mate the color to whatever color you want (or maybe whatever color you happen to have with you...).

June 30, 2012 4:02 PM  
Blogger runelind said...

So I can't get this to work on my Nikon D90. Apparently you can't fool Nikon's white balance this way. From what I've read online, you're supposed to go into the PRE menu, then hold the WB button for two seconds until it flashes d-0, d-1 or whatever, then take your exposure. The problem is that when I hold up a blue gel in front of the lens and take the picture, the top screen just flashes "No Good", indicating that it is not a valid exposure. Anyone know of a workaround?

June 30, 2012 4:09 PM  
Blogger Fonk said...

That is cool!!

June 30, 2012 4:13 PM  
Blogger william wyrick said...

So, David, where do we get this $65 cheeseburger. Yumm

June 30, 2012 4:18 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


Right you are, and I had forgotten about that. I think the way Gary influenced a scen (rather than a 2-d background) was pretty cool.

June 30, 2012 4:37 PM  
Blogger Sean Austin said...

Neat idea, horrible production value on the video and sound. Take some Tupperware money and upgrade, Gary.

June 30, 2012 4:38 PM  
Blogger Jeremy Hodges said...

Its interesting to see Gary Fong demonstrate something, that in no way requires any of his products.

June 30, 2012 4:42 PM  
Blogger Sando said...

I think there is one other thing in this video that is pretty interesting. Take a look at his "color space"..it's SRGB and not AdobeRGB. So much for all the pros use Adobe. On the other hand it's Gary Fong and he uses an on camera flash, so much for "all the pros".

June 30, 2012 5:29 PM  
Blogger Marshall said...

Sando, as long as he's not shooting jpeg only, the color space set in the camera isn't really relevant. Starting from the raw file, you can output to whatever color space you want.

June 30, 2012 5:46 PM  
Blogger Weedwacker said...

I'm trying to get this to work on my Nikon D7000 and no luck, just a blue picture. I'm using the PRE menu white balance, but not getting a red picture. Anyone get it to work?

June 30, 2012 6:04 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The production quality of that video was astounding.

June 30, 2012 6:07 PM  
Blogger PhotoJBartlett said...

Why isn't this working for a Nikon camera? Several of us have posted the issue at this point - but the picture just won't push too red....

June 30, 2012 7:13 PM  
Blogger "Mister Nasty Clamps" said...

I know that people like to rag on Gary Fong's pricing structure, but as someone who's in the camera accessory business himself (I'm the "Nasty Clamps" guy) I do think that it's worth shedding just a bit of light on how the economics of manufacturing, distribution, and retailing works with regards to photography accessories

Let's just assume for a moment that –– on average –– Gary's "cheeseburger" retails at most camera stores for $65. Typically, a camera store will want to purchase that accessory wholesale (from a distributor, btw), at anywhere from a 25 to 50 percent discount. In other words, the camera store will purchase Gary's cheeseburger for somewhere between $32.50 and $48.75, and then resell it to the retail customer at full price. Obviously, the camera store would like to purchase that burger at the deepest discount possible.

At the same time, it's not Gary who's distributing the cheeseburgers to the camera stores. It's an outside distributor who distributes (duh) the accessories, and they too will want to purchase the burgers at somewhere between a 25 to 50 percent discount. Some distributors will take an even bigger cut. By the way, in this situation, it IS Gary who's selling the burgers to the distributor

Now, knowing all of this, Gary's $65 cheeseburger will –– at best –– bring a gross profit of $35.56 back to Gary, though it's more likely that he'll wind up with a gross profit somewhere around $16.25.

Let's also assume that Gary's cheeseburgers are made in the U.S.A. (which they are, btw). In this sort of a situation (manufacturing in the U.S, that is), Gary is looking at anywhere between $30,000 and $60,000 to get each individual injection mold made for his burgers. If he wants to make three burgers at a time, he's probably looking at an initial outlay of around $100,000 (possibly more) just to get his kitchen in order (so to speak)

Now let's assume that –– once the molds are paid off –– that there's still a manufacturing cost of between $3 or $5 to get each hamburger molded, packaged, and shipped off to the distributor. This would leave Gary with a net profit of about $11 or $13 for each burger, though this net profit wouldn't include such business costs as advertising, warehousing, warehouse and office employees, lawyers, insurance, licenses, and taxes.

Never forget the taxes.

Tupperware is much less inexpensive than Gary's burgers because: 1) Tupperware is distributed by the hundreds of millions, so there doesn't need to be nearly as high a net profit margin on each individual piece. 2) The molding costs for the Tupperware were amoritized long ago. 3) Grocery stores have a much different distributor/wholesaler/retailer structure than camera stores do, and take a less severe cut of the profits.

I not trying to highjack this thread... It's just that there are a lot of misconceptions out there regarding manufacturing costs, distribution, and pricing. An entirely different thread (and a very lengthy thread) could be written about overseas manufacturing. BTW, David skimmed the surface of the topic with his recent "Knockoffs in the Photo Industry" article.

Matthew G. Monroe
Nasty Clamps

June 30, 2012 8:15 PM  
Blogger Howard said...

Excuse me, Mr. Nasty, but your primary product appears to be comprised of off-the-shelf items: a few segments of black Loc Line, a spring clamp and a couple of threaded fasteners. So, about $15 (retail) worth of materials selling for $44.

Just sorry I didn't think of it first.

June 30, 2012 10:09 PM  
Blogger Larry said...

Great tip, Thanks.

June 30, 2012 11:30 PM  
Blogger a3p601 said...

O.K. Why does the blue gel turn the ambient red?

June 30, 2012 11:36 PM  
Blogger a3p601 said...

Why does blue gel make red ambient?

June 30, 2012 11:39 PM  
Blogger "Mister Nasty Clamps" said...

Howard: Actually, quite a bit of work goes into the making of the Nasty Clamps: machining of the "raw" clamps, powder coating, custom CNC'd plastic plugs, assembly of the a clamps, etc.... And I've actually posted instructions on the web so that people who want to make their own version of the Nasty can do so, though it's quite a bit more work (and time) than most folks would imagine.

If I can make a simple analogy here: anyone who owns a sewing machine, a pair of scissors, and a set of patterns can -- if they're willing to take the time -- make a pair of jeans for themselves for about $15 worth of fabric. But how many people are actually willing to do so, versus the number of folks who simply go to a clothing store and dish out $75 to $175 for what could easily be made at home?


July 01, 2012 12:37 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

In the time it took to watch the video I could have tweaked the original image in Lightroom to ANY background color I desired and layered it in, then brought a second layer export of the same image with the subject at the 'right' WB. A bit of masking here and there and voilá, the same image without tweaking camera settings or trying to remember that Blue is red is CW is AWB.... but I get what he's saying... and I have two FongDongs that lie dormant on the shelf... call it naivete when I started (but it does keep my fried rice warm for a long time!)

July 01, 2012 1:01 AM  
Blogger Sando said...

Sure one can set the colorspace in photospace afterwards but there ist a reason it's there. The argument for adobergb/against srgb is alsways "more color informations in the file". so if you convert an srgb file to an adobe rgb file you win nothing and won't really see a difference because the color informations in the original color where srgb. the other ways around works as longs as you have a monitor that is "good enough" für adobe rgb/calibrated fpr adobe rgb.

July 01, 2012 4:16 AM  
Blogger Michael Steggals said...

Using something blue to create a custom WB creates a red ambient as the white balance is compensating for all the cold blue by warming up the image. Your eyes can also have their white balance tricked. Close one eye and spend about a minute looking at the world through a blue bottle with the open eye (well duh). Take the bottle away and open and close each eye alternately. You should notice that the eye that was looking through the blue bottle now gives you a warmer/redder image than the other eye. You can do the same thing with a green bottle and probably any other colour bottle. I dare say if you look through a red bottle the world will look bluer after

July 01, 2012 4:28 AM  
Blogger RFS said...

Re: Nikons
If lighting is too dark or too bright, the camera may be unable to measure white balance. Try using manual exposure and opening up a couple of stops.

To do it like Gary, look in your manual under copying white balance from a photograph. Basically, you shoot a photo of your gel, then while in the white balance settings navigate to the photo.

July 01, 2012 10:37 AM  
Blogger gkolanowski said...

Even though he is saying the filter is blue, it must be more cyan, which is the opposite of red when dealing with light. Hence the red background, rather than yellow.

July 01, 2012 10:50 AM  
Blogger Per Rutquist said...

Gary's method only works because the ambient happens to be the same color temperature as the flash. He is balancing the camera for ambient-through-filter, but shooting with flash-through-filter.

I have a set of small-jpeg photos of a greycard shot with flash + gel. (Label for the gel included in the shot.) I copy these onto the card after emptying it, and then I can set the WB for any gel in seconds.

July 01, 2012 12:09 PM  
Blogger James said...

I have a D90 and I am sure I can get this to work on it just fine. I have taken a pic with a lens cap with a hole drilled through it to try to imulate a pinhole camera. If it will do that I am sure you can get it to do this, however you might have to do everything in manual mode including focusing.

July 01, 2012 12:11 PM  
Blogger Robin Stone said...

Mr. Hobby,

I continue to be in awe of you in your continued efforts to bring us information and teach us techniques that will only stand to improve our photgraphy. I once published a blog about open source photo editing and management, but quit after a few months because I got tired of defending every word I said. So again bravo to you.

Now to the rest of this motley crew... This is technique showing you how to use alternate WB to achieve an effect. Can it be done in post? Yes. Does it require expensive gear? No. Would I use this on every shot I take at an event? No. What this post is NOT is an endorsement of Mr. Fong's products or Mr. Fong's business model. If you like the technique use it, if not then don't. Just please stop nit picking. If you need help we're here to do that.

Thanks... and sorry for the rant, but man you guys dive into the weeds sometimes on these comments.


July 01, 2012 3:17 PM  
Blogger Gary Fong, Author said...

Woohoo!!! Thanks everybody - Strobist is awesome! For the D90 user who had an issue - if you forget to do the sample with "daylight" white balance setting (like if you do AWB) your camera will correct out your weird colour.

It's a huge honour to be mentioned here.

Gary Fong

July 01, 2012 3:21 PM  
Blogger Nicolai "Cuki" Gamulea said...

Hey, there's a great group on Flickr called "Strobist", this technique has been largely discussed there about five years ago. I'm happy to notice Mr. Fong reads that forum too, it's such a great resource :)

July 01, 2012 5:02 PM  
Blogger Tim Dustrude said...

@runelind - On my Nikon D200 the exposure needs to be correct for the PRE whitebalance to work. I usually set the camera on Auto, and then do the PRE WB and it's happy with that. If I'm on manual and I shoot too much over or under EV, then it says No Good. Hope this helps...

July 01, 2012 5:23 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Well Gary, we are obviously not on the same page when it comes to flash modification in general...but a good tip is just that...a good tip. I've played around with this sort of thing myself, but you did a good job of sharing it in your video. Congrats!
Quest (of LumiQuest)

July 01, 2012 5:37 PM  
Blogger Thomas Shue said...

Sorry to say this is not a new Idea. I have done this for years. I used it for light painting to change the white light of the flashlight and make it red or blue. If you dont want to use a gel print red and blue on your printer then take a shot. So Simple to make a custom WB but use red or blue. I would of never put up Fong on Strobist!

July 01, 2012 6:21 PM  
Blogger Joshua Vensel said...

Gary's video is more of a good reminder than a groundbreaking revelation, but I appreciate that. I also love my two lightsphere collapsibles that I use off-camera, professionally, several times each week. They're not an all-purpose solution, but nothing is. I'd still buy them again and again. I'm amazed that no one blinks at spending $1500, $2500, $3500+ for a new body, but Gary sells a specialized accessory for $60 and so many are quick to ridicule. Talk about ridiculous.

July 01, 2012 6:22 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Look at this DIY Lightsphere.

It works quite well, weighs very little, and takes up minimal space.

July 01, 2012 7:21 PM  
Blogger Marshall said...

Sando, if you convert from the raw file, you're not "converting from sRGB" no matter what the in-camera color space setting is. Raw files don't really have a color space. [Besides which, for many folks who use, for instance, Adobe Camera Raw, the main editing is actually done in a much larger space - sort of a linearized version of ProPhoto.] But let's not spend too long off-topic in this thread about a trick that doesn't really require anything about specific color spaces to do its work...

July 01, 2012 7:56 PM  
Blogger Anthony Castellano said...

The blue to "red" seems like a pretty big oversight for a professional to be suggesting. Maybe he is simplifying for his audience that doesn't know better. White balance correction for blue is yellow, not red. A white balance for cyan would turn ambient white a reddish color.

July 01, 2012 8:23 PM  
Blogger Ski!! said...

No. A white balance correction for blue is orange, not yellow.

July 02, 2012 2:48 AM  
Blogger Andor said...

Indeed sounds like a cool (or warm in this instance :-)) idea - thanks for sharing!

July 02, 2012 3:12 AM  
Blogger Gordon Saunders said...

He isn't showing colour correction in the traditional sense. He's demonstrating how to create am exciting background where nothing nice existed. A valuable tip, given for free - what's not to like?

July 02, 2012 7:16 AM  
Blogger rob marshall said...

I can see how it works, but I can't see at all why you would want to do it.

July 02, 2012 7:23 AM  
Blogger Dylan said...

HI David,

I have no reason to defend Fong or his pricing and don't use any of his products because I never use on camera sources (and frankly stuff is expensive for a piece of difusion), but "hell freezes over" sounds like some uncharacteristic animosity which I don't recall seeing from you. Is there a back story?

July 02, 2012 10:24 AM  
Blogger Tyler Brown said...

Personally I would have knocked the ambient down a stop. But that's just my take on this

July 02, 2012 10:33 AM  
Blogger Mike Mahoney said...

Where can I get a cheeseburger like that, it looks delicious! Oh, and by the way, cool tip. :)

July 02, 2012 11:08 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


I have long poked fun at the value proposition. (See: http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/03/lighting-101-bare-tube-style-lighting.html )

But Gary's a good guy (note his responses above) and a tremendous success. I admire the way he looks at life, too.

July 02, 2012 11:57 AM  
Blogger gibbonsp said...

While it appears that others found the method before I did, I've been using this method for years at the local Zombie Crawl, which I finally perfected last year:


I was going to call it the "Gibbons Hue Shift". So much for that?

July 02, 2012 12:59 PM  
Blogger RFS said...

Why you guys hatin' on Gary? His solutions work very well for his customers...

Think of it this way: David Hobby is kung fu, Gary Fong is karate. Either way, the light is going down!

July 02, 2012 2:17 PM  
Blogger Bob K said...

I imagine you have to be careful about color casts in the shadow areas, no?

July 02, 2012 3:49 PM  
Blogger Dawn Scott said...

I'm struggling with my D90. As soon as I add a filter on my sb700 it says "no gd"
I have tried over/underexposing, also tried holding the gel over the lens, maybe it's to far off the wb spectrum to compensate for, as trying a best guess manual wb, I still couldn't push the flash to anywhere like normal in LR.

July 02, 2012 5:06 PM  
Blogger Aaron Aubrey Photography said...

This isn't working with my D700. I tried with a Canon and had no problems at all. The Nikons just seem to correct themselves. I even tried holding down WB for 2 seconds and taking a shot only to get a 'no good' message.

July 02, 2012 8:05 PM  
Blogger Richard Kimbrough Photography said...

Cool to see what the guy with the zombie link did since I've used a similar technique when shooting a zombie themed roller derby team, except pushing the background ambient to orange/red vs. green. In my case I usually use colored gels for my backgrounds but wanted to drag the shutter and get something other than the nasty yellow I usually get, so tweaked the white balance and gelled the main flash and away I went.

As far as the $65 light modifier, I haven't bought one, but I'm sure I've spent as much on some other thing in the past that was equally simple.

July 02, 2012 9:56 PM  
Blogger MasterOfGoingFaster said...

Step 1 - hold the filter over the front of the lens and shoot a gray card or white card.

Step 2 - Install the filter on the flash and shoot.

Step 3 - In post, take the step 1 photo and use it to set the white balance.

Step 4 - apply the same white balance to the remaining photos.

Bonus points - Perform step 1 on several gels before the shoot, and create LightRoom presets. At the shoot, you simply put the gel on and shoot. Back at home, simply pick the preset.

July 03, 2012 9:25 AM  
Blogger Alessandro Casagli said...

Any Nikon user successfully applied this technique?

July 03, 2012 11:02 AM  
Blogger Jerry Pennington said...

I've not had any luck getting it to work on my D90 either. Tried assigning the image to the d-1 preset slot, and then chose that setting in the custom menu but it still corrects. If anyone has successfully done this with a Nikon, please fill us in.

July 03, 2012 3:58 PM  
Blogger Madhav said...

This is similar to effect you wrote about when shooting in city lights under Tungsten. The Camera and the street lights balance each outer out, but the distant sky and cityscape turn a beautiful blue.

July 03, 2012 4:20 PM  
Blogger Empresa Lucky Tour said...

The colorish background does not appear when I open the file in camera raw, only the JPEG file opens with the color background. Someone could explain what is happening?

July 03, 2012 4:38 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

To those that have problems getting the preset to work: are you sure you take the white balance exposure with a neutral background? If you have a busy (multi-colored) background, taking a white balance exposure doesn't work. Just like when you take a regular white balance exposure (without the gel) you make sure that you have just white in the frame...

July 03, 2012 7:28 PM  
Blogger DJ-RJ said...

Very cool. Thanks for sharing.

July 04, 2012 12:55 AM  
Blogger Leon Daniels said...

FOR NIKON D7000 users

The way Gary is explaining it does not work for a Nikon D7000.

This is how you do it:

-Change your WB to PRE . Make sure
that is on D 0 (very important)
-Press WB-Button until PRE starts
to flash.
-Now take a picture of a blue sheet
(or wall). It is not necessary to
use a blue filter
-When you did it right it says GOOD

If you have done this and now you take a picture.. it should have the red glow Gary is talking about.

The way of Gary is not working for a Nikon

Excuse my bad English, I am Dutch

July 04, 2012 4:55 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Mr. Hobby - Hats off to you. Not everyone can separate their disdain for a product from their appreciation for a technique like this.

Your post was appreciated.

(and, no, I don't have a GF product)

July 04, 2012 7:33 AM  
Blogger Dan I said...

Dear Mr Hobby,

I think your blog is amazing but I hope you can amend your post. How can you slag off overpriced plastic peripherals when I noticed lumiquest offers a Strobist kit at the amazing price of exactly 65 dollars?! Surely you appear to be a bit hypocritical especially as this is the REDUCED price! Even if not sold by yourself directly the Strobist name sells its fair share of overpriced burgers too.


July 04, 2012 1:34 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


I am not going to amend the post, but I will offer some clarity for you here.

The $65 price is what it is. Manufacturer, distributor, retail - everyone needs to make a profit and it all adds up.

More to the point here is that (IMO) the LightSphere is (a) of very limited utility, and (b) can be easily substituted for with a $3.50 container of hot and sour soup. Plus, you get the soup included for the $3.50.

I think a lot of people ascribe magical powers to the LS that simply do not exist. I have learned to resist walking up to people and explaining this when I see them using the LS outside, for instance.

Using your "j'acuse" example, I personally find that the LQ SB III is a much more versatile light mod. But nonetheless I have pointed to various DIY equivalents. That is, if you do not mind using paper/cardboard mods, of course.

Ditto the two included mounting straps, about which I have also posted DIY instructions. But the LQ straps are made with neoprene (a useful upgrade) so you'll have to source that if you want it.

You can get by without the gel holder, of course. But you are going to need some pretty good crayons to make the included calibrated gels.

It's time vs money. My time is a little more valuable than trying to reproduce the LQ kit. Plus, I like hot and sour soup.

But you do what you like...

July 04, 2012 5:51 PM  
Blogger dom said...

lol at "Oh, and because you are who you are, you really don't have to use on-camera flash for this. You're better than that."

Once you separate your two lights you can do amazing things, especially when you add color. Great tutorial.

July 05, 2012 1:30 PM  
Blogger Nikon Coach said...

Those of us who have problems with Mr. Fong and/or his business...can we pretend this video tutorial is from some DIYer and see if there is anything in the video that is of value to us? If it is no so such value, let us respond, if we must, on how the video could have been made useful. If we've been using this technique for years now, good for us. We don't have to be to mean to the DIYer.

Thanks, Mr. Hobby, for sharing this video on Strobist.com.

July 06, 2012 2:19 PM  
Blogger Oyin Momo said...

I want

July 07, 2012 10:39 PM  
Blogger Lee said...

Just tried it with my D300 and SB-800 Blue gels. Doesn't work. Pre-set WB flashes No Good.

July 08, 2012 3:22 PM  
Blogger Jay Farm said...

So I struggled with this for a while, but managed to get it working with my D800 and SB800.

The trick I found that I was able to repeat:

1) Go into program mode
2) Shift to PRE WB
3) Hold down WB button until it starts flashing
4) Point at something neutral (I used a wall that had a fair bit of ambient light on it that was real close to white)
5) Hold gel over lens, and snap a shot
6) Turn on live view, or take a picture to confirm tint

I did have to make sure that I didn't have any direct light sources but after I realized that mistake and filled the frame with the neutral wall I was able to do it with several colors easily and quickly.

So I only got one no Gd before it was working great.

Nikon's seem to be a bit more picky about what's in the frame when doing the sample frame, but it could be operator error on my part as well.

July 27, 2012 10:41 PM  
Blogger Eiti Kimura said...

Guys I really tried hard to this with my nikon d90 and I was not able to measure a Gd preset with the gel in front of the lens.

I got a good exposure of a white wall with the blue gel in front of the lens and I used this blue image as a preset d-0 for example, and it simple didn't work.

It seems that nikon white balance autocorrect the picture color.

So, with the blue image as preset wb was not possible to take the red tint picture color. I also tried all of the methods presented here to do this trick with nikons and didnt work.

Do you have any tip?
For me is clear that white balance works pretty different in nikons and canons cameras.

December 10, 2012 9:24 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Tried this out on a canon. Couldnt get it to work the way his picture showed. Only got a blue light on the subject and red background..no neutral light :/ tried removing blue gel but subject appeared with just red light. I cant get isolation between colors

April 29, 2014 12:57 PM  

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