Shooting Challenge: Rainbow Lights

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We tend to think of light as light. But light can also carry color. And for this week's Shooting Challenge, we'll be celebrating hard gels and Photoshop light filters. We want lights in every color of the rainbow.

The Challenge

Take a photo that uses one or more light sources to produce a strong flood of color. This can be a true, analog light covered in a gel, or you can recolor the light (like our lead example) in Photoshop.

The Technique

Lately, photographers have been treating color mostly by over-saturating it. Pump brightest colors. Pump the skin tones, too. Just crank all the colors up along with the contrast. The effect is a lot like adding a bit of extra salt to food: Everything tastes better (even if it's technically no longer unadulterated). Light plays a large role, of course, in bringing out the contrast and shape of an image. You also need enough light to make any given color pop in the first place.


I'm interested in combining those two ideas. So light is synonymous with color. And there are two ways to make this happen.

The first is to use light sources equipped with "gels"—basically plastic filters that colorize light. They've been used in the production industry for years to simulate the "blue" colors of night or the "orange" colors of morning. You could buy a gel or just be creative in creating your own.


The second option is to take a photo with clear independent light sources, then recolor them (possibly by first converting the image to black and white) in post production.

You don't need to use more than a single color in this exercise, but go as crazy as you'd like. I'd be interested to see Venn Diagram shots, too, with colors combining into new ones within a scene, particularly if you could do that with real lights.


The Example

Our lead photo is by Chuck Anderson, and you can actually find it in his Windows 7 themepack along with a lot of other cool, hypercolor shots. Check out his gallery for a lot of inspiration on incorporating rainbow colors into various lit landscapes.

The Rules

1. Submissions need to be your own.
2. Photos must be taken since this contest was announced (read more on that above).
3. Explain, briefly, the equipment, settings, technique and story behind shot.
4. Email submissions to, not me.
5. Include 970px wide image (200KB or less) AND a 2560x1600 sized in email. I know that your photo may not fall into those exact high rez dimensions, so whatever native resolution you're using is fine.
6. One submission per person.
7. Use the proper SUBJECT line in your email (more info on that below)
8. You agree to the Standard Contest Rules - though we DO accept non-US resident submissions.
9. If the image contains any material or elements that are not owned by you and/or which are subject to the rights of third parties, and/or if any persons appear in the image, you are responsible for obtaining, prior to submission of the photograph, any and all releases and consents necessary to permit the exhibition and use of the image in the manner set forth in these rules without additional compensation. If any person appearing in any image is under the age of majority in their state/province/territory of residence the signature of a parent or legal guardian is required on each release.


Send your best photo by Monday, May 21st at 10AM Eastern to with "Lights" in the subject line. Save your files as JPGs, and use a FirstnameLastnameLights.jpg (970px wide) and FirstnameLastnameLightsWallpaper.jpg (2560px wide) naming conventions. Include your shooting summary (camera, lens, ISO, etc) in the body of the email along with a story of the shot in a few sentences. And don't skip this story part because it's often the most enjoyable part for us all beyond the shot itself!

Mark Wilson is the founder of Philanthroper, a daily deal site for nonprofits.