Use an Index or Business Card to Attach a Color Gel to Your Smartphone

Dissatisfied with the way your smartphone photographs are turning out when the built-in flash is fired? When desperate times call for desperate measures, you can make your flash match the ambient light around you with the help of a colored gel. The flash is often just a tiny LED, though, so how do you comfortably “mount” the gel to your smartphone? Reader Todd Glidden has an answer: use an index card.

He tells us,

Most photographers are familiar with the problems caused by the color of a flash not matching the color of the ambient light in the scene. With a real camera and speedlite-type flash most would use colored gels to match the light. When you’re out with only your smartphone you usually don’t have many options.

A couple weeks ago I took a photo of my family in a restaurant with my new smartphone. The picture looked pretty bad as the light from the flash was very blue/white in relation to the more orange background light. These devices often have LED flashes, which, exacerbates the problem, I think. So that got me thinking about a way to easily use a flash gel with my smartphone. It needs to be fairly portable and accessible or you’ll end up never carrying it around with you.

Sandwiching a small strip of flash gel between two pieces of 3×5 card with a notch cut out seemed like a good option. The attached photo shows the effect. I tried to recreate the environment I experienced in the restaurant using the lamp light in the background. I think it works reasonably well. In this case I used a 1/2 CTO gel. Keep in mind different phones may have different placement of the flash and lens so your milage may vary.

Better yet, you could do the same thing with two business cards in order to have a portable accessory you can carry around in your wallet!

  • Stewart Doyle

    I have done similar, with sweet wrappers, for my on-camera popup flash. Wrap the wrapper around the flash and rubber band it in place, there it is.

    Never thought of applying it to my PHONE camera though, but excellent idea. Since the notch is fairly small, you could maybe even get away with putting half a dozen on a single card which would mean only needing one or two cards for all circumstances.

  • Brandon McWilliams

    You can pick up something like a Rosco swatchbook for a few bucks (sometimes even for free) and have dozens of gels to use.

  • Mansgame

    They used to be free until the strokists told everybody to go grab some each time they go to the stores and that put an end to it. Then magically, a strokist pack showed up for profit.

  • David Tong from iPhotocourse

    great tip, its amusing how often we forget that many photographic accessories are transferable to other equipment as long as light is involved.