Warm Your Big Flash at the Source with Glass Shells

Remember when we talked about gelling your light mods, and how some almost aren't worth the trouble?

If you frequently light people with large soft boxes, you can choose to warm your light up right at the source.

Lose the UV, Gain the Warmth

For most big lights from most reputable companies, you can choose UV tubes—or, warming domes—instead of the standard variety. Some companies even offer a choice of domes to let you warm up flashes (typically, your key) to your signature shade.

With speedlights, as we noted earlier, this warming is easily accomplished with about two square inches of gel right on the front of the flash. This is what I do for the SB-800 of mine that is pretty much dedicated to being my key light when using speedlights. Rather than gel it each time, the (¼ CTO) gel just stays on the flash.

But I also have an Einstein that is a dedicated key light. And that one gets a warming dome. (That flash is on the right in the photo above) The dome warms up the color of the light by about 600 degrees Kelvin, which is 300K more than a standard dome and gives a pleasing color of light for skin tones.

This is ideally suited for any kind of light mod, no matter how big or unwieldy. And this is something you might just do for one head—the one you use for key lighting people.

Most of your better lighting companies will offer this option for their shooters who do do a lot of people shooting. Left to right, that's a Profoto dome, an Elinchrom and a Broncolor, respectively.

The cost can vary greatly, depending on the size/color of the dome and whether or not it happens to be Profoto/Broncolor.

And if you happened to have purchased your big lights from some pop-up company you had never heard of before for $43, you are probably out of luck. That's because this is one of the things that separates the lighting companies who have care enough to pay attention to the details from the ones that just want to produce something as cheaply as possible, get it onto market, and iterate in six months.

If you shoot people and you want a consistently better look to your subjects' skin, a warming dome is totally worth the purchase. If you bought Einsteins (but not AB's, so I guess there's your line) your wallet gets off the easiest—they are about $15. If you bought Profoto or Broncolor, no worries. You can probably afford to buy the shells, too.


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Blogger Unknown said...

Hi, I sent this on twitter but I realize I might get a better answer here.

When setting your white balance for a warming gel/dome, are you setting the camera for the temp of the flash as normal, or are you setting your balance to the gelled/domed light? Thanks!

April 09, 2013 9:12 AM  
Blogger JS said...

I'm not trying to be pedantic, but would you say that warming "up" a light by 600K, is technically warming it "down" by 600K (in Kelvin and Hobbes' world)?

April 09, 2013 9:22 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

@Unk- Yep, you shoot on daylight, gel your sources to get the effect you want. I prefer not to shoot on flash, which warms up *everything*. Even the sky behind your subject, for instance, which you may well not want.

If I want *everything* warmer, I can do that in Photoshop. I generally like to control the color temps of my sources individually. Especially WRT to warming up my key light.

@JS- Glad you are not trying to sound pedantic.

April 09, 2013 9:57 AM  
Blogger Shannon Cayze said...

Wow, thanks for posting! This is really helpful because I know that I'm going to get an Einstein at some point and I had no idea they offered these. I was just planning on using really big gels like you mentioned previously.

April 09, 2013 11:08 AM  
Blogger Andrew said...

I have Elinchrom strobes. Funny, I was looking at these to protect the bulb(s). I may end up getting 1 for warming, and 2 for protection.

OT - I really like the way the Profoto D1 bulbs are recessed. It always spooks me to attach modifiers to my Elinchrom (which I love) because the way the bulbs protrude.

Oh well, I didn't need that money in my piggy bank anyway.


April 09, 2013 12:18 PM  
Blogger JS said...

(Seriously, thanks, David. I am a day away my Einstein/Octa/Vagabond shipment as we speak. I had no idea this dome was an option. Glad I do, now.)

April 09, 2013 12:37 PM  
Blogger William Brennan said...

Oh, ok. Thanks, I own an Einstein and was wondering. I don't recall this on the PCB site, now I may have to spend more money!

April 09, 2013 1:41 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

$234 for the Profoto dome :( Profoto tax means I'll have to stick to gels...

April 09, 2013 2:56 PM  
Blogger Patrick Eden said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

April 09, 2013 3:03 PM  
Blogger johnf said...

One of the things that has always confused me is how to deal with this warmer "key light", when I'm using a color checker passport to create a custom profile for use with Lightroom/Photoshop. Will not this custom profile cancel out the affect of the warming gel ?

April 09, 2013 3:07 PM  
Blogger Russ Heller said...

@johnf, I'm pretty sure that custom profiling like with the passport is not something you are supposed to do with every lighting setup. The custom profile is a way of calibrating the software to your camera, not a way of calibrating the software/camera to the color of your lighting. For that, you just use a white balance setting, which you can do in camera, or with a simple eyedropper on something neutral. If you are eyedroppering your wb, you would not want to do it with a deliberately color shifted (either by gel or by warming dome)key light. Try putting your white/gray reference card somewhere where it will only get hit with ungelled light. Or even turn the key off for the WB ref.

April 09, 2013 3:47 PM  
Blogger kangster said...

Hmm, it may be time to review Lighting 101 - Using Gels?

I'd say if you're not gelling to balance disparate light sources then you're probably gelling for effect (or to create disparate light sources), in which case it's artistic and you can set white point to taste. I think the point is having options. If you're shooting a neutral background and slightly warmer key light on your subject, that might just be your aesthetic. This is an art and you're all artists (I'm saying that loosely :D ). Do what looks good to you.

April 09, 2013 3:59 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

living in the tropics, I always have a 1/4th CTO stuck on the sb900's. They do have a nice gel holder which in my opinion far more elegant than having velcros on the side (did that on my sb600)

I use the gel main for balancing. Lastly I always keep my WB on auto and shoot on JPG+RAW, this is for rare cases when I need to play with WB on post. Since it is on auto, it would default on Flash WB, when shooting lighted and adjust accordingly when I shoot without.

BTW, I don't use the gels that came with the flash... I find it more easier for me to standardize on lee gels.

April 09, 2013 11:44 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

cold shoe mounted on top of the light on the right?

April 10, 2013 12:21 AM  
Blogger Mark Davidson said...

When I first shopped studio strobes about 8 years ago I was attracted to those units with domes specifically because I saw some offered warmer versions. This led me to look for a dome that would gel the strobe to a good tungsten balance as I am shooting a lot of interiors. Alas, no one offered them and I even called the nice folks at Buff to suggest they would get rich if they offered such a device. I suppose they have a good feel for the market but I still think it could be a decent seller.
Any votes for it?

April 10, 2013 12:21 AM  
Blogger Mark Davidson said...

Cold shoe holds the PW.

April 10, 2013 12:23 AM  
Blogger MikeScottPhoto said...

David, did I miss the blog post where you added the Einsteins to your big light arsenal? I know a while back you had bought the AB collection, then went with Profoto before the release of the Einsteins. I’ve got to assume an Einstein with a Vagabond Mini was too good to pass up when you need a little more than the speedlights.. curious to know how you decide which lights to pull out when.


April 10, 2013 9:04 AM  
Blogger MikeScottPhoto said...

I've been using a pair of Einsteins since January.. if I could change just one thing I'd swap the Power and Test buttons. I keep turning it off by accident. (duh)

April 10, 2013 10:49 AM  
Blogger nweez said...

@Mark Davidson-

It would be nice to be able to attach a dome to a Buff AB/WL - but it doesn't really make sense. The temp. on those isn't constant, which is why the Einstein is so totally sweet. As I understand it, it uses IGBTs, similar to those in a speedlite but much higher current/ or maybe parallelized. I think the old flashes just discharge a load(different depending on power) of caps across the flash tube - so You'd have warming, but warming from all different temps. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong in this assumption.

April 10, 2013 12:04 PM  
Blogger Mark Davidson said...

While it is true that the temp varies with power output the range is not that large and pales into insignificance when mixed with the wildly varying color temps I find on location. The Einstein is a great unit and I own some but they are much better suited to the studio as the dome is fragile and you cannot switch on the unit from the battery when the unit is on top of a stand.

April 11, 2013 12:44 AM  
Blogger Fuzzy said...

But... if your other strobes in your studio aren't similarly warmed, you'll have a color mismatch. I wondered for years why I was having color mismatches... turns out I inadvertently had a UV strobe tube on my main flash, but not on my others. I now have clear on all the softbox strobes, but UV on my bare bulb... which needs to be warmed to match the softboxes.

April 11, 2013 1:35 AM  
Blogger Mike Kelley said...

How much do I have to pay for someone to make these in 1/4, 1/2, and full CTO, as well as plus green varieties? Please, someone...Obi Wan, you're my only hope!

April 14, 2013 5:18 PM  
Blogger Richard Vier said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 14, 2013 5:41 PM  
Blogger Richard Vier said...

What's with the bracket on the Einstein on the right in the photo? Using it to mount a PW?

April 14, 2013 5:42 PM  
Blogger Jared Katz said...

PCBuff only has domes that lower the color temp by either 300k or 600k(not raise the color temp) like you mentioned in your post. Is that what your referring to?

April 16, 2013 11:05 AM  
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April 17, 2013 7:17 AM  
Blogger Alysander Stanley said...

I've also been looking on the Paul C Buff site but I can't find the warming dome you mentioned! What's the model?

April 20, 2013 9:01 PM  
Blogger Mike Lynch Photography said...


April 21, 2013 1:16 AM  
OpenID kenkyee said...

The PCB page specifically states:

"lowers color temperature by approx. 600K"

Not raises...

April 22, 2013 9:39 AM  

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