The Beginner’s Handbook to Video Color Grading

Color grading video footage on a computer.

Hello there, I’m Mike Jones, a photography enthusiast with over 20 years of experience. Today, I’m here to unravel the mystique surrounding video color grading.

A Glimpse into Color Grading

Color grading is an artistic venture, a process that manipulates the colors in your video to achieve a specific style or mood. It’s like using Adobe Photoshop or other image editors to tweak your photographs. If you’ve been doing that, congratulations, you’ve been color grading!

However, color grading videos introduces a few more steps compared to grading still images. This guide aims to make these steps easy to understand, helping you transition smoothly into video color grading.

The Essence of Color Grading

Color grading holds the power to sway the audience’s emotions. By using warmer hues like yellow and orange, you can evoke feelings of happiness, while cooler colors like blue or green can stir feelings of sadness or loneliness.

The Difference Between Photo and Video Color Grading

Color grading a photo requires focus on a single image. Video grading, on the other hand, requires you to consider multiple images. A video is a sequence of shots, and you must consider the entire sequence when grading to maintain consistency.

Top Color Grading Software

Now, let’s explore some of the most popular professional-level video editing programs that come equipped with advanced color grading tools.

Adobe Premiere Pro

If you’re a photographer, you’re likely already using Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. If you’re subscribed to the complete Adobe Creative Cloud package, you have access to Adobe Premiere Pro, which features a comprehensive color grading workspace based around the Lumetri color module.

Apple Final Cut Pro

Final Cut Pro houses all the color correction and color grading tools you need for precise control over your video’s aesthetic. It also has options for automatically balancing colors and white balancing your footage.

Blackmagic Design Davinci Resolve

Unlike other programs on this list, Davinci Resolve started as color grading software and later added editing features. It offers an in-depth and sophisticated suite of color grading tools.


VEGAS Pro facilitates quick access to its range of color grading tools through a unified color grading panel feature. It’s also optimized for touchscreen use, making it a convenient option for on-the-go usage.

Normalize Your Footage First

Many cameras today support “Log” mode recording, which preserves the greatest dynamic range in your footage. However, Log footage, with its flat contrast and muted colors, needs to be processed before you can start color grading.

The Importance of Color Correction

Before delving into color grading, it’s crucial to color correct your video first. Color correction involves adjusting an image’s exposure and color settings until you achieve a correctly exposed image with a neutral color balance.

The Process of Color Grading Video

Color grading typically starts with a wide shot in your sequence. Most color grading software uses color wheels to adjust the color grade of videos, allowing for nuanced control over the image’s final look.

Using Lookup Tables (LUTs) for Color Grading

Lookup Tables (LUTs) can help normalize your Log footage, but they can also be used creatively when color grading. There’s a multitude of artistic LUTs available, both paid and free, which can add a unique touch to your video.

Video Scopes

Video scopes can be an invaluable asset for color correcting and color grading video. They provide detailed information about a shot’s exposure and color, helping you achieve the perfect balance.

The Leap to Color Grading

As a photographer, your skills in editing your photos can be easily transferred to color grading video. With practice, you’ll soon master this new area.

Remember, color grading is an art form. It’s a way to tell a story, evoke emotions, and create a unique viewing experience. So, don’t be afraid to experiment and find your unique style. Happy grading!

Mike Jones is a freelance cinematographer and camera operator from Manchester, UK.

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