If you aren't applying any color grading to either your photographs or motion work, you are potentially missing a vital part of the process of finalizing your image. Color grading can be one of the most impactful tweaks you can make to your work once it’s been shot. It has the potential to elevate a good image to great, or a great image to outstanding. This short video and article highlights why it's so important and the powerful impact it can have on your work.
This little-over-two-minute-long video shows excerpts of the independent movie, 'The House On Pine Street'. The film was graded by Taylre Jones at Grade, and he's demonstrated brilliantly how the original footage stacks up against the color graded footage looks compared to it. If you're in any doubt over the power that properly grading your work can have, you have to check this out.
Color grading in motion is nothing new. For years, DSLR videographers have been 'shooting flat'. By 'flat', we mean we shoot with a profile type that tries to avoid 'baking in' too much information into the compressed video file. Aspects like sharpness, contrast and color saturation are typically elements we don’t want to define too strongly ‘in camera’ and there is a good reason for this, but let’s look at color specifically.
Color is so important because, like lighting, it affects a mood and feel of a piece, and therefore how we interpret the final image. This is just as true for a still image as for a moving one. Often, a 'flat' image that comes out of the camera looks lifeless - but this is the intent.
Why do we want to start with a lifeless image? We want to spend time really being able to affect a particular look in post production, where we have dedicated tools (hardware and software) that allows us to do so much more (an analogy might be playing with a Raw file, compared to just accepting what your JPEG looks like, straight out of camera).
Colorists for the motion picture industry have been around since the early days of film production. Now, we have the advent of the ‘DI’ or Digital Intermediate who has the power of Photoshop-like digital manipulation but within the realm of motion pictures. If you’ve seen the recent film ‘Birdman’ with Michael Keaton, you’ll appreciate just how important the role of the DI was during the grading of this feature film.
This directly crosses over into the world of stills photography too. Last year, my most read article with almost 90,000 views, was looking at the process to make your photographs more cinematic by using a color grading process similar to what the motion colorists have been using for years.
Whether you are shooting stills, motion or both, hopefully this has shed a little light on the importance and impact that grading your work can have. If you have any questions about the process, be sure to leave a comment below and also please feel free to share what tools you're using to grade you work so I can get a feel for what you guys are doing out there.