(featured photo from Fenchel & Janisch)

Next week we’ll be hosting a workshop on professional filming and color grading for a beauty shoot. We’ll get totally hands-on, re-enacting a beauty shoot and the color grading process, as well as hearing from beauty blogger Yumi Duong and stylist Anna Miu. The event is free and open to all young filmmakers, limited spots available, sign up and be early (it starts at 2 pm). To make sure you’re ready to dive in at the workshop, here’s a quick overview of color grading.


Color grading is both an art and a craft, at least half technical skill and an unquantifiable amount of creativity. It’s indispensable today for creating a professional, cinematic look. Here are some basics.

Color grading is the post-production process of fixing and then enhancing the appearance of colors, scene-by-scene. Depending on the project, the color grading workflow may be multiphase, involving several passes over the same scenes. Color grading is usually done by a specialized colorist in collaboration with the director, other editors and/or an art director.

The first pass, or primary color correction, is usually to fix anything that went wrong during shooting. This needs to happen before any enhancements can be made. Some examples of what might need to be fixed from colorist Patrick Inhofer, who also wrote a good, brief overview of color grading vs. color correction:

  • Fixing exposure problems
  • Fixing white balance problems
  • Repairing excessive noise from aggressive ISO settings
  • Expanding contrast from LOG- or Flat- recorded images
  • “Developing” the image from RAW recordings
  • Setting the initial black-, white- and gamma points

(In case you’re already on your way with color grading, here’s a little more in-depth discussion about shooting and grading LOG footage from No Film School).

Inhofer notes that it depends on the project but, in general, most shots need at least one of these corrections. Technically this is color correction and the steps after are color grading, but for brevity the whole process is often referred to as color grading.

Most often people might think of the stylized looks that colorists create, obviously an important part of the job that has a significant influence on the overall mood of the final film. We’ll get into the art and theory of that a little further down. But there are less visible aspects of color grading that are also very important, including:

Here’s a nice Q&A from colorist John Carrington at Film Riot in case you have a few questions at this point:

Now on to the artistry of color grading. Everyone has their opinion on and experience with color theory/science, it’s a quickly evolving field driven by innovation. It comes down to a combination of creative imagination, aesthetic instinct and actual science about how humans visually respond to different colors.

For a brief introduction here are three videos that demonstrate how you can create different moods and elicit different reactions through careful use of color. Or as V. Renée from No Film School says “make your audience feel all the feels.” Also from V. Renée, a much-needed discussion on when one should stop color grading and 7 things to watch out for to avoid “bad” color grading.  

For a dramatic look:

A dreamy feeling:

And a scary atmosphere:

Don’t forget to sign up for our hands-on beauty shoot and color grading session here!