The following show some of my experimentation with color grading, both in terms of trying to change the lighting/mood of the clip, as well as to play with stylized images:
My first clip was under outdoor lighting, mostly warm sunlight.
After 1-1 saw my first attempt at doing some minimal, subtle color grading. I tried some purple hues in the shadows and midtones, and left the highlights mostly orange/yellow (skintone).
After 1-2: I wanted to try averting the daylight by artificially trying to use color grading to emulate night time – or at least overcast skies. To do this, I tried to cool down the colors as much as possible with blue to light blue everything but I don’t think I put other factors into mind.
After 1-3: I thought more about what overcast lighting had, and for this try I also played with darkening the midtones through Luma and input/output, as well as desaturating the highlights. I also tried more subtle color grading, and the result is slightly more realistic.
Clip 2 is also outdoors lighting, however the lighting is focused on back-lighting, with the shadows on the face.
After 2-1: I wanted to emulate the vintage filters commonly seen on Instagram, so I used red shadows, orange midtones and blowing up the highlights to a really light yellow, to overexpose the clip. This created a burned, summer tone, and also the orange midtones meant the shadows on the faces were able to be brought up to more natural skin tones. The skies weren’t as evenly graded, and the edges near the leaves are still very blue. I think this could have been fixed if I’d been able to do a secondary color grading, where I picked out everything blue and pushed it to a yellowish-white, however that may have changed the color on the singlet.
After 2-2: In a similar attempt with the first clip, I tried to change the entire tone of the clip – whereas it was sunny and warm, I wanted to create a cooler, wintery feel. To do this, I first made the shadows bluer, but also selected less tones to be considered the shadow. I also pushed down the midtones, giving more tones to be considered highlights, then gave it more blue, meaning the sky even bluer and colder. Finally I desaturated the very small scope of midtones that I had, but I think that probably wasn’t as successful as with the first clip.
Clip 3 is indoors lighting, with a very bright background.
After 3-1: I wanted to make the clip look as if it is filmed in outdoors lighting, so I used yellow/orange midtones, and also brought up the brightness of the clip a little. I didn’t do much apart from that, but I think perhaps some tweaking of Luma to make the highlights brighter would have been effectively.
After 3-2: Feeling like making something ultra stylish, I purposefully used contrasting highlights vs midtones (opposite ends on the hue wheel), and also a purple shadow, much like the retro-pop art styles.
Clip 4 is overcast outdoors lighting, but my focus was the solid red in the foreground and the small reds throughout the mid-ground and background.
After 4-1: Using the secondary color grading tool, I opted to select only the red (using show mask), then inverted the selection. With everything but the reds selected, I desaturated everything. I think it worked very well, and if I had taken more time to more carefully select more red, I wouldn’t have the jagged lines of color.
After 4-2: This time, without inverting the selection, I rotated the color wheel so that all reds became purple. This actually brought out a lot of the inconsistent color selections that I didn’t notice before – when things look purple, especially in the skin, it becomes more apparent to the eye.
From the color grading exercise, I learned a few basic skills to change the tone and mood of a clip, as well some more artful techniques such as selective color grading. However, I feel that successful color grading – at least, color grading that either realistically emulates the chosen tone or achieves accurate matching to a previous shot – occurs only if the editor has a good grasp of not only how light and color works, but also how to best manipulate it. For example, making things bluer doesn’t necessarily make it colder, but desaturation of highlights do.
Note: The girl and boy featured are my friends, who have given me permission to publish their image. The footage used are from a series of videos that I took for a separate subject.