Difference Between Color Correction and Color Grading

7 May 2020

5 Min Read

As a filmmaker discovers tons of techniques project to project, it becomes necessary to have a certain professional process for filmmaking to boost his productivity. So knowing each step and its hierarchical place in the process is very crucial. Today we want to talk about two steps of dealing with colors in post-production, that are considered very effective in creating a high-quality video and know how and when to do each one. So let’s discover Color correction beside Color grading to get a clear understanding of each one and learn how they complete each other.

The process of going from a flat shot to a pro looking video actually gets done in three steps that we’re explaining below. Any other hierarchy in doing these steps will have negative results on your video so follow the steps in the same order. 

Picture profile

The first step to begin thinking about the color of your video and determine the style starts from the production stage. That’s where you choose your picture profile in the camera to record with. The picture profile in a simple term is the parameters that form the characteristics of your image in general. So when you set the camera at RAW recording, you’ll get uncompressed footage that literally is just data and needs to be translated into a video later on. So footage like this gives you the most flexibility to add colors and change them as you like.

Camera Codec Setting

Another common picture profile is Log profile that is flat in terms of colors but is rich in terms of shadows and highlights. So when you record the video at Log, you should give it some colors in the post in order to make it watchable. A negative point of using flat picture profiles is that you have to work on it in the Correction stage more than other profiles. While there are some picture profiles like the standard Rec709 that gives you footage that is very close to what the human eye can see and therefore its range of colors are realistic and needs less correction. Each picture profile has got its own pros and cons so based on your need or style, you can switch between them in your camera menu.

Color Correcting A Log Profile

Color Correction

Once you choose your picture profile and get your footage, you need to make it as close as possible to what you have in mind. This gets done by changing values for white and black levels, exposure, contrast, and white balance in order to correct its differences with the real colors of the subject. Another purpose of doing color correction for your footage is to make sure your shots look consistent in terms of lighting and all the other primary factors mentioned before. Once you do the color correction, you’ll have a good base to create your final look and mood on it. Below is an example of turning your video a little dark in the edges by using the vignette effect. As you can see the artificial tree is meant to be the center of this image and get the most attention, while everything around it is darkened. This darkening technique that is called vignette, is a step of color correction where you play around with darkness and light.

Turning your Video Dark by using the Vignette Effect
And the next one is an example of overexposed footage that gets fixed at the color correction stage. Remember that you should fix the lighting issues in the correction stage before you start messing with the colors.
Over Exposed Footage
Fixing Over Exposed Footage With Color Correction

Color Grading

Now that you’ve normalized everything in your video, it’s time to give a special look that creates a special feeling and mood. You’ve definitely noticed that colors are usually different in movies and there’s a special visual mood that is aligned with the story and genre. Most of what you see in those movies are created in this stage of coloring a film. In this part, you choose whether your film to be dark and gloomy, bright and lovely, blue and cold, or any other color combination that comes with a special feeling. It’s at this stage that you can use LUTs to inject the colors you want and then play with the values to get the best look. 

MV [12] -LOG From Film Looks LUT Color Presets Pack
WED [3] - LOG From Film Looks LUT Color Presets Pack
CINE [12] - Alexa C-log From Film Looks LUT Color Presets Pack
Cine [8] - RedRaw From Film Looks LUT Color Presets Pack
CINE [4] - Alexa C-log From Film Looks LUT Color Presets Pack
CINE II [3] - Alexa C-log From Film Looks LUT Color Presets Pack
CMR [6] - LOG From Film Looks LUT Color Presets Pack
Keep in mind that if you do the grading before correction, you can’t get the result you want because the base image has some flaws and can’t match with injected colors in a pro way. Color grading to some extent is a creative, artistic work that needs a good understanding of color emotions and visual storytelling.

The values you can play with in order to best edit the colors of your image, whether you use LUTs or just inject the colors on your own, are known as HSB and consist of color Hue, color Saturation and, color Brightness.

Film Looks – LUTs Color Presets Pack

Color Hue

It is the base of any color. For example, the hue for the sun and the pineapple juice is yellow. But the factor that makes these two to be different shades of yellow is the difference in saturation and brightness. So hue is the main characteristic of a color that differentiates it with other colors.

Color Saturation

It is how intense or pure a color is. The reason I said pure is that the amount of saturation is measured by the amount of grey that there is in a color. as you increase the color saturation, you’re reducing the grey in it and vice versa. So an intense red is a color that is free from any amount of gray therefore it’s pure red. So when you decrease the saturation of an image or as they say desaturate it, you make the image turn completely gray.

Color Brightness

Color brightness, on the other hand, is how bright is a color. Whether you want to turn the sky into dark blue or light blue or want to create deeper colors to create a heavy ambiance, you should play with the brightness of the color. A common mistake in color grading happens when people want to mess up with feeling using the wrong color element.
Hue, Saturation & Brightness (www.processing.org/tutorials/color/imgs/hsb.png)
Think of a jungle that you want to make it mysterious and grisly. well, the main colors are obviously brown and green, this is your color hue. The mistake that some beginner colorists make starts from here which is to reduce the saturation in order to make the jungle look unnatural, whereas the saturation must be well designed to represent true colors. So it’s the color brightness that can make a normal jungle a creepy one because of the deep, dark colors. So when playing with these values, be careful to use them properly aligned with the mood you seek for the image.


What we just walked through is the main process of setting and creating colors for a video. Whatever your purpose of making a video is, you should do the color process as all the professionals suggest. But as colors are formed by extremely complex compounds, just changing some primary values might not get you the final result in some cases. So this is why each editing software has got some special tools to manipulate colors professionally, and this sets them apart in terms of color preciseness.