Colour Grading … say what?

You have probably heard people talking about this. Heard about it from big Hollywood movie productions. Or maybe your neighbour does it. Anyhow ... colour grading is something everybody does. But what is it ... and what can I use it for?

A colour grade is a translation of colours. Your translation. In other words, how do you perceive the colours for this particular image.

This is something that is widely used in big Hollywood Blockbusters.
Basically what you do is assigning a color to your highlights and your shadows. A popular photography term is Split Toning.
But it is much more than that. You of course need to fix exposure issues. Add contrast and maybe saturation etc.
So lets try this out.

Here's my raw file


Now ... for a colour grade to work the best, you need to assign complementary colours to your highlights and shadows.
A very popular colour grade in Hollywood is the "orange and teal" colour grade.

I have tried to replicate that in Lightroom – Split Toning settings like this:

Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 23.45.37 .png

Which gives me this result


Now .. what you'll notice (and you can easily see this in those Hollywood Blockbusters) is, that hair and beards often tend to look green. But it is a look we have grown custom to, since a lot (and I really mean a lot) of movies use this look to some extend nowadays. I think the reason for this is, that it reminds us of "golden hour" ... warm and comfortable.

But let's take it further

Let's try to "play" around with our colour grade and try some other colours

Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 23.54.21 .png

Giving me this result


I'm going to go one step further, and try to replicate some of those fashion shots I see in magazines etc.

Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 0.00.43 .png

Being the smart readers as you no doubt are, you might think these are the same settings as the previous image ... and they more or less are.
The major shift laying in the highlight colour and the balance between them. 
The result is quite different, and closer to the popular "fashion" look.


Now ... this is a look i like.
And remember, all this can of course be saved as a preset.

So try this out ... it's really subtle changes you have to make, to make a totally different image.

Thank you for reading

If you'd like, you can check out more of my images at my website.

Niels Steinmeier

Niels is on Twitter as