Anyone that has ever shot a video or image for themselves or work will know that the video or photo color is never how they saw it in real life. That’s because our eyes are the ultimate camera and none of the man-made ones can ever compete with them.

So, to fix this issue, there are two technical methods that need to be applied via editing tools: color correction and color grading. In this article, we will examine color correction vs. color grading and see what either of them can do.

This article will answer all things color correction and color grading. From what they are, their benefits, and how they work, by the end you will have a proper idea about these two editing methods. 

Color Correction

First we will go over color correction and see what it’s all about.

What Is It?

Color correction is not really anything too artistic in nature. Instead it’s mainly used to ensure that a video or photo looks natural and realistic. Basically, with color correction, we try to make a video or image look how it would look if we saw through our eyes. 

The process for color correction primarily involves fine-tuning problems such as yellowish indoor shots or overly blue outdoor scenes. Also with color correction we will make all of your videos and photos look consistent even if they are shot in different circumstances. This is to create a sense of seamlessness.  

What’s The Benefit?

There are many benefits of doing color correction during retouching or post-production. Here are some of them:

1. Enhancing Visual Appeal

A major benefit of color correction is that it helps with enhancing that image or video’s appeal to others. The adjustment of color and hue helps to make your photos and images more appealing to look at. 

2. Maintaining Consistency

Another benefit of color correction is that it creates a better sense of consistency across all your images and photos of a subject. With proper color correction, you will be able to give them a more cohesive look and feel.

3. Correcting Imperfections

This editing method helps remove or correct imperfections in the raw footage. With color correction, you can deal with issues like uneven lighting, color casts, or white balance more easily. The earlier you deal with them, the fewer headaches you will have later on down the project. 

4. Conveying Mood and Atmosphere

Color correction doesn’t help with creating a mood or atmosphere, but it can do so in certain cases. With color adjustment, specific feelings can be invoked, which can add depth and resonance to your visuals.

Color Correction Process

The process of color correction isn’t terribly complicated but it does have multiple steps that need to be followed.

Here is how color correction is done by experts at CPF:

1. Assessment and Analysis

Assessment of the video or photo is the first because editors need to know what they are dealing with first. At this step values such as exposure, white balance, and color temperature are analyzed. The analysis determines any issues or areas that require adjustment.

2. Setting the Black and White Points

With the assessment and analysis complete editors can set the black and white points. These points set the range of the photos or videos. Also, editors ensure that the lightest and darkest parts have detail and contrast.

3. Balancing Colors

Next comes the actual part of color correction which is balancing the colors to find the neutral point. At this stage the reds, greens, and blues are adjusted to remove color casts or tinting.

4. Correcting Exposure

Then editors do exposure correction to adjust the brightness and contrast of the image or video. This helps in getting the optimal visibility and tonal range. 

5. Adjusting Saturation and Vibrance

Finally, saturation and vibrance are also adjusted to either enhance or reduce the color intensity in the image or videos. The adjustment helps to make colors more vibrant or reduce it to create a more muted, subtle look.

Color Grading

It’s time to find out more about color grading and what it’s about. 

What Is It?

Color grading usually comes after the color correction process. This editing process is done to give your images and videos a more artistic look and feel. With color grading, editors work to set a certain expression or theme for the overall footage.

This process is usually seen when images are edited to give them a different less natural look. For example, those vintage looks or cinematic feels you are familiar with come from color grading. 

What’s The Benefit?

Along with making your images and videos look much better, there are other reasons why color grading is used for retouching and post-production

1. Enhancing Visual Appeal

First of all, with color grading, your images and videos will have a better look and tone, which is done to create a more engaging and aesthetically pleasing look.

2. Setting the Mood and Atmosphere

Instead of setting a more neutral tone, color grading is done to create a different mood or atmosphere for your images and videos. With color and tone manipulation, editors can create and set a different kind of specific emotion.

3. Establishing a Unique Style

Additionally, color grading does an amazing job of establishing a completely unique look and feel in images and videos. From a cinematic look, a vintage vibe, or to a modern aesthetic all of these can be set with color grading.

4. Creating Consistency Across Scenes

Like color correction, color grading is also done to set consistency. But color grading consistency is to ensure all your images or videos has a different but still cohesive look and feel. 

5. Adding Professionalism

Finally, color grading is done to make your images and videos seem and look more professional. This editing process gives your footage a polished and refined look and feel to leave a lasting impression on viewers.

Color Grading Process

Unlike color correction, the color grading process is slightly more complicated and has more steps.

Here is how color grading is done by experts at CPF:

1. Assessment and Analysis

Color grading starts with an assessment and analysis of clients’ footage or images. Editors will do this to figure out the look, lighting conditions, and intended mood and determine where and how to do color grading. 

2. Setting the Tone

With the assessment complete, editors will start to set the overall tone of the images and video. At this stage, the brightness, contrast, and overall color balance will be selected to set the required mood or atmosphere. 

3. Applying Primary Corrections

Now the primary correction or grading will be done on the images or videos. At this stage adjusting exposure, white balance, and contrast is the primary concern. This is because it will help to achieve a balanced starting point.

4. Adjusting Color Channels

Next editors do some individual color adjustments to get the right feel and look. This step allows for precise control over color tones and hues.

5. Applying Secondary Corrections

The secondary color grading involved corrections to specific areas. This step will isolate and adjust colors, enhancing skin tones or targeting specific objects.

6. Adding Creative Effects

With the corrections done, editors will implement creative effects to enhance the visual style further. Effects from applying color filters, adding vignettes, or introducing color grading presets can be implemented.

Color Correction Vs. Color Grading: When To Use Either

We are done introducing color correction and color grading so it’s time to find out when either should be used. 

Color Correction

Color correction is most of the time applied first because it helps to fix various technical issues. Adjustment of exposure, white balance, and color balance can correct a lot of footage and image issues.

Also, before further editing can be done, all images and videos need a neutral look and feel. And this can only be done once the color correction is done. 

Color Grading

Color grading always comes after color correction because it focuses mainly on giving images and videos a completely new look. With color and tone manipulation images and videos can be given a style or theme. 

When to Use Each

  • Use color correction when the footage has technical issues that need to be fixed, such as uneven lighting or color casts.
  • Use color grading when you want to evoke specific emotions or enhance the visual storytelling aspect of your content.
  • Start with color correction to ensure a balanced and natural look, then move on to color grading to add creative touches and style.

Further Reading: Clipping Path vs. Image Masking


Color correction is done by editors to give images and videos a consistent and neutral look, whereas color grading helps give them a unique look and style. Both of these editing methods are very helpful and should be used at different times.

Regardless if you use either or both of these editing techniques your raw image or footage will come out looking much better.