Color Grading in Capture One Using the Color Balance Tool

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Color grading in photography is the creative play with colors to achieve a tone and mood that matches your intention for a particular shot.

Much has been discussed in terms of color grading using Photoshop, but in this post, I wanted to show you how to achieve amazing color grades directly in your RAW editing workflow using Capture One. The main benefit of changing the colors directly on your RAW images is that you have the most amount of color information and can do the most amount of changes without losing quality.

There are many tools you can use for the task, but the easiest and most straight-forward tool for color grading is the Color Balance tool, which can be found in the color panel.

With Color Balance, you simply move a small circle around the color wheel to set the color tone you want to be applied to the shadows, midtones and highlights.

Before / After:

Instead of boring you with written words, below you can see a video that explains the technique I use in Capture One to apply color grading to my RAW images very quickly:

And here are a few highlights from this video and some extra thoughts:

  • Detach the Color Balance tool from the sidebar to give you a larger area where you can apply more precise changes.
  • Work with the shadows, midtones, and highlights one at a time.
  • If you’re happy with the color, but still want to tweak the amount/saturation for that color, you can use the slider on the left.
  • You can increase or decrease the luminosity for a channel using the slider on the right. This way you can, for example, make your shadows less dark and your highlights less bright, for a more vintage look.

How to Find the Perfect Color Grade?

If you’re not sure how to color grade a particular image, just play around and try to intuitively get a feel for where the image wants to go, color-wise. This is also something that you’ll get better with in time. Sometimes you’ll know exactly how you want an image to look, while other times you’ll have to play around and perhaps even create multiple variant clones with different grades to compare and see what you like best.

🌄 Image info:

  • Camera: Nikon D800
  • Focal length: 70mm
  • Shutter speed: 1/800s
  • Aperture: f/2.8
  • ISO: 100

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