With summer in full swing, we're willing to bet that you're gallery is just brimming with sun-kissed content. But if you go through your videos and you feel as though those clips do not exactly promote what summer feels like, fear not. We're here to help you. Whether it's an issue with setting, colors, or the location, we've compiled a list of tips to employ while color grading for those summer vibes.
Photo by Joel Bengs
All About Highlights
As consumer cameras are increasingly housing better dynamic range and RAW image processing, filmmakers can now recover highlights and shadows in a way that was previously impossible. However, when it comes to summertime, highlights and shadows should definitely be used sparingly.
With the sun high in the sky for a prolonged period throughout the day, all media filmed at midday into the afternoon is going to be super bright. You'll often see a bright sky area when facing the sun; subconsciously signaling that it's summertime. Therefore, instead of rescuing the highlights, we recommend safely bringing the highlight level up to a point where the area s somewhat hot.
Add a Warm Touch
Warmth is one of the most common associations people have with summer. And, if you have a lot of blue sky and cool-colored elements within your composition, it may inherently look colder than it was at the actual location. You might be drawn to adjusting the color temperature tool and warming up the shot. But, you have to keep in mind that this tool is primarily used to set the correct white balance.
Instead, we recommend using the color wheels or the curves to implement warm tones into the highlight and upper mid-tones, not the temperature tool. In doing this, you're going to immediately notice a pleasant warmth in the brighter elements across your image, without messing too much with the tonal values of the mid-tones and shadows.
Photo by Austin Neill
Summer as a Film Genre
If you think of summertime as a film genre of sorts, recognizing and utilizing its main components are going to help you introduce your theme effortlessly. For instance, if we asked you to picture a rolling tumbleweed, you'd likely think of a western. Or, if we tell you that the hero of a film is a wise old mentor, that'll spark fantasy film imagery. This is how you should think of your video; as a genre on its own.
However, when it comes to color grading, it can be somewhat make or break. Think of Western media portraying the Middle East and Central or South America with a distasteful yellow cast to the image, when these locations do not look like that in reality at all. We also see it in places like London, as the city usually has a cold, steely look to it; and, again, the place is nothing but. So, avoid the same shorthands when shooting hot summer locations. There is a specific grading element that is sometimes used to reinforce the summer scene called the digital graduated filter. That's the one you should use.
Take your gradient tool, position it half within the sky (not the entire sky) and then bring down the highlights to create the deep, rich blue associated with those endless, hot, and cloudless days. You are also going to want to bump up the saturation of the gradient. If you are going for a stylized look, it is better to keep the gradient line quite hard.
Photo by Erik Dungan
Last but not least, let's talk about the hue. This, again, is connected to the idea of genre conventions. In a lot of music videos and kids' shows set at the beach on a hot summer's day, you'll notice a slight twinge of teal in the sky. This will often correlate to the teal and orange color correction that comes from sandy beaches and warm surroundings. The teal is a complimentary color to the warmer areas you are going to shoot.
To achieve this, you need to use your hue vs hue tool. Select the blue sky, and slightly change the hue until it falls within the teal area. After that, slightly boost your saturation, and you'll successfully emulate a warm summer's day.