How I Color Correct GoPro Footage: A Starting Point for Beginners
The secret behind the cinematic and professional video look
I’ll never forget finding a wedding photographer. It was strangely a very difficult task. Each photographer had a specific look and feel to their photos. Some had images that were dark and gloomy, where others seemed to capture vibrant photos where the colors seemed to pop off the page.
Regardless of the overall look of the photos, there was consistency in terms of how their photos were presented. For professionals, there’s more to adjusting the look of your photos or videos- there’s another element where you correct the photo first. This is also true for videographers.
Before adding a filter, which could be considered color grading, you should consider color correction.
Back to the wedding example, if the shots were taken outside, and the light was harsh, those photos would look different from photos that were taken when the lighting was softer. With color correcting, you can do your best to adjust some-what exposed footage so that it fits in with the rest of the shots that were taken.
If you’re new to the practice of color correction, it’s where you adjust the colors to attain a golden thread of balance between the shots in your video.
This is done on an editing platform, in the post-production phase. When I color correct, I focus on the following:
- Adjusting the contrast,
- Adjusting the exposure,
- Adjusting the saturation,
- Making the blacks black,
- Making the whites white.
I try to avoid adjusting exposure too much. That can open a can of worms on your footage. But I’ll walk you through where I start, and what I always add when it comes to color correcting my GoPro footage.
Basic Color Correction for GoPro Footage
GoPro has built-in GoPro Color settings, which you are able to adjust. For a beginner, not familiar with color correcting or color grading, the GoPro look is a step in the right direction. It automatically adds vibrance and clarity to the video.
Personally, I feel that GoPro color is often too saturated. This is why I love the Flat option.
Yes, the flat settings do give the image a washed-out feel. But with color correction, you are able to adjust the colors to the point where they seem natural to the human eye.
From here, you can throw on a look, LUT, or filter to give the shot the energy that you desire.
I’m going to walk you through the steps I use for basic color correction using Premiere Pro.
However, if you do not use Premiere Pro, and you edit on a different editing platform, these steps may still be of use to you. It may look a little different, but it is unlikely that the terms would differ too much.
I start in the Color workspace. I then make sure that I can see the Lumetri Scopes panel. If you can’t find it, identify the Window drop-down at the top of your screen and then scroll down to the point where you see Lumetri Scopes and click on it.
From here, I start by adjusting the blacks and whites in the images in the Basic Correction tab. I move the whites until they touch 100 in Lumetri Scopes and I then move the blacks until they are at 0.
I then adjust the contrast and saturation. This is taste dependant, but this is what you lose when you use the Flat option. The lack of contrast and saturation gives the shot a dull and toneless look. So, make sure you add it back.
This ticks off the basics of color correction. It’s clean and simple. It feels like real-life without a filter giving the footage a different tone. You may pick up that your footage has somewhat of a documentary feel to it. Some filmmakers, who shoot documentaries may decide to leave their color here. Their focus could be on tweaking a few things here and there so that there is balance and continuity from one shot to the next. But this is not the case for all documentaries.
From here, you can adjust the colors further if you wish, I usually add a little bit of orange to the highlights and a bluey-teel to the shadows and highlights.
Or, you can dive deep into color grading. You may decide to add a LUT or look to the video. Here, you change the overall feel of the video. You could make it feel tropical, atmospheric, crisp, or whatever you desire. If you do add a LUT, I suggest going through your GoPro footage one more time, making further corrections should there be the need to.
I feel that GoPro Color is a perfect place for beginners to start. Also, if you are short on time and you’re looking for a quick, mostly reliable look, the GoPro Color setting will still give your shots an aesthetic look.
However, as you progress in confidence, consider trying out the flat option for a few shots.
Play around with basic color correction and see the effect it has on your videos. You may find yourself finding a new flair, and even being able to showcase details that would not have been available if you used the in-built option.
Most importantly, have fun. The process may seem a little daunting at first, but, in my opinion, it does result in footage that has your own cinematic and professional stamp on it.