No one wakes up in the morning saying, "I want to make a bad grade today," but many colorists unfortunately make bad grades. There are reasons for this—maybe they're crushing their blacks too much, or grading it too much, or maybe the anonymous internet mob has just deemed it "totally shit, bro." Though we can't help you with the trolls, we can talk about several technical things to look out for when color grading, and in this video, editor Casey Faris names a bunch of them, as well as some advice for how to balance technique and style.

Here are the things Faris mentions in the video that could negatively affect your color grade:

  • Grading so much you lose detail (crushing the blacks)
  • Having to grade an image that wasn't (or poorly) white balanced
  • Failing to match the grade between shots
  • Bad keys/tracking
  • Obvious/overdone grades
  • Your grade doesn't fit your project
  • Your client doesn't like it

Now, there are a lot of mistakes you can make when color grading and if you're wondering if you've made any, you can ask yourself these questions:

  • What is a "bad" or "good" grade?
  • Are my mistakes "technical" or "stylistic"
  • Were the technical mistakes made on purpose to serve the style of the project?

Whether you're a professional colorist or not, the sweet spot, at least in my opinion, is finding the balance where both technique and style are done well. All projects have a style—even if it's not super apparent, it still has one—and part of your job is understanding how to execute that style with proper technique.

Source: Casey Faris