From The Grading Room - Turning A Session Around

From The Grading Room – Turning A Session Around

March 28, 2016

not every session can be amazing and Dan shares his tips on turning a session around and winning over a client when things don't go your way.


I always try and share the best moments from my grading suite but in the real world it’s not always fun and games.

I recently had one of the hardest sessions in recent memory.

I was working with a very established photographer who has spent the last 15 years Photoshopping his own images…you can imagine he wasn’t overly thrilled to have to work with a colorist on images.

We butted heads as you could imagine and at one point he asked for my Wacom pen to grade it himself.

I had two choices on how To respond

A) Get angry and ruin a relationship with one of my favorite advertising agencies


B) Keep my cool and work on communicating with him better as in past experience any raised emotions in a grade were people being scared and out of their depth or nervous about the project in general.

I choose option B as I know from previous stories that clients don’t care if you are technically right about anything they want someone who is a great collaborator and is fun to work with.

Our Goal When Grading

We spend countless hours researching our craft on a technological level but how many hours do we spend focusing on communication?

If you watch the video insight below I explain in more detail how the session ran but the key to turning this particular session around was quite easy.

The client was getting aggressive as he would suggest a photographic technique and I would tell him that’s cool but that is the same as this way of doing it in video.

From his point of view, I was refusing to use his techniques even if it was unintentional.

It took me almost half a day to figure that out.

Once I swapped over to using my ears to listen and follow his techniques rather than being stubborn and using my video knowledge things went amazingly well instantly.

One example of this was his approach to contrast. He wanted me to:

  • Duplicate the image.
  • Overlay the image on top
  • Then use opacity to control the contrast.

Obviously, we know that there are far faster ways to achieve the end result but if it keeps our client happy why not!

To close I know when I read forums we discuss things in a sometimes heated manner about the correct way to do things but sometimes it’s better for our business to humor clients to ensure repeat business.

I know I’d rather get paid than always do things the “correct” way.

Check out out my video below for more!


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Homepage Forums From The Grading Room – Turning A Session Around

  • Great insight Dan ! I like these hybrid techniques, sometimes when nothing works, this can actually be really helpful !
    It brings back some memories. Not so long ago, I was in session with a DP who mastered Photoshop and After Effect, so I basically let him drive me through the grade. He wanted to give the program a very warm look but he was affraid it’s gonna look artificial. So we ended up blending a B&W node with very low opacity (I used softlight if I remember well) to keep the overall consistant and the result looked terrific ! At the end of the day, everyone was happy, and I learned a new technique that I haven’t thought of that is now part of my toolset. When you bring the best of the two worlds only good things can happen 🙂

  • Fantastic insight Dan, thank you! I had a supervised grade just last week where the clients wanted to see a glow effect and I used softlght and mist as well, for a dreamy blownout look. Unexpected and some difficult communication at the beginning, but in the end lots of fun.

  • Have you watched any of these retouching tutorials. I always learn something.

  • Marc Wielage

    Gah… nothing is worse than a client with a *little* bit of knowledge. But I see Dan’s point: often, you have to open up your mind to a different point of view, particularly if it helps you survive the client and give the client what they want.

  • I moved from postproduction for print to video postproduction and i am still amazed how actually different yet the same the two are. This sounds like not a person with a little bit of knowledge but a person with quite a lot of very relevant knowledge but just in the stills area, which is always extremely hard to work with. I work with a lot of photographers and as very established people they always want to lead the session in a particular stills kind of way, normally meaning a ton of starring at a single frame, a lot of very specific tweaks and masks. I think i always get the session back in my hands when people realise that once you press play a lot of that doesn’t work, because it’s not stills it’s moving and some things can be ignored and others addressed.

  • Robbie Carman

    such a great point!

    I find people with a stills or graphic background always want to refine that frame – but as I’m found of thinking/saying we’re working with 1000s of frames if not 100,000s. This logic also plays out with shot matching etc. Many people new to video color correction want to take the still approach of mastering the single frame – it can be hard to explain adapation and the longer you look at something the less likely you are to get it looking great

  • Taylre Jones

    I had this similar experience in a session last week!

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