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How to Color Grade Drone Video: The Basics

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In this lesson you'll learn basic color grading techniques for aerial video and flying camera footage, to make it look perfect.

Note, this lesson assumes you've already color corrected your footage, so check that out if you haven't already, and come on back when you're ready:

Native Color Options in After Effects


If you've used Photoshop, you're likely familiar with using the Curves effect to tweak the contrast of your image. Did you know that you can also toggle down and adjust the individual Red, Green, and Blue color channels independently? This allows you to create some dynamic looks.

Photo Filter

The Photo Filter effect acts as if you added a color gel in front of your drone camera. There are a variety of colors to choose from and you can even create custom filters.

Gradient Ramp

You can use the Gradient Ramp effect in the same manner you would use a colored graduated ND filter. This can help you add blue tones to your sky if it was blown out. I frequently apply this above my footage in the Multiply mode.

Lumetri Color

Newer version of After Effects CC will include the Lumetri Color, effect which has an entire host of color correction and color grading tools. It is fantastic because it lays out all of your color procedures in easy to follow groups and it includes LUT (that Look Up Tables) support!

LUTs (Look Up Tables)

You can easily apply color LUTs to your drone footage using the Apply Color LUT effect that is located under Utilites in After Effects. (Make sure you download the project file which includes 3 custom LUTs for you to use on your own footage!)

Third Party After Effects Plug-ins

Colorista from Red Giant

Colorista is convenient because it includes nearly everything you will likely need when color grading your footage, and it includes some great color tweaking tools like highlight recovery, shadows, and pop (which is a very nice sharpening effect.)

Film Emulation Plugins

Recently film emulation plugins have gained in popularity. There are two I recommend: FilmConvert and Koji Color. Both of these give great filmic results on your drone footage. 

Bonus Tip

You can also purchase After Effects Color Presets that make apply color grades as easy as drag-and-drop. There are a ton available on VideoHive and a few I recommend checking out would be the Advanced Color Grading Presets and the Easy Cinematic Color Presets. These make great starting out point when you are creating the look for your color grades!

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