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Split-tone in Lightroom

Lightroom’s split-tone tool is something I’ve only recently experimented with. For the record, I note here a few points on using the tool to tone black and white images, like the one featured here.

Here is a screen shot of the black and white photo, without the toning:

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 07.05.33

While we can see there is bright sunlight shinning through the trees, there is no indication of colour temperature; is it warm or cold in the landscape? The information is missing.

For some black and white images, this does not matter, but here I felt disappointment that the photo did not tell me more about the quality of the light. One option would have been to leave the image in colour – it would have shown a green field, trees with green leaves and shadows in silhouette, with a blue sky. However this would have detracted from the textural quality of the trees that attracted me to the scene.

Instead, I opted to add some warmth to the scene through LR’s split-toning. Things I found:

  • Pick similar tones for the high-lights and the shadows for a more natural feel.
  • Don’t extend the saturation beyond 50% unless you are deliberately going for an over-processed or surreal appearance.
  • The balance between the shadow toning and the highlight toning seems to work best at around 50%, though in this image there is more emphasis on the shadow tones (the highlights are mostly blown-out in any case)
  • Split toning can also work with coloured images (eg to add more warmth to sky highlights), but needs to be used very carefully to avoid a photo that looks very artificial!

The final image on my Flickr account:
High Malsis



Flickr [website]. Split tone group. Available from: https://www.flickr.com/groups/293038@N25/ [accessed 12.5.16].



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