Split toning – here’s one I made earlier

Split toning, shading the highlights in one colour and the shadows in another, is an old technique – and very easy to do in Lightroom. I started fiddling around with it just because it was there, in Lightroom, in the Develop module. I Googled around and found a very few interesting articles. I thought I could do with a different look to my photographs and maybe, just maybe this was it.

My wife and I went to visit our bridesmaid and best man in Bristol. We spend an at times bright and blustery autumn afternoon in Clevedon. There weren’t all that many people about, especially at the end of the pier, so I took a shot. I liked all the lines. It felt a little melancholic.

Clevedon Pier

This image had something, but wasn’t nearly as interesting right out of the camera as I’d hoped. The clouds are a bit dull. The underside of the stand was lacking in detail. I remembered the lamps as brighter and the wood as richer. The telescope was a bit too dark. And the colour was incidental. So, why not try split toning?

Clevedon Pier

Well, I like the result anyway.

The shot itself was a jpeg, not raw. I’ve come to wanting to simplify my photography. My camera, a Fujifilm X100T, has lots of facilities for jpegs that it does not have for raw, such as film simulations and wireless transfer to mobile phones. The jpegs are much smaller. And I don’t spend much time post-processing. Although maybe this image is the exception that proves the rule.

What did I do?

  1. Used Transform | Auto to make the photograph as rectilinear as possible. I think it adds to the melancholy.
  2. Knocked the Basic | Exposure down an eighth of a stop to, again, add to the melancholy.
  3. Raised Basic | Shadows to bring out the detail on the deck.
  4. Used a gradient filter to darken the clouds by about a stop and a half.
    • Erased brush on lamps and right hand flag.
    • (Note – in later revisions I decided a grad plus erasing was too much like hard work. I used an adjustment brush to darken the sky.)
  5. Used a radial brush to brighten the two lamps and the two flags by about a stop.
    • Note that holding shift turns the ellipse into a circle.
  6. Used an adjustment brush on the underside of the observation deck to brighten just under two stops to bring out detail.
    • Applying the gradient filter had made things worse.
    • (Note – in later revisions I have given up on the gradient and just painted in one stop lower exposure – ever so much more effective and simpler.)
  7. Used an adjustment brush on the telescope and two foreground left hand support to brighten them by just under two stops to bring out detail.
  8. In Effects applied Post Crop Vignetting Amount of -12.
  9. Went into B&W in HSL/Color/B&W:
    • In Black & White Mix dragged up the lamps for more brightness.
    • In Black & White Mix dragged down the sky for more darkness.
  10. In Split Toning set
    • Highlights Hue to 220 (blue) and Saturation to 20.
    • Shadows Hue 40 (brown) and Saturation to 20.

The images were uploaded to WordPress.com using its Lightroom plug-in. The images are on a canvass with a fine border and annotated by LR/Mogrify 2.


I thought of split toning as a monochrome technique. I have made it a preset and have been using it pretty consistently for a couple of months. But it can also be used on colour images.

I like this image of ancient Matera and a newish Fiat.

Old Matera, new Fiat

My memory of its stone was far browner. My memory of the Fiat parked below was far bluer, the blue of the sky. A radial filter over the car to raise the exposure and cool the temperature helps bring out the car. Split toning recreates my memory.

Old Matera, new Fiat

If the highlight colours are one hue and the shadows are complementary split toning is very effective. I use much stronger split toning saturation values with colour images. I have seen interesting floral examples on line – have a wander.

My projected digital images and panel of prints  at this year’s Richmond and Twickenham Photographic Society are all split toned.

 

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