Split toning for great skies

May 01, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Color toningColor toning

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, the images that come out of the camera do not match what we really saw in real life. Especially when it comes to the sky within almost any image, exposure can be tricky. Some camera's have a better dynamic range than others, there are filters, bracketing and so forth to try to get in right in camera. 

In many cases a little post production work is needed. Literally there are dozens of plugins and filters within various software packages. Within Photoshop, there are quite a few techniques to improve how a sky may look including replacing the sky itself! But what if you want to make an edit fairly quick and easy in lets say... Lightroom?!

Once again you have many options here including exposure, white balance, vibrance, saturation, but one of the overlooked features by some is split toning.

Split toning involves selectively enhancing the shadows and highlights within an image. This is done on top of any other adjustments that you may have done to your image (vibrance etc..). 

In the image above, the sky was rather understated compared to what I saw in real life. To access the split toning feature of lightroom, open the develop module within lightroom and about half way down on you right you will see the "Split tone" edit fields (see yellow arrows). You will notice an area to adjust the color balance of your highlights and shadows. 



You will notice by default a little grey box next to both the highlights and shadows labels. This will change as you make adjustments. 

  • Move the saturation slider all the way to the right under highlights.
  • You may now move the "Hue" slider to the right or left OR click on the grey box and choose a color
  • I choose a golden yellow for my highlights (which happen to be light within the clouds).
  • I gradually moved my slider to the left until I got what appeared to be a nice effect.

There is a balance slider, and by default, Lightroom will balance light and shadow. You may of course change that if you wish.

I could have changed the hue of the shadows using the same steps as highlights, however in this case I left the shadows alone.

If you look at the top image, the picture in the left frame was the original, and after split toning I arrived at the image within the right frame. I think the right image is a little more dynamic.

Split toning has other applications other than skies, but I find that this process can work very well on landscapes in general and even very select B&W portraits. Try next time and see what you think!

For those who like Videos, I have included one in which Mark Wallace discusses Split Toning:

Split Toning





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