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Split Toning in Lightroom: Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace

September 14, 2019

Did you know that in Lightroom there’s a
simple way to add punch to your photos, adding some color to different areas of
your photos. There’s independent of white balance and your normal tonality changes
and it’s really simple to understand and easy to apply. It’s called split toning. It’s a lot easier to show you what this is than to try to explain everything all
at once so let’s just take a look at a picture here. This is a photo that I shot
in Panama. It looks pretty good. I have already done all of my white balance
adjustments, all my tonality changes but what I want to do is I’m going to flavor this
image. I want to add a little bit more flavor to the highlight area, I want to
add some color to that and a different color to the shadow area and so look as
the subtle change so here’s before. Look at the clouds, look at the darkness in
the water when I go to the after photo. Now you can see there’s more magenta in this, there’s more blue in the shadow area. That’s from the subtle change. Some people might think it’s actually a little bit too much for this image, but let me explain
this in terms that are a little bit easier to understand. So what split
toning is, it allows you to say ‘hey, I want to take a color, any color in the
spectrum and I want to inject that color into the highlights of my image or when
I take a color, any color, I want to take that color and inject that into the
shadows of my image or you can do both at the same time. That’s the split tone. So maybe we’ll have some ambers or oranges in the highlights and blues in the
shadows and we can flavor our image that way, either subtly or really dramatically. Let me show you exactly how this works and then we’ll get to how you
apply it to a realistic image. This is a photo that I shot somewhere in Paris. It’s just a glass ceiling here and the reason I chose this image is because we have this highlight area here, these windows and then we have a lot of shadows over here on
the other side so what I’ll do here to show you how split toning works is I’m going to
go to the develop module and then over to split toning. Now notice in split toning
we really have five sliders. We have a section for
the highlights, we can choose the hue, in other words which color we want to apply,
and the saturation. How much of that color we want to apply and the same
thing for the shadows. The hue, in other words which color do we want to throw
into the shadows and then how much of that color we want to throw into the
shadows and then we have this other slider here called balance,
that I’ll explain later. Now when you first start out if you’re
going through this and sliding these sliders back and forth, you’ll see that
nothing is happening. I go through the hue because my
saturation is set to 0 so to see what’s happening you need to take that
saturation and increase that. I’ll go all the way to 100% so we can see. Now as I
move my highlights around you can see that whatever color I choose, whatever
hue is being injected into my highlights. There’s another way to choose the color, by the
way, and that’s just to click on that little square there and then you can use
your color picker to choose the hue and the saturation all at one time. So notice this is in my highlights I’m
going to choose bright red here, so that we have something that’s really
noticeable and in the shadows here I’m going to go and choose a really deep
blue and now notice we have our shadows, have this deep blue are highlights have
this red i can take that shadow saturation down, bring it up. The same
thing with the highlights. This is’nt really practical, it’s just sort of helping us
understand the principles of split toning. What does the balance slider do?
Well the balance slider helps us understand how much of the image is
considered in our highlights and how much is in our shadow. So right now it’s
saying in the middle at zero the balance is equal, so what’s normally considered a
shadow is a shadow. What’s normally considered a highlight is a
highlight, but as we shift that balance over we’re saying; “hey take more, expand those
highlights, to put more of that color there, or expand the shadows, so we’re
expanding one or the other.” So we can see that down here, if I’ll slide this
balance lighter to the right I’m saying hey take and allow more the image to be considered a highlight
and you can see our red is growing our highlights are growing or to the left
consider more of the image to be a shadow and see that the blue is
expanding. So you can sort of play with the balance between those highlights and
shadows and remember you don’t have to do both at the same time if I just want
my highlights to be highlighted with red I can just take the saturation on the
shadows down and it’s only the highlights that we’re seeing there and we can still
play with that. Ok now that’s the principle. What does this actually do in a
real photo? Something that we might want to do. Well I’m going to
open up an image here. This is a shot that I took in Nepal and that the color
looks great everything looks pretty good with this, but notice that in our
highlights here in the clouds we’ve got this golden sun peeking
through right here in this area, but the rest of the highlights they’re just sort of neutral color.
They’re just normal clouds. What I’d like to do is say; “hey you know, I just want
those to be a little bit warmer. I want my highlights to have a tone that matches
that same section”. So I’ll go down here to the highlights. Click on this. I’m
going to choose something that’s a little bit yellowish, something like that
and then I can play with that to get the exact tone that I want. Notice now I’m
having the highlights match that area so I’m not changing the color temperature, I’m not doing anything to that foreground all that green. I’m just saying; “hey in
the highlights, let’s inject a little bit more of that
golden color to match that sun coming through and then I can play with that
saturation to make it a little bit more subtle or dramatic, however I want to do that.” So that’s one
way that you can just use that for scene photography let’s go to a different image here and
I’m going to grab this image that I shot here in Panama and again this looks
pretty darn good, but what I want to do is, I want to add some
tones to this. I want to take these foreground, these dark areas and make them a
little bit more magenta bluish and then take these clouds and make them look a
little bit more golden. So in my highlights here I’ve chosen a more
golden highlights. You see as I’m warming that up the whole sky everything
that’s a highlight becomes more golden and then I’ve chosen down here a little
bit more of a bluish and then I’ll bring that into the shadows and that adds a
little bit of a magenta there and so you can see I’ll turn that off. That’s before, it looks pretty good. After
now that’s got some more golden color you can see the highlights over here look a little
bit more golden, up here it looks a little bit more golden so I can tone
that image in a way that looks a little bit more pleasing to me either suddenly
or dramatically. It doesn’t matter. Now we can also do things. Let’s take a
monochromatic looking image. Here’s one that was in a recent episode of
Exploring Photography. This is the shot I did with my long lens of the Andes
Mountains. So what I want to do is I’m going to take this and give it a little
bit more flavor, so these highlights here I’m going to add in again, a little bit more
amber. So I’m going to go over here to bring in some amber. That looks pretty good and I want
my shadows to be a complementary color so I’m going to bring in some blues, so I’m
going to just add that right there, so move that over. There we go and you
can play with that, until you get that to look exactly as you want. Now one thing that’s very important to
understand is that this layer, sort of like a layer, not an actual layer, but
it’s sort of a layer that’s floating above all of the colors and white
balance and everything you’ve done underneath to your image, and so the hue,
the saturation slider, all those sliders that you normally work with colors don’t
affect this split tone that you’re adding. Let me just show you that. I’m
going to go up here on the same exact image, I’m going to grab my presence here and take the
saturation down to zero and notice I still have that bluish tone to my
shadows. If I take the saturation all the way up, I still have the bluish tone in my
shadows and so the underlying image is getting more or less saturated but the
stuff that I’ve done on top with my split tone stays the same. It’s not
affected by this. Even if I go and change that to a black and white, I still have
my split tone. That’s working and so that is something that’s really important to
understand. The split tone is independent of those saturation and the other sliders in the presence
area. So you’re vibrance and saturation your clarity etc they are independent of
that and that’s really, really cool. So if you really want to do a quick change to
the highlights, maybe give them a little bit more of a warm tone, or a cool tone,
or the same thing the shadows you can do that, without affecting everything else
and that’s one of the advantages of this. The other thing you can do; one more image. Here’s an image that I shot in Paris.
It’s the famous Moulin Rouge, it looks pretty good, but it’s totally red. There’s a lot
of red to this. I want some complementary colors. So what I can do
and this is the color temperature that I want but I want to make this a little
bit more punchy. So I’m going to go my shadows here and I’m going to add in a
bunch of green. I’m going all the way to a 100% and notice that brings
out all this stuff underneath the sign, underneath the Moulin Rouge sign but I want
my highlights also to have a little bit more punch as well, so I’m going to add
in some amber. Now notice here is ‘before’ looks ok, ‘after’ now we have much punchier, more contrasting color scheme so we’ve got our greens and our reds, that are
contrasting and that really makes this a much more interesting photo to look at.
So you set your tonalities, set your white balance, you get everything set and then
you add this extra layer of split toning to add something either to the shadows or
the highlights or both at the same time and I think you’ll see that you get some
really interesting effects. The other thing you can do with this
filter here is you can make things look a little bit ‘instagrammy’. So we have
this dog here I shot I think in Baños Ecuador and what I want to do is I want
to take the the dark areas here make them really blue, so I’ll do that. Take
the white, the highlights make them a little bit more orange and so there you
go. Now you have something that looks a little ‘Instagrammy’. If you want to
change up what’s happening, again you can use the the balance to change that or if
you want to change your highlights and shadows, then you can just do that in
your develop module and that will also allow you to do some really cool things
so you can get some of those ‘instagrammy’ kind of looks. It’s split toning,
it’s really easy to use, it’s really fun, play with it. Try to do
some things that are really dramatic. Try to do some things that are very subtle
and I think you’ll see that cityscape, scenic photos, all those kinds
of things can really have some flavor that you can’t just get by adjusting the
white balance and using different filters and things like that.
So check it out. Split toning, it can really help your
photography quite a bit. Hey don’t forget to check out the
Adorama Learning Center it’s got a new look if you haven’t seen it recently
you should check it out. It’s really awesome. It’s absolutely free and don’t forget to
subscribe to Adorama TV that way you don’t miss a single episode. Thanks for joining me and I’ll see you again,
next time.


  • Reply John December 25, 2016 at 9:05 pm

    Mark. You may have just changed my post processing forever! Cheers mate.

  • Reply Zweiheit December 31, 2016 at 7:50 am

    thank you, very helpful! 🙂

  • Reply Norman Smith January 7, 2017 at 4:13 am

    great tips.

  • Reply Tony Thomas February 4, 2017 at 9:10 am

    Thanks a lot. Now I know what it does.

  • Reply David Hardy June 20, 2017 at 8:05 pm

    This is just what I needed to see for split toning! Thank you so much Mark!!

  • Reply campermimo July 21, 2017 at 2:42 am

    Thank you. Very helpfull!

  • Reply Sugam Singh August 7, 2017 at 7:25 am

    Thank you so much!!

  • Reply M. Nurhaikal August 9, 2017 at 8:31 am

    Excellent video!

  • Reply Alexsandra Machado September 1, 2017 at 8:35 am

    I love you, Mark!

  • Reply Colin Melhuish November 11, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    An excellent tutorial. So well presented and explained. Learned  so much in 11 mins due to the superb way it was put across.

  • Reply Marcus Victorian November 24, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    Thank you. This was really helpful.

  • Reply Roland Rodrigues December 21, 2017 at 11:25 am

    Minutes ago I had no idea about Split Toning. After I watched this video, I feel so confident to experiment with split toning and add flavors to my image. Thank you Mr Wallace. You're a great teacher.

  • Reply Ragin January 16, 2018 at 8:01 pm

    Lightroom should add an opacity slider to split toning. I have a hard time introducing the right amount of color into my images and the saturation changes the color too drastically to use it as such.

  • Reply MSA February 23, 2018 at 12:42 am

    Thank you so much for this video

  • Reply Doug Oh May 20, 2018 at 2:31 am

    Best explanation I’ve heard yet on split toning. Thanks.

  • Reply One HTW July 7, 2018 at 6:05 am

    Definitely the best video on split tonning. Kuduos to you!

  • Reply Ken Morris September 17, 2018 at 4:04 am

    Top notch tutorial….

  • Reply He who must not be named September 17, 2018 at 6:51 pm

    Excellent tutorial with complete explanation of all that u need to know about split toning. Great man

  • Reply Tim Nguyen September 19, 2018 at 1:44 am

    Best split-tone tutorial ever

  • Reply David Enzel September 21, 2018 at 4:01 am

    Thank you. This really helped me to understand what split toning is all about.

  • Reply Intzar Hussain Syed October 29, 2018 at 3:13 am

    Great explanation good work..

  • Reply December 30, 2018 at 12:25 am

    You lost me at 'instagram-y' …

  • Reply Endre - Róbert Német - Deák March 10, 2019 at 7:18 pm

    Thx, very useful to me..

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