I haven’t found many practical uses for the Split Toning panel in Lightroom. I probably hadn’t opened it for months! It’s one of those panels that seems to provide more of an artistic spin on editing photos versus the natural feeling that I’m usually trying to go for.
However, while processing some pictures from a little winter adventure my brothers and I took the other day, I discovered some adjustments in the Split Toning panel that proved to answer a post-processing problem I’ve been experiencing lately.
Processing winter pictures is unusually difficult for me. I love color. It’s what inspires me to take beautiful pictures. So, since color is fairly hard to come by in winter, I tend to find myself looking for ways to incorporate it somehow during post processing.
Winter pictures generally look more natural and beautiful when presented in a cooler color tone. This can be easily accomplished by shooting with a cooler temperature white balance. This is the image straight from the camera using a pretty cool white balance of 4850K:
This just looks unnaturally blue to me, so I could back off on the temperature a bit. This is at 6500K:
Now the sky just looks strange. It’s more blue than the trees and just looks unnatural. I could use local adjustment tools, but that doesn’t seem like a good solution, especially since I know I will be processing lots of winter pictures in the future. Sometimes pushing the Tint towards Magenta can help make things look more naturally “blue”, so I tried increasing Tint to +30:
Even overdoing that didn’t help the odd color in the sky. Perhaps decreasing Saturation?
That didn’t really help. Perhaps decreasing Vibrance instead?
Better, that almost works. But still not quite right for some reason. There’s just something wrong there where the mist transitions the mountian and sky.
There are plenty of adjustments I could use to experiment with hue, saturation, and luminance under HSL, but I use that panel a lot and felt those adjustments just weren’t suited for getting me that subtle bluish look over the entire image that I was going for.
Of course, I could just make the picture B&W, and not fool with color at all. But to me, with such little contrast, this picture would be blah if black and white. It wouldn’t capture the wonderment of the snow sticking to every branch either.
That’s when I saw the Split Toning panel.
I had tweaked the picture to this point, and, except for the color, I was feeling pretty good about it. Moody and a little dark:
From past experience, I knew that Split Toning gave you the option to add a specific Hue to either the Highlights or Shadows of an image.
I experimented adding a bluish tone to the Highlights first.
Ugh! That looked horrible! Perhaps only adding a specific Hue to the Shadows would do the trick?
Ahh! Now we were getting somewhere! It was adding the exact effect I was looking for. Color to the trees, not the sky.
The blue color felt a little weak so after playing with the Balance, and moving it down a bit, I felt like I had achieved what I was going for!
I’m pretty excited that there’s actually a practical use for the Split Toning panel! I’m not dreading editing my other winter pictures as much anymore too.
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