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Quick Tip: Create Beautiful, Warm Photos With Split Toning

Read Time: 4 mins

For many subjects, whether landscapes or portraits, warm tones make a photograph look inviting. The white balance setting is the obvious way to make an image look warm or cool, but the split toning function in Lightoom is a pretty nifty way to create warm images too, especially if you want to apply this look to a batch of images having various white balance settings.

Final Image Preview

In the next few minutes I’ll show you how to warm up a portrait image, but this technique can be applied to any subject.

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Why Split Toning?

Increasing the temperature of the white point of an image is a great way to quickly give an image warmth. So why would you bother with split toning?

Answer A: Because it gives an effect different and more flexible than increasing the temperature of the white point. Split toning allows different tones to be added for highlights and shadows, so the image is not just warmed up by altering the white point.

Answer B: Because it allows you to apply the warming effect to multiple images by copying the split tone settings. This is the winner for me. I can set the white balance for each image independently of the warming effect, and simply copy the split toning settings over all images without spoiling the overall character of the images.

Step 1. Determine the Starting Point

Before warming our sample image, I will first make basic adjustments to the overall contrast, saturation and white balance. Here I have decided on increasing the exposure by a third of a stop, and have set the color temperature to 6200K. I chose this temperature as it results in a neutral look that is neither warm nor cool.

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Step 2. Open up the Split Toning Panel

In the Develop module, scroll down to the Split Toning panel and expand the panel by clicking on the triangle next to the heading.

Step 3. Pick a Highlight Tone

The highlight tone will wash the lighter areas of the images with the selected color, so here I will pick a nice warm tone. Note you can also enter the Hue and Saturation values to set the highlight tone.

Here’s what the portrait looks like after adding a highlight tone.

Step 4. Pick a Shadow Tone

The product of the previous step is actually a pretty good result, but by adding a shadow tone, you will be able to play a bit more. And we all know playing is another name for being creative! The shadow tone will wash the shadows with the specified color. After Step 3 and 4, the image is warmed from both the shadows and the highlights. This provides much greater control than by simply bumping up the color temperature of the white balance.

Step 5. Adjust the Split Tone Balance

Great. We’re almost done. For fine tuning the warmed image, the ratio of the two different warming colors I picked can be adjusted to taste. By default, the Balance is set to zero. By decreasing the balance (so it’s a negative number), the tone for the shadows becomes more prominent, and by increasing the balance (so it’s a positive number), the highlight tone stands out more. So slide away to your heart’s content until you are happy.

Step 6. Rinse and Repeat!

Now we have a single image with the split toning warming effect applied. The real power of this technique comes to light when we can copy the split tone recipie to multiple images without overwriting the existing white balance settings of those images.

While still in the Develop module, select the menu Settings > Copy Settings. From the dialog box that appears, make sure the checkbox labelled Split Toning in checked, then click the Copy button in the dialog window.

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Now navigate to the Library module of Lightroom, select as many images as you desire, then go to Photo > Develop Settings > Paste Settings. This will copy your special split tone mix into all selected images.

Keep That Warm Feeling Going

Now you’ve learnt how to warm images in Lightroom using split toning. Of course increasing the white point temperature will warm an image, but the split toning technique gives you more precise control.

Your split tone mix can be applied to multiple images shot under different lighting conditions, where the images have different white balance settings. It’s a great way to give your images a consistent, distinctive look.

This tutorial was originally written by an instructor who requested their name be removed.

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