Duo-, tri-, and quadtone images
Hans Weichselbaum discusses the many options when it comes to split toning your images to achieve your desired look and feel
Black-and-white printing never went out of fashion after the introduction of colour film in 1936. On the contrary, it has staged a comeback in fine-art photography. This is not surprising — who does not appreciate a well-balanced monotone landscape or portrait image, printed on fine-art paper?
We all enjoy a colourful slideshow on the big screen, but monochrome images need to be printed. Most, if not all, award-winning blackand-white images hanging in galleries aren’t black-and-white at all — they are duo-, tri-, or quadtone prints. The subtle colour tints give them the extra depth and richness.
You have probably come across the Split Toning tab in Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw. Whereas a black-and-white adjustment layer allows you to add an overall tint to your image, split toning simulates a duotone effect. In Image 1, I have given the shadows a blue tint to emphasize the freezing winter temperatures. Then the highlights were blended into yellow to simulate a late-afternoon light, giving the image some overall warmth.
With the African scene (Image 2), I did the opposite: I chose a brownish tint for the shadows, and a bluish hue for the highlights. In the black-and-white conversion ahead of the split toning, I pushed the yellow and the green sliders all the way up to maximum to get the surrounding greenery as light as possible, making the elephant stand out.
For split toning, it is best to start with the highlights, because the effect is easier to see. Move the saturation to around 40–50 and search for a hue that looks the best for the highlights. Then reduce the saturation to get an overall pleasing effect. Then do the same with the shadows. The balance slider allows for a final adjustment.
For a conventional black-and-white portrait, you’ll probably want to give the highlights and shadows different hues of brown, but nothing stops you from going wild and wacky by creating blue/green Martians. This technique even allows you to simulate a tritone effect by adding a tint to the entire image before starting with the split toning.
Don’t forget that you can also run a PSD, TIFF, or JPEG file through the Adobe Camera Raw module. Simply use the Open As command and select Camera Raw for the file type.