Using Split Toning to Create that Old Dreamy Look
Obviously we need some place to start. I didn’t take this shot with the intention of this result. This was actually a part of some test shots to setup the camera settings for another shot that I have not yet posted. I liked how this test shot looked and when seeing the photo, it screamed out to have this type of treatment.
I only used Lightroom 3 beta for the processing. (The beta is free right now if you want to download it from Adobe and try it).
Lets start with the original:
To set the stage for the look I was after, I first had to crop the image to offset the focus to the right 2/3rds.
Next, it is time to start simulating old film and an inexpensive camera. For this step I did the following:
- Cooled down the white balance
- Overexposed the entire image
- Lowered the brightness slightly
- Lowered the contrast
- Slightly desaturated the image.
The resulting image from those steps looked like this:
The adjustments above just make things look like an overexposed image. There is still work to be done. Next, lets attack the tone curve.
The highlights here are a bit harsh since this is overexposed so I pulled them down a bit. I pushed the lights forward more to strengthen the look. I lightened the darks and strengthened the shadows. This helps to further wash things out.
We’re still not there. Now we’re at a washed out image that looks like it needs adjusting. Split toning will make a big jump into the feel of the final image. It’s also a fun step to mess around with. Split toning helps to tint the highlights and shadows separately. This is great for correcting shadow blues or for making things look aged. Lets do that now.
I wanted to really warm the highlights and cool the shadows in this photo. For this I picked one of the warm colors that Lightroom offers, which in this case is Hue 52. After choosing the color, some adjustment of the saturation is necessary to get just the right feel.
The same is true of the shadows. Again, I went for a very cool color to achieve the look and I adjusted the saturation until I was happy.
Playing with the split toning can drastically change the mood of the image. It is always fun to play with, but it’s also very easy to get carried away. Occasionally when I look at my final image here, I feel like its overdone.
We’re starting to look old now. Lets degrade the quality a bit and make it look like we have a cheap lens. Lets add some cyan chromatic aberration.
Almost there. A little vignetting effect to round out the camera look. First set up the amount of vignetting. Then make it look a bit more natural by switching from highlight priority to color priority.
Next, to finish the film look, I added film grain. This helps to complete the overall look.
Now, for the last touch up. The hair is a bit hot after all the treatment. So I went in to touch it up just a bit and touch down the exposure.
That’s it. Here is the final result again:
I’m still experimenting with all this myself. If you have any tips for me or others, please share. I’d love to hear your stories on this.