I was messing around with the Split Toning panel in Adobe Lightroom yesterday and found it rather simple to apply a sepia tone look to an already black and white photograph. If you aren’t aware, the word sepia is derived from the Greek word meaning “cuttlefish. Apparently, the cuttlefish looks like a squid and can give off a brownish ink, sort of like squids do. A sepia tone is a reddish brown monochrome tint that can help photos look like they’re antique or offer more of an emotional impact than a simple black and white can. I know many of you have heard of the word sepia in your travels, so I thought I’d add a bit more random knowledge for you to enjoy.
In today’s post, I’d like to walk you through the very straightforward process of applying a sepia tone to a black and white image in Adobe Lightroom. This shouldn’t be a long post because really, there are only five sliders to deal with and they’re all related.
Today’s Demo Image
I wanted to use something that looked classic for this post because classic objects go hand in hand with any sepia application. Guitars are perfect for this sort of thing, so that’s what I went with.
Applying a Sepia Tone Look
I’ve already got this photo imported into Lightroom and I’ve selected it in the Develop panel. I haven’t done any sort of modification to it. I’ll save that for later. In the right column, I clicked on the Split Toning arrow and can now see the sliders I’ll be using to make adjustments.
The way split toning works is like this; there are two primary things you can adjust, highlights and shadows. Within each of those, you can choose a color to apply and a strength, or saturation, for that color. Finally, you can balance out which you’d like to see more of adjusted, the highlights or the shadows. It’s very simple.
For this photo, since I’m going for a sepia look, I’d like to inject some yellow into things. To do this, I’ll push the Hue slider under the Highlights section to the right until it reaches the value of 40. Then, right below that, I’ll push the Saturation slider until it reaches a value of 35.
Doing this won’t make a dramatic change, but it will give me some yellows in the highlights, which adds warmth.
Remember, the Split Toning panel simply adds two colors with varying degrees of strength to an image. You can use this panel for not only black and white photos, but full color ones as well.
Next, I’d like to fill the shadows with that classic feeling. To do this, I’ll push the Hue slider under the Shadows section to the right until it reaches a value of 25 for some wonderful orange and then I’ll push the corresponding Saturation slider to the right until it reaches a value of 50.
This really adds a nice change to the photo.
For the balance, I actually played around with this slider a bit and decided to leave it at 0. Moving it in either direction altered the appearance in a way I didn’t like.
Making Overall Adjustments
In general, when applying a sepia tone look, you’ll still want to make some overall adjustments in the Basic panel, so that’s what I did here. I adjusted the Exposure, Contrast, Blacks, Clarity and Dehaze values.
Doing all this gave me a really nice looking final image that makes me feel like this guitarist is playing in some back alley blues club in Nashville. Check it out.
I have to say, this is just so cool. I’m loving the way this image came out. As you can see, it’s not difficult at all to add a sepia tone to an otherwise black and white image in Adobe Lightroom and oftentimes, the sepia tone makes the photo come alive. If you have any questions regarding this post, please let me know in the comments section down below. Thanks for reading!