Digital Photo Help

Post Production

How to Use Split Toning to Make Your Photos Stand Out

by on Aug.09, 2016, under Post Production

Have you ever taken a picture and then been disappointed, because it didn’t capture the moment? Maybe it looked exactly like what you saw, but when you viewed the image afterwards it was lacking something.

This is one of the greatest challenges photographers face, to express a feeling or vision in a two-dimensional medium. One of the most overlooked tools in the photographer’s processing kit is color.

Osaka Sunset

Example of a warm split tone.

I’m not talking about the color of the things in your photograph, like a red car or yellow dress. I mean the overall color cast, the tone of your image, is important too.

Colors affect the way people feel, so much so that there is a whole body of science around it. Even some basic knowledge of color theory can help improve your photography.

Beyond White Balance

The first place to head when you want to change the tone is white balance. For instance, if it’s a gray cloudy day you might want to move the temperature slider towards the warmer side, making your image appear more yellow-orange, or sunny. Move it in the opposite direction, and your image will get cooler or more blue.

Fisherman in Xingping China

Example of a cool split tone.

Although changing the white balance of an image is helpful, it is still a global adjustment – it affects the entire image. In other words, editing the tone of your image with just the white balance is like a mechanic trying to fix an engine with a sledgehammer. It may not be the right tool for the job.

To make more fine-tuned adjustments, and thus have greater control on the overall mood of your images, you may want to have a look at Split Toning.

Penang Sunrise at Fisherman Jetty

Magenta and warm tones.

A Bit of History of Toning

Toning first started as a way to change the color of black and white photographs. For instance, in the past, chemicals were added to the development process to give prints a sepia tone. Later on, other chemicals toners were used to give images two different tones like red and blue.

It may sound complicated, but in today’s digital darkroom, all split toning really means is that you add color to the shadows, highlights, or both. There are a number of ways you can split tone an image. One of the most common is to make the highlights yellow and shadows blue or vice versa. However, let’s take a look at how you can also adjust a single color, to create a particular mood in Adobe Lightroom (also possible in Photoshop and Bridge).

Split Tone Window in Adobe Lightroom

This is what the Split Toning slider looks like in Adobe Lightroom.

Magenta Zen

My favorite color cast to add to my images is magenta. Like a yin and yang varnish, this color (a purplish-red) represents harmony, balance, love, and personal growth. It has a calming effect that stimulates creativity and happiness.

When split toning for magenta, I usually make my adjustments to either the shadows or highlights. I rarely make changes to both, as it tends to be overkill. More often than not, I adjust the shadows, as it’s usually the underexposed darker parts of the image I am trying to bring out. If the image is very bright then I edit for the highlights.

Dubai Cityscape

There is no rule as to how far you should move the sliders. However, I tend to move the hue slider somewhere between 230-250 and the saturation slider between 10-20. It all depends on the image and the intensity of the colors, shadows, and highlights. You can also use the eyedropper to choose the color.

Another added bonus to adding some magenta is that it tends to take off the rough color edges. Browns, greens, and yellows are smoothed out, giving your photos a softer tone.

Pudong Shanghai Cityscape

Split Toning Keyboard Shortcuts for Lightroom

There are a couple of shortcuts in the Lightroom Split Toning panel you’ll want to know about.

First, it can be difficult to to choose the right color when the saturation strength is low. To briefly boost the hue up to %100 saturation, just press and hold Option on Mac (or Alt on Windows), then move the hue slider to either side. This will show the color at full strength so you can select it more easily.

Second, to more easily view the colors split in the image, hold down Option/Alt and then drag the Balance slider in the Split Toning panel.


Split Toning is much more than just magenta. Try adjusting the warmth or coolness in your photographs in the split toning panel, instead of using white balance for something different. You can also give your photos a cinematic feel, old film look, and more by split toning. Have fun, get creative, and find what works for you.

Sunset at Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi

Umbrellas in Busan Rain

Sunrise at Taj Majal

The post How to Use Split Toning to Make Your Photos Stand Out by Pete DeMarco appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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How to Use Lightroom’s Transform and Crop Tools to Improve Composition

by on Jul.30, 2016, under Post Production

Everybody loves to get it right in camera. But if you don’t, you have plenty of tools to help you make it right. Lightroom is one of the best available, and the easiest to use. In this article I’ll show you how you can use Lightroom’s Transform and Crop Tools to improve your composition.

The Transform Tab

First, let’s talk about the Transform tab, in the Develop module. Transform is relatively new to Lightroom. It’s an improved version, split-off of the Lens Correction tab. Essentially, Transform helps you straighten crooked or skewed images.


Here, in the first example above – a lovely seascape – there is a crooked horizon. Before opening the Transform tab, press the R key to activate the Crop Tool. Now press the O key (letter not number) to toggle the Grid overlay. With the Crop Tool still activated, click on the Transform tab in Lightroom and choose Level.


The Level option is perfect for images like this, when there are no strong vertical lines that need correction. It simply straightens the horizon so it no longer slopes crookedly. With the Grid overlay turned on, it’s easy to verify that the horizon is now straight. Here’s the image after the crop is applied.


In this next example (below) – an interior image of an old Italian mansion – the windows are falling over backwards.


Here the Vertical option in the Transform tab does a great job of straightening the perspective. The windows align perfectly with the horizontal and vertical lines of the Grid overlay.


But as you can see, straightening the image has created a few problems. The image was so crooked (perspective distortion) that now there is a lot of white space to crop out. The good news is that when fixing these issues, composition can be improved too.

Composing with the Crop Tool in Lightroom

The white space can be eliminated, and the composition strengthened, by creatively using the Crop Tool in Lightroom. The next step is to adjust the composition with the Crop Tool by moving it around the image.


In this image, to eliminate all of the white space and direct the viewer’s focus to the chandelier and windows, grab the Crop Tool at the top centre point, and draw down. This eliminates both the unnecessary ceiling, and the white spaces on either side of the image.

Now that the image is starting to look better, scroll through the Crop Tool overlays and review the newly cropped image to see which ones work. By reviewing your images with different Crop Tool overlays, you can strengthen your intuitive sense of strong composition.

To review each of the overlays, press the O (oh not zero)) key. You’ll toggle through the following:

  • Rule of Thirds (below left)
  • Diagonal (below right)
  • Golden Triangle
  • Golden Ratio (similar to the Rule of Thirds overlay)
  • Golden Spiral
  • Aspect Ratios
  • Grid

In the example images above, both the Rule of Thirds and the Diagonal overlays clearly show that the composition is strong.




Final image.


Here’s the final image (before correction is above left, after is on the right). Now let’s take a quick peek at one more image, and one more feature in Lightroom.

Flipping the Golden Spiral and Golden Triangle Overlays

You’ve probably toggled through the overlays and disregarded both the Golden Triangle and the Golden Spiral because they just never work. Unlike most of the overlays, neither the Golden Spiral nor the Golden Triangle is symmetrical. That means that you need to flip the overlays around a few times to find the orientation that aligns with your image. By pressing the Shift key and the O key at the same time, you can change the orientation of both the Golden Spiral and the Golden Triangle. Changing the orientation makes those overlays a lot more useful.

Here, in this image of a wild stallion (below), before flipping the Golden Triangle orientation, this overlay doesn’t work at all. Looking at it you might question whether or not the image had a strong enough composition to start with.


By pressing Shift plus the O key, and flipping the overlay orientation, the stallion fits neatly into his own triangle. His legs and nose are also no longer bisected by one of the diagonals. In addition, he’s positioned towards the back of the triangle. The top diagonal edge of the triangle that contains the stallion shows us that he is moving forward into the composition, towards the viewer, which is naturally pleasing to the eye. The other triangles neatly organize the foliage surrounding the stallion. Even the beam of sunlight highlighting the stallion falls within the main triangle, further confirming that this image is well composed.


With a little practice, some judicious use of the Transform tab and Crop Tool, you’ll master composition in no time. How do you use these tools to help you? Please share in the comments below.

The post How to Use Lightroom’s Transform and Crop Tools to Improve Composition by Lara Joy Brynildssen appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Software Review: AfterShot Pro 3 by Corel

by on Jul.11, 2016, under Post Production

ASP3-box_front.jpgI remember seeing a poster on the wall of my fourth grade elementary school class that said, “What’s right isn’t always popular, and what’s popular isn’t always right.” The quote is attributed to Albert Einstein, and while he was most likely speaking with regard to issues of ethics, justice, and social equality, he might as well have been referencing the current state of image editing software.

The king of the hill when it comes to photo editing programs is Adobe, with their extensive suite of applications designed for creative professionals and hobbyists. But just because their software is widely used, does not mean it is the best. Corel, a software company based in Canada, has been making its own image and video editing programs for years, and is a stalwart in the ever-changing software industry with roots that go back to the early days of the personal computer revolution in the mid-1980’s.

The most recent version of their photo-editing software, AfterShot Pro 3 by Corel, may not have the sheer quantity of features offered by Lightroom or Photoshop, but it has a few tricks up its sleeve that make it a very attractive alternative to those looking for a solid solution outside of Adobe’s offerings.

The user interface is instantly familiar to anyone who has used Lightroom or other image editing programs.

The user interface is instantly familiar to anyone who has used Lightroom or other image editing programs.


At its core, AfterShot Pro 3 is an end-to-end workflow solution that is designed to suit the needs of demanding photographers as well as casual hobbyists. It allows you to sort your images, edit them, and export them for print, sharing, or use in other programs. Its core features are centered on a robust set of tools that allow you to have a great deal of control over several parameters of your images, and adjust fairly basic elements like white balance, exposure, saturation, and contrast, while also giving you fine-grained control over settings like individual RGB color balance, hue/saturation/luminance, and tone curves.

Pixel peepers and image tweakers will find little to complain about here, though some of the tools are a bit lacking compared to those offered by Lightroom. Sharpening and noise removal work quite well, but don’t allow the same degree of control as in Adobe’s software, but there are some automatic “Perfectly Clear” options for noise removal and color adjustments that I have found to be quite useful.

You can of course edit metadata, use presets, and even insert watermarks or access a growing library of plugins, but a proper evaluation of this program isn’t necessarily about comparing features tit-for-tat to see how it stacks up to the competition. Anyone who is looking at sheer numbers of options and adjustment sliders, will likely find everything here that they could ask for. Rather, deciding if this is the right program for you will likely come down to whether it is suited to your own particular way of actually using the features it has.

The built-in watermarking tool can accommodate text or allow you to insert a logo or other graphic.

The built-in watermarking tool can accommodate text or allow you to insert a logo or other graphic.


AfterShot Pro 3 has its own unique workflow, which does bear some resemblance to how Lightroom and other programs function. But, in order to make full use of the program’s capabilities you might need to learn how to do things in a way that seems strange at first, but will feel like second nature over time.

One of the most notable differences is that AfterShot Pro 3 does not import your pictures into a database, and does not store changes to files in one single master catalog like Lightroom. Instead, it works by leaving your pictures exactly where they are and does not copy them, even from a camera memory card. You must first save your images where you want them, and then as you make edits, a record of all the changes you have made to your image get stored in a unique XMP file.

Instead of keeping a master catalog file with all your edits, a single data file is created for every photo that you have changed. To let someone else edit a photo you have already started, give them the original and the XMP file.

Instead of keeping a master catalog file with all your edits, a single data file is created for every photo that you have changed. To let someone else edit a photo you have already started, give them the original and the XMP file.

This approach may seem counterproductive at first, because you end up with thousands of XMP files instead of one single all-encompassing catalog. However, it makes your editing much more portable and flexible, since you can transfer your photos and their editing instructions across devices, and share them with other users in a way that Lightroom simply does not offer. If I edit an image on my computer and want to hand it off to another team member to tweak even further, all I have to do is send her the original RAW or JPG file, along with the very small related XMP file. She can now open the image on her machine, make changes to any of my edits, and add alterations of her own. I can even edit an image right on my camera’s memory card without ever copying it to a hard drive, and then physically hand that card to someone else who can make further edits or go back and revise any changes I have made.

From this standpoint, AfterShot Pro 3 could be a boon to those who work in a collaborative or fast-paced environment, as well as casual or hobbyist photographers who want a little more flexibility.

Work space

AfterShot Pro 3 also operates in a single combined environment, as opposed to the discrete modular-based approach taken by Lightroom, where you use the Library module to organize and sort your images, the Develop module to make edits, the Print module when making prints, etc. In AfterShot Pro 3 everything happens from within a single module, from organizing your images, to editing them, to adding watermarks, and finally printing or sharing. Neither one is necessarily good or bad, and neither approach can be said to be objectively better than the other, but personally I have found the interface in AfterShot Pro 3 to be a refreshing change from Lightroom, where I am forced to switch between Library and Develop to do simple things, and even the function of quick keys changes depending on which module I am in at the time. Your mileage may vary, but it’s an important distinction to know if you are considering changing over to Corel’s program, or even just trying it out.

Use of Layers and Flexibility

Layers contain a set of edits and can be made more or less opaque, and enabled or disabled at will.

Layers contain a set of edits and can be made more or less opaque, and enabled or disabled at will.

One hugely useful aspect in AfterShot Pro 3, that really stands out from much of the competition, is its intuitive use of layers. You can apply any number of edits in terms of tint, hue, curves, etc., then stash them all into a single layer, which can then be set to anywhere between 100% and 0% opacity. This is an incredibly helpful way of stacking various types of edits on top of one another, and I’m surprised it is not available in Lightroom. For instance, you could easily create a layer wherein you convert your image to black and white, but then set that overall layer opacity to 25%, which would lend a subtle desaturated look to the actual image. You can use multiple layers of edits on a single picture, and even use layers specifically for cloning and healing adjustments as well. It’s a clever, and highly useful way of editing your images, and once you get used to it, you may not ever want to be without it again.

Is the software right for your needs

New in version 3 of the program, is a highlight recovery tool that allows you to coax a bit more out of your RAW files than before, along with other tweaks and improvements compared to earlier iterations. However, as I mentioned in the opening paragraph it’s not really a productive exercise to simply compare a list of features when deciding if an image editor is right for you, since nearly all of them have extensive options that will likely suit your needs.

What matters is whether the program suits your needs and your workflow, and in the case of AfterShot Pro 3 it is certainly worth considering if you are a casual user who wants something with much more power and flexibility, or are simply seeking a worthy (and far cheaper) alternative to one of the more popular editors like Lightroom.

One of my favorite parts of AfterShot Pro 3 is its speed, which honestly could be a make-or-break decision if you are comparing programs. Photos load almost instantly and switching between RAW files is as smooth as butter, which is a far cry from some other programs where you might as well go make some coffee while you wait for a picture to load.

You can view up to six images at once and apply edits to individual photos while in multi-image view.

You can view up to six images at once and apply edits to individual photos while in multi-image view.

In the end, I found Corel’s latest entry into the image-editing fray a worthy competitor that can certainly hold its own against the competition. I especially like that it’s priced well under $100, which is a one-time purchase, as opposed to a monthly subscription.

I did find a few things to quibble over, like like its lack of a clarity slider (which can be mitigated by using a combination of other sliders) and a black and white conversion function, that is in my opinion, far behind Lightroom’s use of color filters to take fine-tune control over monochrome conversions. However it is a speedy and full-featured image editing program that is certainly worth checking out.


Editor’s note: if you want to check it out Corel has a free trial and you can enter to win a copy right here on dPS

The post Software Review: AfterShot Pro 3 by Corel by Simon Ringsmuth appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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