I was playing around in the Split Toning panel in Adobe Lightroom the other day after reading a blog post over at the X=Blog called “Making the Split – Split Toning for the rest of us” when I recalled an idea that I had previously considered that would make it easy to change the sky in an image from white to blue, but had never acted upon.

Split Toning is most commonly used in Black and White photography, and certainly the most well known use is to create Sepia toned prints. These are those old fashioned style images that have a relatively uniform brown (sepia actually) color cast across the entire image. There are many other uses, but most people have never heard of them.

Quoting from the X=Blog article I referenced above, the Lightroom Split Toning panel is very simple, and “all it really does is produce a uniform color cast over an image’s highlights, shadows or both.” You don’t have to do anything to the shadows if you only want to impact the highlights, or vice versa.

For example if you have an image that includes a white (or very light) sky that you would really rather be blue, you can apply a uniform blue color cast over only the brightest parts of the image, called the highlights, while leaving the shadow areas alone. This will predominantly affect the white sky, but may also impact any other light colored areas of the image. This trick also works very well if you want to make water in your images look more blue if it is white or gray (possibly due to glare or reflections of a white sky).

Example Images:

The first example is an image where I used the effect to turn a white sky blue, as described above.

Swainson's Hawk perched on a Power Pole

The second example is an image where I used the effect to add a little bit of blue to the water to give the image some punch. This use is much more subtle, but I love the power that it adds to my toolkit!

Red-necked Grebe at Carburn Park

“OD Vivid Sky” Lightroom Develop Presets – FREE

I have created a series of Lightroom Develop Presets that make use of this effect, and I’m providing them here for free for your downloading pleasure. There are three different strengths to make your skies Blue, and another three to add a sunset glow to your images. Note that these presets are just starting points and you may have to salt them to taste to make them work with your images.

In particular you may find that anything in your image that is on the lighter side of average will end up with a color cast. to help combat that I have also provided a free Local Adjustment Preset called “OD De-Bluify” that you can use with the Adjustment Brush to counteract the blue color cast in specific areas of the image. I used this to De-Bluify the Swainsons Hawk in the first example image, but did not use it on the power pole. If you look you will easily see the blue color cast on the effected areas of the pole. This may bother you, or it may not. It’s up to you whether you feel the need to fix it. I also used it to clean up the Red-necked Grebe in the second example image.

Download the Free Lightroom Presets

Each of these downloads includes a readme file that includes some information on how and where to install these presets. For more information you can simply do a Google Search for “Install Lightroom Presets” and you will surely find dozens of articles that will help.

Please feel free to ask questions or provide some feedback about how you are using these presets, or if you have any suggestions to make them better!!