Montacute House is an Elizabethan mansion in the South West of England. I was there on a pretty dull and overcast day, but I thought the way the sky was reflected in the windows, the texture of the stone facade and the overhanging branches might make an effective composition, even though the image straight from the camera didn’t look interesting at all.
Here’s a before-and-after comparison. I decided this picture would work well in black and white, with a strong toning effect and some dramatic dodging and burning.
How this image was edited in 4 steps
Time needed: 15 minutes.
I carried out the editing in Capture One, but you could achieve a very similar effect in many other programs.
- Choosing a LUT (profile)
I’m a big fan of LUTs, or lookup tables. These are used a lot in cinematography but are really catching on for stills too. LUTs apply a distinctive ‘look’ to an image before you even use any of the editing tools. They’re like a correction profile, but used to add colour and tonal shifts, not remove them. This one is a black and white LUT called BW-Butan and it’s from Lutify.me. Capture One doesn’t support LUTs directly, but Lutify.me’s LUTS are adapted for use as Capture One Styles.
- Split toning
I chose the LUT to give me the broad tonal look I wanted, which was quite heavy and dense, but there’s still work to be done because I want to add a toning effect. For this I’ve swapped to Capture One’s Split Tones panel. Split toning works like regular toning, except that you can adjust the highlights and shadows separately. I find I get a better effect just by toning the shadows – this leaves highlights brighter and clearer. I’ve choosen a Hue value of 225 and a Saturation of 28 to give the blue tone effect I want.
- Darkening the sky
The sky needs to be darker for the dramatic effect I’m going for, so I’ve used Capture One’s gradient mask tool. This can be dragged, rotated, widened or narrowed – an angled mask just over the house’s roofline looks like it’s going to work best here. Reducing the Exposure value and dragging down the lower part of the Curve makes the sky look dark and stormy. The red overlay in this screenshot is to show the mask area. You can show or hide this depending on how you like to work.
- Radial filter vignette
I decided the picture needed a vignette effect to increase overall contrast, draw attention to the house in the centre of the frame and add a little more drama. Capture One does have a Vignette tool but this always works from the center of the image outwards and I wanted more control – so instead I used the radial mask tool to define the area of the picture I wanted unaltered. A downwards Curve adjustment then darkened the edges of the picture while leaving the masked area unaltered.
I’m pretty happy with the outcome. The black and white treatment, blue toning and dodging and burning has given this picture the cold, dramatic and forbidding look I wanted.