Sepia Toning and Cross Processed Photography

I’ve stumbled into the ancient art of sepia toning and cross processed photography. Sepia toning is a chemical process that makes black and white images look more brown. I like the look a lot. It was a gateway to me discovering cross processed photography. Cross-processing is basically using the wrong chemicals on photos in the darkroom. It usually gives a copper toned look to the highlights. That being said, I do it all with digital images in Lightroom because I don’t use film. So, I essential just do split-toning with the highlights and the shadows.

As you can see in the images below, sepia toning isn’t that far off from black and white to the human brain. However, cross processed images look a little copper toned. You can probably tell those apart without the image and a black and white side-by-side. See the full resolutions of the images on my Flickr.

Fellow Photographer

Sepia toned highlights with blue shadows

Morning Light On Market Street

Sepia toned highlights with blue shadows

Destruction On Market Street

Traditional sepia toned

Shirt and Tie On Market Street

Cross processed

Traditional Sepia Toning

I did some research. I believe that traditionally, sepia tones affect the shadows of the images. The highlights remain white. You can see an example of this in the demolition image above. This look is okay, but it’s easy for me to overdo it in Lightroom. It does at least make the sepia toning pretty obvious. Although, I still prefer the look of a more traditional black and white as opposed to the traditional sepia toned. Next, I did some more research.

Color Theory

I went a little further down the rabbit hole of color theory and started making the shadows blue. This, coupled with either copper or orange for highlights, makes the brighter parts of the image appear close and the darker parts appear further away.

Once I’ve applied a blue saturation to the shadows, I decide on the highlights being either orange or copper, depending on if I want a sepia toned look or a cross processed look. This is also known as color grading, I guess, just on a smaller scale. I think I’ll probably do the sepia toned highlights with blue shadows look a lot. Unfortunately, the cross processed look has to grow on me a little bit more. Maybe certain images with certain lighting would pop with it?

Of course, I’m still practicing a lot. I do really like the editing style, though. Let me know what you think in comments, or how your week is going so far. And, if you’re getting into photography like I am, let me know how that is going. I need more photography friends. You can follow me on Instagram, too.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Kyle

    Another great set of photos Eric πŸ‘ I hope you’re having a good week 😊

  2. John L. Harmon

    I’ve always generalized sepia tone as a warm Brown, like the beginning and ending scenes of The wizard of Oz.

    Thanks for the photography 101 lesson and keep doing what you’re doing! πŸ‘

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