Shooting Challenge: Duotones

Illustration for article titled Shooting Challenge: Duotones

Have you ever wondered why some colorless shots (like sepia) are dull while others are absolutely striking? At least some of the time, it comes down to the duotone process. And for this week's Shooting Challenge, you'll create duotones.


The Challenge

Create a duotone using any two colors you wish (but let's go beyond the combination of black and white).

The Technique

Duotones essentially cut a photo into two. Each piece is called a halftone, a monochromatic representation of either light or dark in the image. So you could have black and blue. Maybe a dark brown and orange. Truly, you can mix any two colors that you like in this regard, but obviously a dark base color will provide a baseline of shadows for one's eye.

So here's the oddity: You can technically print one halftone on white paper and get a black and white image that looks OK. And many digital photo filters essentially work in this way, putting black onto some even-colored backdrop.

But true duotones, with two tonal gradients essentially meeting in the middle, have the capability of bringing out midrange tones in a way that simply glows like nothing else.


Start by taking a photo, any sort of photo you like (but architecture and human figures will look amazing), and import it into your image editing program of choice.

Then, find a duotone tutorial for your editing software of choice. Here's one for Photoshop, and one for GIMP. Avoid using pre-canned filters unless you're positive that they're not just placing a color overlay on a black and white photo.


The Example

Our lead photo is from flickr's atomicjeep. I'm not sure it's the epitome of a duotone's striking tonal range, but it is a great example of a photo that eschews the duotone traditions of sepia to bring new colors into the mix.


The Rules

1. Submissions need to be your own.
2. Photos must be taken since this contest was announced (read more on that above).
3. Explain, briefly, the equipment, settings, technique and story behind shot.
4. Email submissions to, not me.
5. Include 970px wide image (200KB or less) AND a 2560x1600 sized in email. I know that your photo may not fall into those exact high rez dimensions, so whatever native resolution you're using is fine.
6. One submission per person.
7. Use the proper SUBJECT line in your email (more info on that below)
8. You agree to the Standard Contest Rules - though we DO accept non-US resident submissions.
9. If the image contains any material or elements that are not owned by you and/or which are subject to the rights of third parties, and/or if any persons appear in the image, you are responsible for obtaining, prior to submission of the photograph, any and all releases and consents necessary to permit the exhibition and use of the image in the manner set forth in these rules without additional compensation. If any person appearing in any image is under the age of majority in their state/province/territory of residence the signature of a parent or legal guardian is required on each release.


Send your best photo by Monday, Nov 14th at 8AM Eastern to with "Duotone" in the subject line. Save your files as JPGs, and use a FirstnameLastnameDuotone.jpg (970px wide) and FirstnameLastnameDuotoneWallpaper.jpg (2560px wide) naming conventions. Include your shooting summary (camera, lens, ISO, etc) in the body of the email along with a story of the shot in a few sentences. And don't skip this story part because it's often the most enjoyable part for us all beyond the shot itself!

Mark Wilson is the founder of Philanthroper, a daily deal site for nonprofits.




I may be mistaken, but I don't think you are describing duotone correctly. I believe that both the example image in this post, and a black & white photo are monotone.