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Keith Cooper’s City Light Tonality Presets

  |   Article, Articles and reviews, Black and white, Image Editing, MacPhun, Skylum, Software update   |   2 Comments

Keith Cooper’s Tonality Presets

The ‘City Light’ set for Macphun Tonality

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Macphun have published some of Keith Cooper’s presets for their Tonality Pro software.

Tonality Presets

Keith has previously written a review covering many aspects of using the Tonality Pro software for converting colour images to black and white. They can also be used for luminance editing of colour images, where you take a dull colour shot, create a B&W version and then blend this with the original in luminance mode. Don’t worry, this is easier to do than explain…


The presets specifically cover sets of adjustments that I’ve found useful for producing black and white architectural images.

They are quite deliberately fairly subtle in operation, since in my world, the excesses of HDR and ultra contrasty images rarely meet client requirements.

The idea is that first and foremost you see the image, without wondering what plugin or software was used in its creation.

seattle black and white

The presets all deal with different aspects of lighting and shadow since you can’t always wait for ‘perfect’ lighting.

Think of the presets as jumping off points for exploring what you want. I’ve an example that shows how turning off one part of the adjustment settings in the preset may look better, and another where the results from Tonality Pro are used as a luminosity blend to enhance a colour image.

Buying Software from Skylum

Skylum Luminar  site
Keith's V1 review  | Luminar 2018 | Luminar 3

We have a code northlightimages10 - that will usually get you a $10 discount

Aurora HDR - (review) | Tonality Pro (review)
Intensify Pro (review) | Noiseless Pro (review)
Snapheal CK (review)
Tonality Pro 'City Light' - article and free presets made by Keith for Architectural B&W

If you buy the software via a link on our site, then we receive a small commission, which helps in the running of the site. We have no commercial connection with Macphun, and believe strongly that readers should be aware how we run the site.

Keith’s Tonality Presets

The basic presets are shown with the colour original, followed by the ‘vanilla’ conversion to black and white and then using the preset.

The colour versions of the images have had minimal processing from the RAW files captured.

Several of the images look relatively underexposed in areas, this is because I often try and retain detail in highlights such as lit areas or the sky.

As digital SLR cameras have improved, the ability to pull detail out of shadow areas allows much more latitude in exposure and far less likelihood of clipping highlights.

I always work with 16 bit images.

Applying any major adjustments to 8 bit files (such as JPEGs) is just asking for posterisation and other undesirable results. Phone cameras may be popular, but have no place in my photography work.

Late Afternoon (rain)

A damp winter afternoon shows the largest permanent market in Europe, in Leicester.

The interior lighting is pretty much balanced in intensity with the light outside.

The market at Leicester - colour image

The basic conversion is just a bit flat

The market at Leicester - simple B&W

Boosting warmer colours emphasises the lit area with more contrast in the interior.

One way you can see this is by comparing the coloured patches on either side of the market sign.

The market at Leicester - using preset

Late Afternoon (rain) 2

Taken around the same time as above.

late afternoon near leicester market - B&W image

The heavy shadowed areas are too dark – no shortage of detail in the sky, but not below, as you can see in this simple conversion.

late afternoon near leicester market - black and white

Smart contrast and boosting warmer colours gives a better view, whilst retaining the essential gloom of a late winter afternoon.

late afternoon near leicester market - using tonality preset

Early evening (rain)

An evening scene – one that works fine for colour (remember that this is an unprocessed colour image).

Leicester town hall at dusk - colour

Quite interesting in B&W, but it lacks some of the ‘glow’ of the colour version.

Leicester town hall at dusk - monochrome

The preset boosts quite a few features in the image. This is one that shows up more effectively at large print sizes.

What works for an image here could easily be excessive on a 30″x20″ print.

If you’re experimenting with it, look at the settings I’ve adjusted in the preset and boost or cut them a bit.

Many of the standard presets push things a bit far for my likeing – I want people looking at the image, not the editing effects.

It’s easy to over-do things so use with care.

Leicester town hall at dusk - using tonality preset

Perhaps it’s not so clear what the differences are?

Look again at this, the ‘plain’ conversion. Move your mouse over the image to see the changes.

Original ImageHover Image

A daytime shot of Seattle, that looks fine in colour

Seattle skyscraper - colour

As before, the basic conversion to B&W lacks punch and contrast.

Seattle skyscraper - basic black and white

More contrast and lightening some aspects of shadows looks much better as a print.

Seattle skyscraper - tonality preset for black and white

Daytime Shadow

A frequent problem if you’ve not got a choice in when a shot is taken.

In not burning out the sky (I want to keep detail and colour) the building is heavily shaded.

charles st in leicester - colour image

Moving to B&W looks better in some respects

charles st in leicester - black and white

Using Tonality to boost shadow detail helps a lot, but watch for sensor dust showing up more in skies.

If I was using the image for a print I’d likely mask together both versions in Photoshop using the unaltered sky from above.

Tonality Pro supports layers too, so you could also do it in there (see my reviews for more about making use of layers and masks).

charles st in leicester - black and white using preset

Bright street

Whilst I’ve a whole building in shadow above, looking across the street shows intensely strong shadow.

charls street, strong sunlight and shadow - colour

The basic conversion is a little too high contrast in many areas.

charls street, strong sunlight and shadow - black and white

A more balanced range of contrast

charls street, strong sunlight and shadow - using city light preset

Bright Stonework

The bright stonework of Southwell Minster

Southwell minster - colour

It’s OK in B&W but lacks a little impact.

Southwell minster - basic B&W

Darker skies and a bit more texture in the 11th century stonework.

Southwell minster - using tonality B&W preset

Alternate uses of the presets

The effects of the presets can be blended and masked in numerous ways.

Luminosity blend

Take this colour image in shade. The sky is spot on, but the shadowed area is just too dark.

Some might leap for HDR, but it’s not needed (almost never needed IMHO).

Humberstone Gate, Leicester, Colour

A black and white version using the ‘Bright Street’ preset

Humberstone Gate, Leicester, black and white version

Blend this back with the original colour image as a luminosity mask (and maybe add a bit of vibrance) and you have a much better image.

Humberstone Gate, Leicester, Colour with luminosity blend

Luminosity masks like this can easily flatten colour, so be prepared to tweak afterwards.

Partial preset

Take this view of the railway station in Leicester…

Leicester railway station - colour image

Applying the ‘Bright Stonework’ preset works well, but there is too much fine detail in the sky and brickwork for my liking

Leicester railway station - full B&W tonality preset

Turning off the clarity and structure options in the Tonality settings just keeps the tone mapping aspect of the preset.

A more subtle result…

Leicester railway station - partial B&W tonality preset


Tonality Pro offers so many variations in its settings that it’s all too easy to get lost and miss things it could do.

Look on the presets as starting points to explore options for your own photos.

Look at applying them to sections of your image if need be. Just because a building looks great, you don’t have to accept the results for the sky or other parts.

This set of presets lets me quickly explore options and then adapt them to what I want for the image.

The presets can be downloaded from MacPhun for free.

Buying Software from Skylum

Skylum Luminar  site
Keith's V1 review  | Luminar 2018 | Luminar 3

We have a code northlightimages10 - that will usually get you a $10 discount

Aurora HDR - (review) | Tonality Pro (review)
Intensify Pro (review) | Noiseless Pro (review)
Snapheal CK (review)
Tonality Pro 'City Light' - article and free presets made by Keith for Architectural B&W

If you buy the software via a link on our site, then we receive a small commission, which helps in the running of the site. We have no commercial connection with Macphun, and believe strongly that readers should be aware how we run the site.

Tonality Pro System requirements

  • Mac OS 10.7 and above
  • Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, or Xeon processor
  • 4GB RAM and more
  • Plug-in for Adobe Photoshop CS5, CS6 or CC; Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4, 5 or later; Apple Aperture 3.2 or later,
  • Photoshop Elements 10 – 12 (App Store version is not supported due to Apple Sandboxing)
Image formats handled
  • RAW images 8-bit, 16-bit (Including .NEF for Nikon and .CRW2 for Canon)
  • PSD (Intensify Pro)
  • TIFF 8-bit, 16-bit
  • PNG
  • JPEG
  • Possibility to save progress (.MPI)
  • RGB 8- and 16-bit
Tonality Pro features

Works as a plug-in Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, Elements and Apple Aperture

  • Advanced Layers functionality
  • Blend Modes for layers
  • Ability to use source colour from original image
  • Higher maximum number of layers: 5 in standard and 8 in Pro
  • Colour Temperature tool
  • Place Centre for Vignette
  • Histogram improvements
  • Show histogram clippings
  • Zone System (on histogram)
  • Zoom navigator window

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  • Keith | Sep 2, 2019 at 1:32 pm

    Sorry about this, it’s a consequence of my complete re-write of the site a while ago

    I’ve tried to find better ways of doing this, but it’s one reason I use the effect a lot less in newer articles.

  • Nigel Puttick | Aug 2, 2019 at 12:03 pm

    Hi Keith – some nice images and a useful way of improving B&W tonality by lifting the warmer tones, that doesn’t necessarily need Luminar. But my main reason for commenting is to ask about what I think is a change in the way your website works. When mousing over an image, it briefly becomes brighter and somewhat washed out before displaying the changed version. I’m sure it didn’t work this way before. When comparing subtle changes, this makes it very difficult to see what the change is, for example when looking at some of your images in the Epson 600 review where you show the changes with Quadtone Rip. it really spoils the experience. Have you changed it? Or is it perhaps a Windows thing (win 10 pro 64 bit on a Dell 2415 ultrasharp monitor)…? Either way perhaps you’d like to check. Thanks as usual for your excellent articles, I regularly visit your site.

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