Photoshop Dodge And Burn
Dodging and burning is all about expanding the dynamic range in a picture.
What expanding the dynamic range does is lighten the shadows and darken the highlights - and that's exactly what an HDR (high dynamic range) technique is doing.
In the old style wet darkroom it was done by preventing the enlarger light from hitting the paper or allowing one portion of the paper to receive more light.
To dodge a print is to hold back some of the light falling on the paper to selectively lighten an area.
To burn a print is to expose a specific area to more light to make that area darker.
Back in the day a burn tools was generally a ragged hole punched in a small piece of cardboard and a dodge tool was a round piece of cardboard attached to a very thin wire. Both of these homemade tools were held between the light of the enlarger and the paper on the easel.
It really was a hit and miss affair. One could dodge like crazy, run the print through the chemicals only to discover that not enough or too much dodging was done.
The print went into the trash and the process was started all over again either adding or subtracting from the dodging times.
With Photoshop and Photoshop Elements you can do the same thing with the Dodge and Burn Tools and a Wacom tablet quickly and easily in your digital darkroom. The tools work quite well and there is a reasonable amount of adjustments available.
The downside of the tools is that you must be working directly on the background or a copy of the background - no layers are allowed with dodge and burn.
There is another way to achieve similar or better results and that is to use a Soft Light Layer filled with 50% gray. There are distinct advantages to using layers and they are listed in that part of this page but lets look at the dodge and burn tools first ...
According to Adobe, the tools do the following:
Dodge Tool and Burn Tool - Used to lighten or darken areas of the image, the Dodge tool and the Burn tool are based on a traditional photographer’s technique for regulating exposure on specific areas of a print. Photographers hold back light to lighten an area on the print (dodging) or increase the exposure to darken areas on a print (burning).
Sponge Tool - The Sponge tool subtly changes the color saturation of an area. In Grayscale mode, the tool increases or decreases contrast by moving gray levels away from or toward the middle gray.
These are the options available when using the dodge and burn tools - they are the same for both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.
As you can see there are three ranges available (shadows, mid tones and highlights) as well as an exposure setting.In general, it is best to work with a very low exposure setting so that your burning or dodging blends seamlessly with adjacent areas of the image.
As with any tool that requires some painting on your image it is best if you are using a Wacom Bamboo or Wacom Intuos tablet. They give you precision and the pressure sensitivity that will make your work much easier.
Probably the most useful setting is to select Other Dynamics (Opacity) and set the Flow Jitter to Pen Pressure.
This is a picture I took and when it was downloaded the result was disappointing - not at all the picture I thought I was taking.
The sky is great but the church in the foreground is way too dark.
The first thought with an image like this is to pitch it in the trash but maybe we can fix it with a bit of dodging!
The settings for the dodge tool with this image were:
It is then a simple matter to work around the church and the trees to slowly return some of the detail in the image. The person crossing the street in the mid foreground is a bit too bright so the burn tool was used to darken up his shirt.
Now thats better for sure! Fine tuning the image at this point can be accomplished by adding a Curves Adjustment Layer and lightening the mid-tones even more.
Another Method Using Blend Modes
Layer Blend Modes are really useful and they can help in a situation such as this. Here's how to use one of the blend modes to lighten a dark image.
The church sure looks better but the sky is blown out so that needs fixing with the Burn Tool.
Here is the image after changing the blend mode to Screen and then Burning the sky back in.
The settings for the burn tool were
There you go - that is what you can do with the Dodge and Burn Tools.
There are distinct advantages in using a Soft Light layer to do your dodging and burning.
Unfortunately the photographer did a really crappy job taking the shot and it needs a lot of fixing.
Soft Light Layer
|Creases on the neck||Creases removed with
Soft Light Layer Technique
|Soft Light Layer Dodge and Burn|