Thirsty Thursday Q&A: Dodge and Burn

(Disclaimer: this in part was from my old blog, with some new material added)

For my first Thirsty Thursday Q&A we are going to take a look dodging and burning. Keep the questions rolling in, don’t be shy. Before I start answering new questions I have some old ones from before the blog I’d like to put up. Someone asked me not long ago about how to add contrast to an HDR image without turning the sky black. I talked a little about dodging and burning and the strength sliders in HDR programs, but this post will be on the dodging and burning. It was an un-edited HDR straight out of photmatix. Taken in the Black Canyon of the Gunneson in Colorado, it is your typical HDR. Sky was bright, foreground was dark, why not do HDR. The problem with this is that sometimes you get a very flat image with HDR. Sometimes you get a very 3 dimensional image. It’s always different. I have this beautiful light on this rock face but its not simple enough. There is too much going on with the rocks and it all looks like its on one plane.

I wanted to create some separation of this close rock face from the far ones on the right. So I use a little dodging and burning. Now, I personally do not use the dodge/burn tool in photoshop, I use a different method. I will make a copy of the layer I am working on, and fill it with 50% grey (edit -> fill…). I then change the blending style to “Overlay”. You will now be looking at the same picture you had before. Without going into all the details, Overlay basically makes lights lighter and darks darker (It’s not that simple, but for now it will do.) Now to darken areas, paint with black. To lighten areas, paint with white. Paint at like 10% opacity. Any pixel brighter/darker than 50% grey will be lightened/darkened. This way skips the highlights/midtones/shadows boxes and is easier to use, and I think looks better. It also doesn’t keep changing it as you hold the button down, to give you more precise control.

Anyway, brighten the area you want attention on (your eye is drawn to the highlights in an image) and darken the areas around it. Using this method, I made the close rock face more prominent and the right side less so. you can see in the side by side that the bottom half looks more appealing. Now, this isn’t an award winning photo but I just wanted one that would show this effect well.

Here is another example. It’s a (lot) bit over done to show you the difference (don’t judge), but you get the idea. Forest shots are notorious for not looking the same way as when you were there. I always shoot them a stop (at least) darker than what my camera meter tells me. This one is a bit bright to start with. Just take the same idea, paint with black on things that should be dark/things in the background, and paint with white on the subject (if dark, if not dark don’t) and things that should be lighter. Here’s your before and after:

And there you go. Try it on landscapes, people, macro, whatever. Most pictures benefit from some dodging and burning.

Keep the questions coming!