dodge and burn tool in photoshop

How to use the Dodge and Burn Tools in Photoshop

Mandy Post processing 10 Comments

One of my 10 Photography Goals for 2010 was to learn more about post production editing using Adobe Photoshop. A long time ago I worked for an Advertising Agency and I was trained to use Photoshop 4 (that shows how long ago it was!), Adobe Photoshop has moved on a lot since then and my knowledge is very rusty. I really need to brush up my skills so I can get the most out of my images. So I tried out the dodge and burn tools in photoshop.

I know there can be a lot of debate about post processing and how much we should or shouldn’t do with our photographs. Should we get it right in the camera first or should we sort any problems out later. And at the end of the day it’s down to personal taste. But I don’t have a problem with post processing digital photographs. Because a lot of the processes that digital post processing software uses are techniques that were used in the darkroom for printing. Long before digital was even invented. They have just been transferred into the digital realm, like Dodge and Burn. I’ve never used the Dodge and Burn tools before so they seemed a good place to start improving my skills.

What are the Dodge and Burn Tools used for?

The Dodge and Burn tools are used to lighten or darken areas of an image rather than say Levels and Curves which affect the whole image. The Dodge tool lightens the pixels that are painted, and the Burn tool darkens the pixels that are painted.

The reason I chose these tools to learn more about from all the tools available in Photoshop, was because of a botched shot! I was taking a food shot for a DPS Forum Assignment, which just happened to be my husbands lunch… It’s not easy shooting food photography while trying to hold my hungry husband back at the same time! I just had time to quickly snap a couple of shots off before he ran off with his lunch (fair enough I suppose). But nobody told me food photography could be dangerous?

Improving your shot

Anyway the lighting on the shot was awful and Levels could only do so much. So that’s when I turned to the Dodge tool. Take a look, this is the before shot:

See what I mean! I didn’t have time to use any reflectors as you can tell from the huge shadows.

What can I do to fix this?

Select the Dodge tool from the tools palette on the left and select which brush and size you want to use. I use a feathered brush as I don’t want any hard edges. The size of brush you use will change depending on the image. And that’s the same with the exposure setting which effect how hard or soft the pixels are altered.

Now before you do anything create a new layer, Layer – New – Layer and change the mode to Overlay then check the box that says ‘fill with overlay-neutral colour (50% gray)’. Make sure you paint in this layer and not on the background layer. Then if you make a mistake or want to change the effect it’s dead easy – just trash the layer. Or you could have two layers one for Dodging and one for Burning. Either way it’s better than messing around with undo and step backward to fix any problems. And it lets me have a play around with them and try out different effects. Or make mistakes without any worry.

When it comes to Range there are 3 choices – Highlights, Midtones and Shadows, if you want to alter the highlights range use the Dodge tool, and if you want to alter the shadows range use the Burn tool, midtones can be adjusted with either tool.

This is the after shot and I’ve only edited it with the Dodge and Burn tools, as you can see I’ve regained the detail on the left side of the pancake and toned down that shadow, it’s all a matter of taste as to how far you go with it. I wanted to keep it quite natural just toned down.

Before and After using the Dodge and Burn Tools in Photoshop

I love these tools and I can see huge possibilities to enhance and use these tools in a more artistic way with my images. Like using them to highlight the focal point of an image. Or part of a shot instead of correcting bad lighting and mistakes!

Do you have any examples of where you’ve used the Dodge and Burn tools. Please post a link to them in the comments…

Mandy

Comments 10

  1. If you shoot in RAW format, you could have made a slightly over exposed copy of the image and used merge to HDR with the original. I find the doge and burn facility better used for blurring sharp lines after some selection changes. Having said all that, your post is a great intro to the dodge and burn tools 🙂

  2. Pingback: How to use the Dodge and Burn Tools in Photoshop | How to publish a book

  3. Post
    Author

    @Carl – Yeah nothing like getting rid of the bags under my eyes…

    @Jen – I agree everything in moderation hey!

    @Photoshop Software – good idea, maybe that could be my next Photoshop post?

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