Dodge and Burn – 2 non destructive techniques compared

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It is quite common to have to raise or lower the level of exposure in our pictures. The Dodge and Burn tools in Photoshop are used to either lighten underexposed areas of a photo or darken overexposed areas. The terms “dodge” and “burn” refer to techniques that were used to either lighten (dodge) or darken (burn) specific areas of a picture by increasing or limiting the exposure in those areas. Unfortunately Dodge and Burn tools  do not work on the original pixels and can cause permanent damage to our image.

One of the most used and efficient Dodge and Burn method is by using a 50% grey layer: this method allows you to create a dodge and burn very effective not being at the same time too intrusive

 

How to apply Dodge and Burn using 50% grey

 

1. Create a new layer;

2. In the new Layer dialog box select overlay and Fill with Overlay-neutral color (50% gray). (The new layer created will set automatically on Overlay and in the layer’s preview you wull see it filled in grey);

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 3.  Select the Dodge Tool and paint all the areas that need to be lightened;

4.  Select the Burn Tool with the same opacity and paint all the areas that need to be darkened

If you get a look at the grey thumbnail for the “Dodge and Burn” layer in the Layers palette, you can see all the areas  painted with black or white like the image below

 

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Although I consider this method one of most valid in dodge and burn technique, but I prefer to use the technique with direct brush using separate layers

 

How to apply dodge and burn using separate layers

Simply by creating two empty levels and by drawing directly above them. The steps and the process of this method of dodge and burn can be even more simple than 50% gray method but it requires more precision and attention in the paint

1. Create two separate layers. The first one will be your Dodge, the second your Burn tool;

2. Select a white brush and paint inside the Dodge layer using a very low opacity, around 2%;

3. Select a black brush and paint inside the Burn layer using a very low opacity, around 2-5%

as you can see this time go to paint directly on the image , but with such low opacity where you will not even need to change the blending mode

I prefer this dodge and burn method, using the separate layers because it is the most versatile. Painting directly on the separate layers it allows to create levels as many are your needs, for example you can create a new layer to increase dodge/burn of greens, blues, yellows etc… or if you need to intensify the brightness of a color , without apply  filters

It is very usefull when you want to lighten/darken some colored areas of your image, a typical example is the use of this third method on the milky way, to make more visible some of it’s colors. In this case:

 

1. Create a new layer

2. Use the color picker tool and sample the color you need to dodge/burn

3. Set the opacity around 10%-20% and paint directly on the area you need

4. Change the blending mode to soft light

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You can create as many layers as you need to create dodge and burn, using this simply method. Below you will find the before/after of a light dodge and burn applied in my image


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Hi, my name is Giuseppe Sapori, a professional photographer and author of this website, created by yours truly to show my work and share with you the techniques I use. My expertise is in the field of Landscape Photography... (Read More)

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