Exercise 2.10 – Dodging and Burning

Brief: Dodging and burning is one of the most widely-used darkroom techniques: Dodging refers to lightening a part of the image. Burning refers to darkening a part of the image. These techniques are useful because they allow you to subtly improve the lighting and shadows in a picture. In extreme cases dodging and burning can be used to totally rebalance a composition and remove unwanted distractions by darkening them to black. Take one of the night portraits you made. Open it in Photoshop. The dodging icon looks like a lollipop. The burning icon usually looks like a small hand with thumb and forefinger in a circle. Identify which part of your photo is the most important point – usually the face in a portrait. Use the dodging tool to lighten it so that it’s the lightest part of the composition. If the face is already too bright, dodge other important details that you want to bring out, or go straight to the next step. Identify which is the background of the image. Use the burning tool to darken your background plus any elements you want to be less visible. Continue to use the burning tool to darken any areas that detract attention from the portrait, e.g. something bright or vividly coloured in the environment.

I have not taken the photos for the night portraits as yet, so I have used the dodge and burn on another recent photo. For this exercise I have used Lightroom rather than photo shop. The Lightroom adjustment brush has presets for burn -.30 exposure, and for dodge +.30 exposure.


Exercise 2.6, Near nd FarI like the sun on the houses in the background, but the people and the foreground is too dark, and I wanted to darken and add some blue to the sea.


Exercise 2.6, Near nd FarI used the adjustment brush with the Auto mask on, and brushed over the couple, the wall and the paving, pressed the “o” key to get a colour overlay of the affected area, then used the erase brush to tidy up the edges where I had gone slightly into the sea.


Exercise 2.6, Near nd Far I have again used the adjustment brush to burn into the sea, and to add a touch more blue.


Exercise 2.6, Near nd Far

For the final photo I have straightened the horizon, burned into the sky and increased the saturation as well as reduced the temperature.

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