Exercise 2.10 Dodging and Burning

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.

Tip … Dodging and burning (and all manipulations) need to be done in such a way that the image is believable. otherwise you’ll draw attention to the manipulation itself.

OCA Foundations in Photography Course Folder pg85

04th November 2019

OK, the rain has been ridiculous as has the stormy weather, I cannot get on with any of the practice outdoor work so I have been working on researching tasks. I have now decided to go ahead with the techniques of dodging and burning, I cannot use the photographs from the portraits as asked because I haven’t been able to complete them as yet. However, I will complete the exercise using some of the other portrait photographs taken for this course.

Dodging and Burning image 1

The images below show my first experiments with the Dodging and Burning tools. I am not trying to be artistic here, these are purely trials for seeing how they work and how I alter the specifications in photoshop.

The original image

I can see how these tools can benefit our images but I am not sure if there is a technical option I am missing but I am finding that the dodge tool tends to strip some of the colour away from the image when used. Perhaps this is because the strength is set too high and rather than a gradual lightening it has made a dramatic one?

While I was experimenting with the dodge tool, I found that you can alter the range = shadows midtones highlights, the exposure = increasingly and decrease in %, and there were some unknown picture icons as well. Therefore these will need to be explored far more to see their individual benefits and limitations. I have begun to explore them within the images above but very, very briefly and with some sense of ‘why?’ I manipulate my creative photography all the time within my work but artistically rather than technically so I should be able to cotton on to this form of manipulation fairly easily. I have never manipulated any of my, what I personally call ‘honest’ images, I leave the flaws as for me it is the realism in the images that make them more true to life. However I can see the benefits now of knowing how to use software such as photoshop to improve the photographs taken if needed.

I will read about the extra icons and their use and put my findings within my Notes category under Words and Meanings.

I am also wondering if, when manipulating a black and white image with the dodge and burn tool, that these images would fair better with this type of alteration??

I actually enjoyed the black and white alterations more. I find that the black and white image was easier to see sections that need altering and I could actually see the alterations taking place as I manipulated it. I am not sure if it is because I favour black and white photographs and work with them mostly which made it easier..?

The original image and the two chosen manipulated images:

I made decisions that I didn’t want all of the background lightened, especially the lower section in the middle and right. I wanted the lightened bushes to highlight sun direction and point the way to the opening in the background. I also thought that it divided the image almost with an artistic triangular feeling with the darkness top to bottom right and across the bottom of the image and the lightest areas mirroring it, This to me brought the subject out as the dark areas were around the body which pushed the lighter body forwards. I also adjusted sections of the face and hair with the dodging tool as it was cast in shadow, as I also did with part of the left edging of the hat and the camera bag so that they came forwards more as they were lost in the shadow area of the image.

With the burn tool I darkened the midtones and shadows around the figure, again to help the body come forward to the viewer as well as also darkening the shadows within the bushes so that some of the outer leaves and branches pop out.

I could have easily applied a little more of the dodge tool in the lower middle and lower right of the image to give more detail in the darker area there but I only wanted the details in that which was already lightened.

Dodging and Burning image 2

For the second image I chose one that had areas of over exposure so that details were lost. I found that when using the dodge tool you could put a grey covering over the white but, alas, no details were added. This means that in the case of over exposure to such an extent where all details have been bleached out the dodge tool can do nothing to help other than darken the space.

If you look at the image there are large areas of bleached out details from over exposure. These are the sky areas, the buildings in the background and the road. I have just also noticed there is a white rectangle above the young man’s head where the bus sign is also bleached out.

Original image

Below I have used both the dodge and burn tools in the shadows, midtones and highlights and I have circled the area which was bleached out so that you can see how the burn tool covers it in a grey layer. These layers can be altered to different shades according to how much exposure I used but all details remain lost. Therefore this technique is not any good for this type of mistake in camera.

I had also tried to darken the sky slightly but failed miserably as can be seen in both the pictures, not only is it far too dark but the layer hasn’t been smoothly applied and appears clumpy. The darkening of the leaves in both trees, I feel works well. The tree on the right is not washed out as much so the leaves are more dominant and the tree on the right I added a little darkness to a small proportion of the leaves at the top of the image to give a little more feeling of depth.

I shall therefore have another go, although I know the details cannot be recovered as they were bleached out in camera by the light, I still want to see if this image can be improved.

I have approached the image again, this time far more subtly. I did not burn in the sky or road but left them over exposed. I worked on both the trees as before, the young man’s face and the buildings in the background. The results are below, the left image is the original and the one on the right is the manipulated image. The final image was completed with a slight cropping due to my sleeve being shown in the bottom left hand side of the original.

I feel my manipulation has worked well as the buildings on the right now stand out and appear far more crisper than washed out. The trees are showing more depth and the young man’s face has lost some of the shadow so that it comes forwards more.

The bleached out church in the background was improved as much as possible but due to the lack of in camera detail caused by the over exposure of the background, I am unable to improve the form as details are lost, other than what there was to work with.

I actually enjoyed manipulating the image this time. I think because I concentrated more and wanted to strengthen my new skills and because the image is black and white which I can ‘see’ more.

Dodging and Burning image 3

With the final image below, I wanted to bring forward the background more because it was a little washed out. This is because I was practicing blurring movement but I was letting in too much light and I was not compensating in other areas of the exposure triangle for this increased light.

With this manipulation trial, I just adjusted the background depth by using the burn tool on the highlights, midtones and shadows. I also used different ranges and I then discovered there were different brush types so I chose a brush that ‘scattered’ the burn more – well I think that is what it means? More research here I come!! For the final manipulation I darkened the two foreground subjects and their bicycles by burning in the shadows and mid-tones which in turn brought them forward towards the viewer.

I now realise that I may be able to get a smoother layer in future if brushes are changed according to that what I am burning in. Therefore much more practice and use of different settings will be needed to discover both the dodge and burn tools full range of qualities and effects.

I began this exercise with enthusiasm to learn new techniques but began to tell myself that it was cheating, all those photographs in magazines that I always complain about because of their manipulation. However, I have finished this exercise positively. I can see the point of using tools to adjust the outcome of your final image as they do improve elements within an image that are noticeably incorrect and the eye is drawn towards them or other parts of the image that you may want to alter for artistic gain.

Again, I have ended another exercise having learnt so much, there is a lot more for me to research and practice with the dodge and burn techniques but it will be another skill under my belt.


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