3 Simple Dodge and burn techniques
that will improve your photographs

Dodge and burn is one of our most powerful, yet under-used recourses we have.
The impact that it can create in your images is completely worth the effort.
In this post, I am going to go through 3 different 3 techniques that you can try for yourself and see which works best for you.

So without any further delays, either watch the Video or follow along here.

In the end, please let me know which is your favorite and if there are other methods that you prefer?

If you would like to work along, click on the link to download the images.  Dodge and Burn Tutorial (72 downloads)

Technique 1

This is the most simple and forgiving technique of the three.

We begin by creating a new layer, selecting our brush tool at a 5% flow 100% opacity and setting our colour to white for dodging.
You then paint over the highlights that you would like to bring forward.
This will look odd at first.

Once you have painted over the areas that you wanted, change the layer’s blend mode to soft light.
the chances are that the effect is a little overdone at this point so all you have to do is reduce the layer’s opacity to a much more natural level.

Now it is time to burn, Like before, you create a new layer, selecting our brush tool at a 5% flow 100% opacity. Setting our colour in this one is going to be a little different.
This time around we are going to sample a dark area on the subject, then reduce the luminance and saturation of that colour like in the image below.

You repeat the process with the dodge, but now only painting the shadows. Set the blend mode to soft light and reduce opacity as needed.

*There is a cool tip in the video about “blend if” if you are now to precise with your strokes.

Technique 2

This is the more commonly used dodge and burn techniques that I have come across.

What we do in this instance is create a new layer, set the layer to soft light and fill it with 50% grey.

This way anything that is painted in white is lightened(Dodged), and anything painted in black is darkened(burned).

Much like before, select your brush tool at a 5% flow 100% opacity.

You can now lighten and darken your image in selected areas, for the purpose of the video, I used this to create more depth in the environment.

The pros of this method are that you can switch between dodge and burn by simply hitting the (x) key.
The cons are that this method sometimes causes colour shifts.

Technique 3

This is my personal favorite method and I use it to do 99% of my dodging and burning.

In this method, we start by creating two new curve adjustment layers.

In the first one, we increase the mid tones via the curve, and the second we reduce the mid tones via the curve.

Dodge LayerBurn Layer

We invert the masks on both by pressing Ctrl/Cmd + i

Using your brush tool at a lower flow(1-3%) 100% opacity, colour set to white.
Begin shaping your image as you need.

*In the video, I show how to use this method to retouch skin.

I hope you learned something new?
Let me know what you thought?
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