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Dodging and burning

From: Photoshop Artist in Action: Tim Grey's Abandoned Farmhouse

Video: Dodging and burning

As I continue to refine the adjustment for my photo, I start to scrutinize things just a little more closely. I generally start out with relatively broad adjustments, and I tend to be somewhat subtle with those adjustments. And then I'll start digging a little bit deeper looking for smaller and smaller things that I can do in order to improve the overall appearance of the photo. At this point, as I continue refining the overall tonal and color adjustments, I'm starting to feel that the left side the image is looking a little bit washed out.

Dodging and burning

As I continue to refine the adjustment for my photo, I start to scrutinize things just a little more closely. I generally start out with relatively broad adjustments, and I tend to be somewhat subtle with those adjustments. And then I'll start digging a little bit deeper looking for smaller and smaller things that I can do in order to improve the overall appearance of the photo. At this point, as I continue refining the overall tonal and color adjustments, I'm starting to feel that the left side the image is looking a little bit washed out.

You'll see over at the left of the horizon here we have some relatively bright areas. Even at the top of the top left corner it feels just a little bit too bright. And at the bottom left corner we also have an area that is just a little bit hot. Normally, I would suspect that sun angle had something to do with that, but we can see from the shadow lines that the sun is behind me and a little to the right. Whereas, I would expect this brightening on the left side to be the case more if the sun had been off to the left side of the frame. But whatever the cause, I do think that I would like to darken those areas and I also think I'd to lighten up the front of the house just a little bit, so that it stands out a little bit better. And for of these adjustments, I'll use a dodging and burning technique. Now, there are dodge and burn tools within Photoshop, but I tend not to put those to use, because I prefer a slightly more flexible approach that involves using the brush tool an the single layer.

I'm going to create a separate layer for this dodging and burning for the selective lightening and darkening, but I want a separate pixel layer that has special properties. So, instead of just clicking on the Create New Layer button, the blank sheet of paper icon at the bottom of the Layers panel, I'm going to hold the Alt key on Windows, or the Option key on Macintosh, while I click on that button. That will bring up the New Layer dialog, and the first option available is to provide a name for this layer. I'll go ahead and call this Dodge and Burn, since that's the technique I'm using for this particular layer. And very important, I need to change the blend mode for this layer. The default is normal, and if I were to paint on a normal layer, I would simply be painting pixels into the image.

Instead, I want the pixels I paint to interact with the underlying image, and in this case I want them to interact by enhancing contrast, and so I'll choose the Overlay Blend Mode. You could also choose Soft Light, which produces a similar, but slightly more subtle effect, but generally speaking I'll work with overlay. I'm also going to turn on the Fill with Overlay Neutral Color check box, which will fill this layer with 50% gray, which mostly just makes it easier to see exactly where I've painted on the layer if I choose to view this layer all by itself.

I'll go ahead and click the OK button, in order to add that Dodge and Burn layer, and then from the tool box, I'll choose the Brush tool. And on the Options bar, I'll make sure that the hardness is set to 0%, so that I have a soft edge brush. I'll make sure that the blend mode or the brush is set to normal. The blend mode of overlay is being used for the layer itself, not for the brush. And I'm also going to reduce the opacity, generally speaking I'll work with an opacity of about 10%, but definitely below 20%, no higher than 20%. Once I've applied those changes, I'll press the letter D on the keyboard to establish the default colors, where black is my foreground color and white is my background color.

I can always switch those colors by pressing the letter X on the keyboard as needed to exchange foreground and background colors. I'll then bring my mouse out over the image and use the left and right square bracket keys to adjust the brush size. The left square bracket key will reduce the brush size and the right square bracket key will increase the brush size. I'll then come into the bottom left corner of the photo and paint with that 10% black, so I'm darkening up the image just a very small amount in that area of the photo. I'll then move to the top left corner of the image and apply just a little bit of darkening there, but then focus some attention on the clouds over in the distance, especially toward the left side near the horizon. Now, if I click and hold the mouse button down and paint over an area continuously without letting up on the mouse, then that area will receive an even effect with the current brush stroke.

If I release the mouse and paint it again, then I'm adding to that effect. If I go ahead and turn off the visibility for my background image layer, you'll be able to see the effect a little bit. Here for example, you can see a relatively dark area over on the left fading off into the lighter areas. And that's because a portion of this area only received one brush stroke, but over here at the darker area I apply 2 or 3 brush strokes. And so, you can see which areas of the photo have been lightened or darkened based on this display. I'll go ahead and turn the image visibility back on, and make sure I'm working on that dodge and burn layer, and now I'd like to lighten up the house just a little bit, so I'll press the letter X to exchange foreground and background colors.

And then adjust the brush size, in this case reducing the overall brush size, so that it is just about the size of that front face of the house. And then I'll paint over that house, in order to apply a little of the lightening effect there. So now, I think I am pretty well finished with dodging and burning. I'll go ahead and turn off the visibility for that dodge and burn layer by clicking the eye icon to the left of the thumbnail for the layer. And then click again in order to turn on the visibility of the layer. And then this way I can get a before and after view. Looking at the image before the dodging and burning was applied, and then the image after that dodging and burning was applied.

And I think we have a good improvement here, I've taken care of those areas along the left side that seemed just a little bit washed out, and I've made that house look a little more prominent in the frame.

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