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- Configuring the Photoshop interface
- Opening an existing image
- Basic RAW conversion
- Introduction to adjustment layers
- Reviewing adjustments
- Saving the master image
- Basic, advanced, and creative adjustments
Skill Level Beginner
I have fond memories of dodging and burning photos in the wet darkroom. Moving my hands around, perhaps using cardboard cutouts or a variety other implements to block light from certain portions of the photo. Of course, one of the frustrations of dodging and burning in the wet darkroom is that it was very difficult to get consistent results from one print to the next. With digital, we can apply dodging and burning, painting with light or dark throughout the image, and then get consistent output from that image. So, that's a big relief in terms of digital photography.
Photoshop does include some tools for dodging and burning. There's a Dodge tool and a Burn tool, but I frankly don't like putting those tools to use in large part. Because then, we have to switch between tools if we want to lighten versus darken. Instead, I use a technique that involves a separate Image layer in conjunction with the Brush tool. Let's take a look at how that works. The first step is to add a new layer, but not just any layer. A layer with very special properties that'll enable the dodge and burn technique. I'll hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh.
While clicking on the blank sheet of paper icon, the Create New Layer button, at the bottoms of the Layers panel. That will bring up the New Layer dialog where we can adjust the settings for this layer, and I'll give this layer a name. I'll simply call it Dodge and Burn since that's what I'm using this layer for. And it is a very good practice to rename any image layers that you add, just so that you never get confused about what they're there for. I also want to change the Blend mode for this layer, and this is actually the most important piece of this technique. I'll click the popup, and you can see we have a range of Blend modes available. I'm going to choose the Overlay option, which is one of the Contrast Blend modes. It allows me to lighten or darken the image with a single layer. I'm also going to turn on the check box to fill this layer with the overlay neutral color which happens to be 50% grey.
I'll show you why that setting can be helpful in just a moment. With those settings established, I'll go ahead and click the OK button. You can see on the Layers panel now, I have a new layer. It's called Dodge and Burn, it's filled with grey. And most importantly, the Blend mode is set to Overlay. Now that I have my Layer properly configured, I'm ready to start dodging and burning. And so, on the toolbox, I'll choose the Brush tool. And then, I'll make sure that I'm working with a Soft-edge brush, a brush with a 0% hardness, by clicking the Brush popup on the Options Bar. I don't need to worry about the size because I'll adjust that on the fly while I'm working.
The mode for the brush itself, found on the Options Bar, is going to be left at Normal. So, make sure that's set to normal. We don't want to use overlay here. The magic of the Overlay Blend mode is happening on the layer, not with the brush itself. I'll also reduce the Opacity. At a 100% opacity, we would be painting a very, very dark value or a very, very light value onto the image. We want to tone that down just a little bit. I would generally work between 10 and maybe 15% opacity. But so that you can see the effect a little bit better while I'm demonstrating it here, I'm going to set that to 20%. Note by the way, that when you're working with the Brush tool, you can use keyboard shortcuts to adjust opacity.
You can press 1 for 10%, or 2 for 20% for example. Or if you want, 15%, you can press 1, 5 relatively quickly. We won't worry about our tablet settings. In this case, I'll assume you're working with a mouse. But obviously, if you're using a tablet, you could adjust the settings for that tablet based on your preferences. And we'll leave the Airbrush feature turned off, and therefore don't need to concern ourselves with the flow. So, now I'm ready to move out into the image, I can use the left and right square bracket keys to adjust the size of the brush. The left square bracket key will reduce the size of the brush, and the right square bracket key will increase the size of the brush. I can then press the letter D on the keyboard for default colors so that my colors are set to their defaults of black and white. You could also click the small representation of the Color Picker in order to reset the colors to their defaults.
And then while working, we can switch between black and white as our foreground, or the active color, by pressing the letter X on the keyboard for exchange. And that can also be accomplished with this double headed Curved Arrow button above the Color Picker as well. So, I'll press X to swap between white and black as my foreground color. And that way it's very, very easy for me to switch back and forth between lightening and darkening. Let's assume for starters that I'd like to adjust these boats, maybe darken them down just a little bit to get a little more saturation out of them. I'll make sure that my foreground color is set to black, and then simply Click and Drag to paint onto the boats. You can see that's a very subtle effect.
I'll go ahead and turn off the visibility of my Dodge and Burn layer, and then turn it back on, and you can see that the effect is not all that strong. And that's part of the idea here is that we want to apply relatively subtle adjustments. You don't want someone looking at the image and realizing that you were dodging and burning. You just want them to think the image looks great. I'll go ahead and darken up at the top here, kind of cut back some of that hazy appearance off in the distance. And I'm going to press X now and switch to white for my foreground color. And fine tune the size of my brush, and then I'm going to paint across these boat garages just to bring out a little bit more detail.
They're pretty dark in there, and I would just like to have a little more detail coming out. I also think I might like to darken the foreground just a little bit. I'll press X to switch to black as my foreground color and increase the size of the brush, and then just paint a swath across the bottom of the image. So, as you can see, I'm able to paint with white or black to lighten or darken specific areas of the image. I do want to show you one last little tidbit here on technique. I'll turn off the Background Image layer so that we can see only the Dodge and Burn layer. You'll notice that it's very easy now to see exactly where I've painted, where I've lightened the image, and where I've darkened the image. I'm going to fill this layer with gray, effectively undoing everything that I've done so that I can illustrate a couple of important concepts. So, I'm using the Fill command.
I'm setting the Use popup to 50% grey, and I'll click OK. So now, I'm back to a 50% grey layer. Now, we've already seen that by having the layer filled with grey, it was very easy to see where I had painted. But I want to show you something about the technique of painting here. I'll go ahead and reduce my Brush Size and paint with white. And you'll see as I paint from one corner to the next, as I go back and forth, back and forth. I'm not adjusting the strength of the effect, I'm certainly increasing the size of the area that's being affected just a little bit. But I'm getting a consistent lightening result.
And that's because I'm holding the mouse button down as I drag back and forth. If I go to another corner and start painting, you'll see that I'm getting the exact same effect. However, as soon as I overlap an area that I've already painted, I'll get an increasing effect. So here, I've got a cumulative effect so this portion of the image is getting enlightened more then these other portions are. It's important to keep that in mind. And so, if you want to have an even result over one area, you need to keep the mouse button down the entire time you're painting over that area. I also want to show you how you can clean up mistakes. I'll go ahead and undo those brush strokes, and I'll turn the image itself back on.
And let's assume that I had worked at a high opacity, and I didn't even realize it. But then, I went in and I applied other adjustments throughout the image. So, I then realize that I have this mistake. I need to fix it. But I don't want to have to take a step backward or multiple steps backward because that would cause me to lose the other adjustments that I do like. Well, I can fix this sort of issue very, very easily. You'll remember that the layer we're working on was filled with 50% grey. So, if I paint this area 50% grey, I will eliminate the painting that I had done there.
In this case, the white that obviously is producing a not so good spotlight effect. To paint with 50% grey, I need to do two things. First, I'm going to click on my foreground color, and I will set the B value for HSB to 50%. That will give me a 50% grey value. I'll go ahead and click OK, and then I'll need to adjust my Opacity up to 100% for the brush and I can simply paint over my mistake. I'm now filling that area with grey on my Dodge and Burn layer.
I can then press D to get my default colors back, black and white, and I can press a number. In this case, I'll use two to get to 20% of opacity of my brush ,and I can continue painting in the image as needed in order to apply the desired affect. Painting with light and dark throughout the image to help it really look its best.