Non destructive Dodging and Burning

One other technique that we covered at the Workshop on 13 Feb. was non destructive Dodging & Burning. Simon Allen also talked about this last December.

The “non destructive” tag is important because it retains your original image intact and puts all the dodge & burn adjustments on a new layer. So if you change your mind – it’s very easy to alter. Although this illustrates the technique using CS5, the same can be done with later versions of Elements.

Let’s start with this image of “Three Amigos”  from a folk festival in Martigues. The image is bright enough generally but the faces, arguably the central point of interest, are a little dark and could do with some lightening (ie. dodging).

First create a new (empty) Layer above your original image by clicking the “new Layer” icon at the bottom of the Layers palette.

Then we want to fill this new layer with 50% grey. So Click Edit/Fill/then select 50% grey from the options menu that opens up.

Your on screen image will then look completely grey ( from the new filled layer on top of your original image).

Then change the Blend Mode to “Overlay” and you will then see your original image again. Although the grey layer is above it, the “Overlay” blend mode applied to a 50% grey layer has absolutely no effect on the image below it. It’s only a darker or lighter colour that affects the image below.

If we now “paint” this 50% grey layer with either white or black, it will lighten or darken the on screen image wherever you apply the brush strokes. Set your brush opacity to a very low amount  because you want to build up the painting effect gradually.

Select a suitable soft edged brush size and paint white on the grey layer over the area of the three faces – they will gradually lighten. Because the opacity is so low, the “painting” can be fairly “rough”.

Some areas of the shirts are too bright, so we can paint these areas black on the grey layer, again with a very low opacity, to darken them

Here is the end result on the new grey layer by itself and you can see where you have “painted”.

You can also reduce the overall effect of this dodge & burn layer by using the opacity slider in the layers palette.

The end result on the image is to lighten the faces and darken the shirts  – hence “dodging & burning”.

The overall effect is quite subtle – exactly what you want. Relatively small adjustments can have a significant impact on the final image. A very useful technique for small area adjustments.


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