Exercise Brief: Dodging and burning is one of the most widely-used darkroom techniques:
• Dodging refers to lightening a part of the image.
• Burning refers to darkening a part of the image.
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.
• Take one of your portraits you made. Open it in Photoshop. The dodging icon looks like a lollipop. The burning icon usually looks like a small hand with thumb and forefinger in a circle.
• Identify which part of your photo is the most important point – usually the face in a portrait. Use the dodging tool to lighten it. If the face is already too bright, dodge other important details that you want to bring out, or go straight to the next step.
• Identify which is the background of the image. Use the burning tool to darken your background plus any elements you want to be less visible.
• Continue to use the burning tool to darken any areas that detract attention from the portrait, e.g. something bright or vividly coloured in the background.
Tip Be subtle! Dodging and burning (and all image manipulations) need to be done in such a way that the image is believable. Otherwise, you’ll draw attention to the manipulation itself.
I made this image of my dad in his living room. This particular spot has natural sunlight coming in through the glass door, filtering in through the sheer curtains behind him. The sun is very bright at this time of the day and the light very harsh. Although I have shot from the side so as to not lose all details as is evident from the RAW image, there is a very strong highlight behind him and also reflecting upon the glass on the painting above.
I have used the burn tool on the sheer curtain to bring down the strong and extremely distracting highlight and also on the glass of the painting to even out the highlights.
I have used the dodge tool on his face to decrease the shadows that are falling on in the original image.
The end result is an evenly balanced image. Although one should focus on avoiding mistakes, to begin with, these tools are a great help to edit and fix images which did not have a choice of an ideal location and lighting like this one. My dad is visually impaired and is also very weak so there are only a couple of spots that are his favourites where he spends most of his time during the day. It’s not possible to ask him to model and move around and also most importantly I wanted to capture him in his favourite spots. So with the help of the dodge and burn tools, I have managed to create a well-balanced portrait of him.