Dodge & Burn – With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Nov 2, 2015

Stefan Kohler

Stefan Kohler is a full-time retoucher. He’s from Germany and likes bacon. In the last years, he built up a broad community around his retouching classes at the Infinite tool’s website.

Dodge & Burn – With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Nov 2, 2015

Stefan Kohler

Stefan Kohler is a full-time retoucher. He’s from Germany and likes bacon. In the last years, he built up a broad community around his retouching classes at the Infinite tool’s website.

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If you split an image into its most basic components, you can look at each pixel as the sum of the following info:

  • Brightness
  • Color Tone
  • Saturation

If we look at a black and white photo for example, one only element present in the photo is brightness. So any three-dimensionality is determined exclusively by the (relative) brightness of neighboring pixels. Our brain is trained to “think” that bright pixels are located closer to us, while dark pixels are more likely to be further away.

Here is an example:

This is a simple gray area
This is a simple gray area
a bit of "Dodging" provides some Highlight
a bit of “Dodging” provides some highlights (closer)
A bit of "Burning" provides shadows
A bit of “Burning” provides shadows (further)

And now, the circle has turned into a ball (Of course, you can go the other way around and smooth any damaged surface)

Taking this concept further, many things that you would not really do with Dodge and Burn, can actually be done with dodge, burn and a bit of color correction.

While this eye may not be perfect, there are no three dimensional elements in it. Only darkening and brightening of gray.

YouTube video

My point is this: The depth of the image is controlled by brightness. This is what makes Dodge & Burn such an interesting and powerful tool.

In this picture the face was given more depth by targeted Dodge & Burn.

But… As with any interesting and powerful tools, the path from good to overdone is short. You know the saying

With great power comes great responsibility” – Uncle Ben

When you are in the craziness of editing, it is not easy not to pass that “good” mark and cross into “this is way too much” land. If you are uncertain and ask yourself “is this too much?” The answer is most likely YES! Trust me on this one.

It’s tricky, even good work can become amateurish if you overdo your dodge and burn. In this case, less is more :) If you find yourself questioning, use the opacity slider to set things right again until you are on the safe side.

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Stefan Kohler

Stefan Kohler

Stefan Kohler is a full-time retoucher. He’s from Germany and likes bacon. In the last years, he built up a broad community around his retouching classes at the Infinite tool’s website.

Join the Discussion

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4 responses to “Dodge & Burn – With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”

  1. Daniel R. Chang Acat Avatar
    Daniel R. Chang Acat

    Arnold Loli

  2. Kyl3r Avatar
    Kyl3r

    Cant see a difference in the 2 “after” images. I think you uploaded the wrong “overdone” image.
    Did an overlay of the 2 images in Photoshop, showing no difference.

    1. udi tirosh Avatar
      udi tirosh

      thanks, we fixed it

  3. Kay O. Sweaver Avatar
    Kay O. Sweaver

    This makes me think that I should take a drawing class at my local community college.