Dodge & Burn (fondly called D&B) are one of the simplest and most powerful techniques that you can use in retouching. One of the interesting uses of D&B is the answer to the following question: “How can I get blemishes off my model?”.
If you break this down to the basic components this is a very easy question to answer.
What is an image?
A digital image consists of pixels of different colors and brightness. A black and white image does not even contain color, only differences in brightness. This means that spatial depth information is mediated by the brightness.
What are blemishes in the image?
A blemish manifests itself as a small bump. It is “abnormal” depth information. In a black and white image, for example, a pimple would have a small highlight from being hit by light and a small shadow behind it. In a color image, we will also have some redness, but for the sake of this discussion we are focusing on black and white, mainly because color information is not changed with D&B.
What does Dodge & Burn do?
D&B changes the brightness of the pixels, thereby changing the depth information.
The golf ball
I once said: “You can make a golf ball into a ping pong ball with D&B“. Yea, really, I said it.
Now, that I have said it, of course at some point I had to try it. You can try it too. The RAW file is available here (16MB NEF file). You have been dared!
Here is the result of about 3 sessions, 90 minutes each of D&B:
you may ask yourself: “where does all this time comes from? Has he got no friends or Game of Thrones to watch?”
Neither! Even after about 10 minutes I realized: This is not going to be easy. It is way faster to detect a less-than-perfect surface on a golf ball than it is to detect on an actual face. It felt like a really good exercise so I had to keep going. The result is far from perfect, I think if I invested another 2 or 3 hours of adapting Highlights etc. I would get the ball really well all around.
I learned a lot during the exercise. So I realized, for example, how zoom levels affect the perception. If a spot looks good at a 200% view, it does not mean that you will not see an error at 100% or 25%. Depth in the image is apparent both on pixel basis and also on global basis.
It is always important to keep track and to change the zoom levels from close up to full view and back again.
Here are the various processing stages:
And the third (and last) passage:
Dodge & Burn is powerful – especially when one is aware of the points questioned above and that you can do anything with it. I’ve ironed my art, table cloths and T-shirts and even changed head shapes with it. Basically, it behaves like the golf ball: Depth is only light and shadow.
Should you want to try it – I’m anxious to see your results 😉