Dodging and burning is often a technique we really only see mentioned when it comes to portraits. And it’s no surprise, really. It can be a great way to even out skin tones and texture. But it’s been a powerful technique when it comes to landscapes for a very long time. Ansel used it in the darkroom and many landscape photographers use it today in Photoshop.
In this 17-minute video, photographer Michael Shainblum shows us a couple of different techniques for dodging and burning landscape photos within Photoshop to add impact and really bring out the important bits you want to highlight.
The first technique Michael shows is using the Soft Light blend mode, or Overlay if you want something a little more punchy. Adding blank layers using these blend modes and then painting on black or white allows you to highlight or hide certain elements of your scene to draw the viewer’s eye where you want it to go.
Michael’s second technique is using Curves adjustment layers, and then painting on the mask. This method arguably offers a lot more fine-tune control over exactly how your dodge and burn layers affect your image. You get the same level of control that you get using the above method, by painting on the mask, but then you can control the overall strength of it by adjusting the curve itself. You can also use multiple layers in order to target specific areas of the image in a different way.
Personally, I tend to go the Curves route with my own images. And while I try to keep it to as few adjustment layers as possible, it’s not uncommon for me to find myself with a couple of dozen of them if I really want to get picky with it.
Michael suggests using a Wacom tablet and I couldn’t agree more. I use the Wacom Intuos with Bluetooth for my own retouching. It plugs into my desktop at home to keep it charged up and it’s wireless when I’m on the road with my laptop. It makes things like this go so much faster.
How much dodge and burn do you do to your landscape shots?