There are many ways to enhance your photos. One such way is to ‘burn’ and ‘dodge’ the photos in Photoshop. In this guide, I will show you how to enhance your photos using Photoshop’s Burn and Dodge Tool.
Now you might ask – what exactly is ‘burning’ and ‘dodging’? To make things simple, ‘burn’ is to darken, while ‘dodge’ is to lighten.
Here’s the before and after:
Photo reference: Joerg Meinhardt
Step 1: Open the File in Photoshop
Open the image you want to work on in Photoshop.
Step 2: Duplicate Layer
Then duplicate the layer by right-clicking your mouse on your image layer at the bottom right of the Layer Palette.
Select Duplicate Layer.
Next, rename this duplicated layer. Since I’ll be using this layer to dodge and burn different areas of my image, I’m going to name the layer “Dodge & Burn”.
Naming layers is a good way for us to organize our layers and will come in handy when we are trying to differentiate and locate the layers when the file gets bigger.
Click ‘Ok‘ and you are ready to move on to the next step.
Step 3: Select the Dodge Tool
Now, let’s lighten and darken different areas of the image simply by painting over with the Dodge and Burn Tool respectively. You want to use the Dodge Tool on areas you want to lighten and the Burn Tool on areas you want to darken.
Select the Dodge Tool from the Tools Palette or access it with the shortcut tool by pressing the letter O on your keyboard.
Step 4: Adjust the Exposure and Range
A good way to work with the Dodge & Burn Tool is to gradually build up the amount of Exposure. To do that, go to the Option Bar at the top of the screen and lower the Exposure down to somewhere between 5-20%.
This will make the small incremental changes that are harder to detect but with repeated sweeping movements, it will result in a more natural look.
That’s not all, to achieve the best result; you also have to determine the Range. Range determines which pixels will be affected when you use the Dodge Tool to brighten our image. Choose Highlights when you want to lighten highlights, Shadows when you want to darken shadows and Midtones when you want to adjust the pixels in the middle tone.
Try around these three settings and observe how your image changes to see which Range works best for your image.
Step 5: Paint over Areas that Need to be Lightened
With your Dodge Tool selected, and the Exposure and Range determined, simply paint over areas in your image that needs to be brightened. Paint over a few times with sweeping movements to build up the effect. Alternatively, you can also change your brush size to cover larger or smaller area by clicking on the Brush Preset picker. You can also change your brush size with the shortcut tool by pressing the letter [ to decrease and ] to increase your brush size on your keyboard.
Step 6: Select the Burn Tool
Next, I want to darken the background of my image to make the flower ‘pop’ more using the Burn Tool.
To select the Burn Tool, click and hold down the Dodge Tool from the Tools Palette and then select the Burn Tool. Otherwise, you can toggle between the Dodge Tool, Burn Tool, and Sponge Tool by pressing Shift-O on your keyboard.
Remember to also adjust the Range and Exposure.
Step 7: Paint over Areas that Need to be Darkened
With your Burn Tool selected, and the Exposure and Range determined, paint over areas in your image that needs to be darkened. In my case, I had decided to paint over the background of the image to make the flowers ‘pop’ more.
And now it’s done. Let me show you the before and after again.
I hope you will find this tutorial useful and leave your comments below if you would like to see other tutorials. Good luck and have fun!