30 Days of Photoshop – Day 26

The Dodge & Burn Tools (and the Sponge Tool)

Dodging and Burning have been around for many decades.

Originating back in the days of film, dodging usually meant waving a piece of card over the printing paper in the darkroom.

As the light from the enlarger projected the negative’s image onto that paper, interrupting the flow of light meant that the resulting image would be brighter (everything works in reverse, less light meant a brighter print, more light meant a darker print).

So a photographer would dodge areas of the image that needed brightening up.

Conversely, he would burn-in areas of the photo that needed to be darkened down.

A larger piece of card (that covered the whole print area) with a hole cut out of it would be used. Light passing through that hole was then waved over areas that needed to be darkened. The dark parts of the photo were ‘burned’ onto the printing paper.

The practice continues today in digital photography and Photoshop has two tools just for this purpose.

Although there are other, arguably better ways of dodging & burning, these two tools will still help you transform flat-looking images into ones with added depth and dynamic range.

I will also cover very briefly the Sponge tool in this tutorial.

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Kevin Ahronson

Kevin is a full-time professional photographer and has been teaching photography since 2009. He founded the Hampshire School of Photography where he runs photography workshops and gives one to one mentoring to photographers at all levels, from complete beginners through to those who want to turn professional

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