D&B – Dodge & Burn – Working with light
D&B is a technique nearly as old as photography itself.
This marked up image by Avedon himself shows how negatives were manually treated using exactly the same principles.
There are two main uses to D&B. Pixel level and Contouring/Carving. The exact same tools and techniques are used for both versions. The only differences lay in the area that you are painting on, the pressure and size of the brush, and the intention behind it.
Pixel level D&B is used to even out small variations in skin Texture (High and medium frequencies)
This is done while zoomed in and with more care. Using a small brush with very low opacity (from 5 to 10). It is time consuming and takes a lot of practice to perfect. The intention behind this is to dodge the shadows and burn the highlights.
Carving/Contouring means adding depth and evening out transitions between shadow and light. It’s usually done at 100% view or smaller. Bigger brush, also with a low opacity.
When D&B on an image you can completely change the lighting. The process is really, really simple, but you need to train your eye to recognize the unique individual facial contours. Where elements are protruding or where they should naturally recede.
There are several ways to D&B each of them have their pros and cons.
• Using 50% Gray Layer set to Soft light.
• Using a set of Curves.
• Using D&B tools in Photoshop on a copy of the original – Highly not recommended and will not be included within this handout for that reason
• Using Multiply and Screen modes instead of curves – Not always recommended because of the lack of control and other variabilities.
50% gray layer set to soft light blend mode
Overlay is not recommended, because it will boost the contrast and distort the colors).
• Create a new layer from the layer palette holding ALT/OPTION while clicking and you’ll get this window:
• Click OK
This is how your layer a palette looks now.
• Painting with white on this layer will lighten the image, whilst painting with black on this layer will darken the image.
Note: Some retouchers use sampled colors to paint on this layer, you will have to ask them because it has never worked for me but here is a small tip - While having your brush selected, hold down ALT key to temporally switch to eyedropper tool and you can sample any color in the image.
Set Of Curves:
This is the one I use he most because I find it to be easier to control.
*Create a Group and call it D&B
*Inside create a curve, call it LIGHTEN and lighten the middle tones. Then invert the mask.
*Inside the same group create another curve, call it DARKEN and darken the middle tones. Then invert the mask.
Painting with white on the Lighten MASK – will lighten the image
Painting with white on the Darken MASK – will darken the image
Eye Help: I also use two adjustment layers to help my eyes.
One Adjustment layer is used to desaturate, and another to boost contrast and darken the image. Both inside a group, placed on top of the layer stack so they can affect everything bellow them, while I work.
You can turn it on and off to check your work. They are only to keep your eyes from dying.
It’s much easier to spot the skin variations. Showing what needs to be darken, and also where more light is needed. This method also helps with eyestrain, since your eyes are not affected by the bright and saturated color anymore. Removing the color in the image helps to concentrate on light and shadow alone.
With some pictures you might experience “color shifts”.Some people use the curves in luminosity mode to avoid these shifts. I recommend against it because adding light SHOULD affect color (If you look at a blue pen in the dark it will look gray, but blue when you move it into the light, You can try this for yourself. So light, in fact, makes everything become saturated) the hue/sat adjustment layer allows me to control HOW MUCH the light is going to affect the saturation.
When you blend it “Luminosity” it doesn’t affect saturation at all and everything starts to look grayish after a while.
D&B Final Masks:
When Dodging and Burning one should always keep a few things in mind:
• Brush settings are a personal choice. I a use soft brush most of the time, with opacity set to 3/10% and Flow set to 100%. Size of the brush, off course depends of the area that I’m working on /brushing.
• You can use mouse for all this, but I would highly recommend a graphic tablet, like Wacom.
• If you like using the 50% gray –softlight method:
a) Using a plain old blank layer, with no fill, will give you the same results. The only advantage in using a 50% gray layer is that you can actually see where you have painted.
b) You can also use the actual Dodge & Burn tools when working with a fill.
• Whenever we light something up we are making it stand out more.
• The brain perceives “lighter” as “closer” and darker as further: You can use D&B to create depth and we can also remove it as well (a.k.a.: When the subject is bright, making the BG lighter will probably reduce the depth)
• Eliminating shadows can also reduce the volume in elements (i.e: Nose and other features).
• Making transitions go smoothly from shadow to light will make the skin appear to be tighter.
• Working with 300% ZOOM all the time, can compromise your perception of the full frame. Zoom out (even down to a thumbnail view) every once in a while. It will help you spot bigger transitions and making sure texture is still appealing and natural for the print size.