Dodging and burning in photography — Photography podcast #49

Pho­tog­ra­phy pod­cast #49 dis­cusses dodg­ing and burn­ing your pho­tographs. Dodg­ing means mak­ing parts of a photo lighter and burn­ing in makes parts of your pho­to­graph darker. Almost ALL pho­tographs require some dodg­ing and burn­ing. The images below by Yise­haq are great exam­ples. Look how much more alive image 2 looks after some dodg­ing and burning.

In terms of the actual tech­niques used to dodge and burn a photo you can try this one if you have Pho­to­shop. Cre­ate a new layer and set your blend­ing mode to soft-light or over­lay. Use an opac­ity of around 4–15%. Use a SOFT paint brush with these set­tings. To burn (darken) use black as the fore­ground colour in the palette. To dodge (lighten) use white as the fore­ground colour.

This pod­cast was inspired by Yise­haq a mem­ber of our pho­tog­ra­phy forum. Feel free to join — it’s fun and free! This pod­cast was recorded in a park. Please let me know if you found the ambi­ent noises too distracting.

Many thanks to Yise­haq for let­ting me use the above images of the Blue Nile as a teach­ing tool!

Post edited August 18 2008 — Adding 2 of my own images to fur­ther illus­trate the dif­fer­ence between the image after it comes out of the cam­era ver­sus the dodged and burned result. The result looks much live­lier and the main rea­son is the local dodg­ing and burn­ing. These are of the grand canyon and they are the same images from the pod­cast on delib­er­ately under­ex­pos­ing your images.

deliberate underexposure podcast
Image 1 of the Grand Canyon (leveling/quick colour balance)

Image 2 — after includ­ing quite a bit of dodg­ing and burn­ing and a quick sharpen.
After a while you’ll learn to see the poten­tial tones just wait­ing to come out.

Links/topics men­tioned in this pod­cast:
Orig­i­nal thread with Yisehaq’s images and com­ments
Photo assign­ment forum on

Thanks as always to Benoitc23, Benny and DeSte­fanoPho­tog­ra­phy for recent com­ments and sug­ges­tions. We LOVE com­ments and sug­ges­tions so please send more.

You can down­load this pho­tog­ra­phy pod­cast directly by click­ing the pre­ced­ing link or lis­ten to it almost imme­di­ately with the embed­ded player below.

If you are look­ing at this mate­r­ial on any other site except — Please hop on over to the blog and pod­cast and get this and other pho­tog­ra­phy info directly from the source. I Sub­scribe with iTunes I Sub­scribe via RSS feed I Sub­scribe with Google Reader I


  1. Ivan Chacon says:

    Hi !
    I was look­ing for dodg­ing in the inter­net so I came across with yor site.Did lis­ten to the pod­caste thing. WoW !!!
    I’m a self-learn pho­tog­ra­pher, even I dont know terms and names I catch some and I think this is awe­some site.

  2. Nic says:

    I found your web­site a cou­ple days ago.. have down­loaded almost every pod­cast and now i lis­ten to a few each night… just lis­tened to dodg­ing and burn­ing and have been play­ing with the tech­nique for the last cou­ple hours.. just fan­tas­tic and a lot of fun.

  3. =)

    Sure sure, it really looks much bet­ter!
    And I use the tech­nique in a lot of pic­tures, since it makes them get really really better!

    And I for­got to say before that I didn’t hear any ambi­ent noise at all! xD

    I can’t wait for the next pod­cast (it’s one of my favorites ^^)

  4. admin says:

    Hi Clau­dia,

    Although you may not appre­ci­ate the final result, I think it goes with­out say­ing that the result is much better/richer than the orig­i­nal undodged and unburned print. That was the point of the pod­cast, it wasn’t to show a per­fectly dodged and burned in print. The pho­tog­ra­pher that took the shot is not a mas­ter printer, he is rel­a­tively new to pho­tog­ra­phy, is still learn­ing and I think he did a really good job.

  5. I don’t like the final result of the exam­ple, but the tech­nique itself can bring amaz­ing results =)


  6. Yisehaq says:

    Hi Marko,
    Thanks for using my pics for the pod­cast. Inspir­ing indeed. I have learned alot with this short time I have been on the forum.


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