A Little Dodge and Burn to the Rescue

I fought using Photoshop tools for a long time because I felt a good photographer shouldn’t need to alter their original work.   However, I’m finding that there are simply natural obstacles that want to ruin your pictures – like harsh sunlight.

Lately, I’ve been playing around with Black and White photos.   I decided to try the Dodge and Burn feature in Photoshop to clean up this one of my friend’s son, Landon.   Here were my issues with the original:

  • The clouds have no highlights
  • The white building in the distance competes with Landon for the eye’s attention
  • The railroad tracks are dull and flat

 Using the Dodge tool, I added the highlights to the clouds.  I used an exposure of about 5%, because it’s easy to monitor the gradual change and avoid that over-processed HDR look.  Next, I used Burn to eliminate the highlights from the white building.  Finally, I added highlights to the wood planks in the track to emphasize the wood grain. 

This is something I’ll continue to play around with until I get the hang of it.   A part of me also wants to crop the entire sky out and just go with Landon and the railroad tracks.


21 thoughts on “A Little Dodge and Burn to the Rescue

  1. Ansel Adams believed the true art began in the darkroom. The goal was the print. For those of us who never had access to the darkroom or only arrived at photography after film, the darkroom is digital. This can be an advantage. – Mind you trying to explain photography and processing to students in a media literacy class can be a challenge. They have only a very vague idea of what film is and how a camera lens works.

    1. At one time I thought it’d be great to go old school and learn that art of processing in the darkroom. But, given the editing tools available today and the time saved, it just doesn’t seem practical. I do agree that the goal is the print, and photography should be looked at like an artform. A bit of creativity should be acceptable! Thanks for visiting, Elmediat!

  2. Hi Jolene, I just found your blog, and really like your images. I started post production doing touch-ups in a darkroom and then studied some of the famous images from Ansel Adams and the post processing that he did, so digital processing was never a problem for me. I figure photography is an art, and as such the vision lies with the artist to convey what they see. Use whatever tools you choose to present what want.

    1. Thanks for visiting my blog, Ted! I appreciate your feedback on this subject. I’m actually pleasantly surprised that so many people support the use of tools like PS. The logic really makes sense when looking at the old darkroom methods.

  3. Nothing wrong with PS!! Just take a “dull” color photograph and increase the saturation a little and suddenly it is stunning. Just don’t overdo it…
    I love your improved photograph and I agree with the part of you that wants to crop this one.
    And thank you, Jolene, for your visit!!

  4. Welcome to the dark side! 🙂 Really tho, I look at PS as just a way to accomplish what I want others to see. I don’t look at it as a bad thing and neither should you. Think of it as just another tool in your toolbox of photography. You have your lenses, filters, flashes, hoods, and Photoshop. You just use each of those tools in different ways.

    Your photo did turn out great. I found playing with B&D is just being careful not to overdue it. And looks like you found a great balance.

  5. Jen beat to me my comment. 🙂 Having done B&W film developing myself for years, it’s pretty much the same concept. You are “post processing” in the darkroom (and losing track of time VERY easily). Even the “I didn’t process anything, it’s SOOC” comments isn’t entirely true as cameras do “post processing” the JPGs within the camera! Don’t even feel like you are “cheating” somehow by using CS5 to PP, there’s only so much you can do to manipulate an image, it’s gotta be there first!

  6. I thought the same thing when I started out but after talking to an old school photographer that finally gave in and started going digital after about 40 years of film – he reminded me that with Digital – we dont have the option to go into a darkroom anymore and to look at editing programs like our digital darkrooms.

    He used to love to over or under expose his shots in the darkroom and play with contrast and such – and once I realized that all of the amazing photographers I loved – used to work for hours in their darkrooms to make their photos exactly how they wanted them – I feel much better about spending time editing my own on the computer with PS and lightroom. 🙂


    1. It makes me thankful, Jen, that we can do those corrections in PS instead of a darkroom. I guess it’s not so bad afterall.

      P.S. I still really need to get lightroom! I have about 600 raw photos to convert over to jpeg from my brother’s wedding (to put on CD) and I’m not really sure how to do this.

  7. And when it comes to processing I belong to those who use whatever software to achieve pre-visualized result. I think that you could say it from my late work. Usually I want my photos to be near to reality but sometimes my imagination just runs wild 😀

  8. Nice post and nice work, Jolene. At first sight I was comparing those 2 photos before reading the post and I wasn’t able to spot the difference beside the building in the first photo was little bit brighter than on second. After reading the post I compared again and I must say that you did great job. Really. Whole photo is more contrasty while the first one is dull and flat. You could go without the sky as you are attempted to but the composition would be a challange then.

  9. I completely understand your view on PS… we all start out thinking… it’s not right to use photoshop, and then give in.. it’s got it’s uses and if used wisely, it’s perfectly acceptable 🙂

    1. I think I’m beginning to accept that more and more, Nigel. There’s a big part of me that wants to master the actual camera skills more so I do less editing though.

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