My favourite tool on Photoshop has to be the Dodge and Burn tool. It allows me to add shadow and light, where the image may need it, so I can tone highlights down or bring detail out in dark areas.
The Dodge and Burn tools are found in the toolbox. When in use, the control bar allows you to alter brush size and softness, tonal range and exposure as well as brush characteristics (when using a tablet device).
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you should use this tool (as we should with all manipulation) very lightly. To help me achieve this I adjust the Opacity to about 10% and go over the selected area several times, or as required. I always use a soft brush, so the fuzzy edges don’t leave obvious marked differences where your brush has and hasn’t been.
I also use this Dodge and Burn for a customised vignette, applying light or shade (mostly shade) to the corners of the image in a soft and blended manner. I start with a large brush and go over the far corners and work my way inwards overlapping the previous passage so the outer corner will be darker. Even in this case I tend to us a soft brush and keep my Opacity at 10%.
It also works well with portraits, where I bring out faces where light is low and play with darkening skin shadows, such as collar bones shadows or similar.
Whatever you do, take it easy, because there’s nothing worse than a overdone job.
Here is an example of a portrait as it came out of the camera and after using the Dodge and Burn tool.
Dodge or Burn?
Dodging and burning are terms that relate to darkroom processes. It relates to making the print from a negative. You can give certain areas a shorter or longer exposure in order to darken or lighten the print. You may use a small spot on a stick, or a card with a hole cut in it. This process was used to a great extent by the American landscape photographer Ansell Adams.
Now I admit that I get confused about the terms. So if you want to darken a light area do you dodge or burn? The answer is you Burn. The more light the darker the print. (We are dealing with a reverse process here. We are shining light through a negative to make a positive image.)
Dodging (spot on a stick) decreases the exposure for areas of the print that the photographer wishes to be lighter, while Burning (card with a hole) increases the exposure to areas of the print that should be darker.