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Dodge and Burn Tool

Lesson 32 from: Fine Art Conceptual Photography from Shoot through Post-Processing

Bella Kotak, Pratik Naik

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Lesson Info

32. Dodge and Burn Tool

Next Lesson: Liquify Tool


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Artistic Vision and Inspiration


Personal Projects


Creative Motivation and Defining Your Story


Organizing Your Inspiration


Building A Character


Creating Wardrobe and Props


Location Scouting


Lesson Info

Dodge and Burn Tool

Okay, so after I'm cleaning, after cleaning the image, and essentially, when you're cleaning, you're just cleaning off anything that's distracting in the photo. Stray hairs, blemishes, anything that you feel distracts the viewer's eye. Once I'm done with that, I will go into dodging and burning. We're going to jump into that right now and show you how we dodge and burn. Right, also included with this course is going to be an action set that allows you to quickly set up this workflow easier. For example, over here, we have our dodge and burn, and we have a full dodge and burn setup as well, so you don't have to manually create them. When I run these actions, for example, let's say I do run them manually. I'll run a dodge and a burn, what these basically are, and I'll rename these really quick, is that they are effectively, if I go under my properties, they're just a curve. A simple adjustment layer, right? And they have the midpoint raised up with a black mask, that's all it is. So in...

stead of manually doing it every single time, we just run a quick action, yeah? Yeah, okay, let's show them what the burn is. Yep, and the same thing. The burn, effectively, is the opposite. The curve is down. Underexposed. Right. That's right. Now, what do you dodge and burn when you look at this image? Is there anything that you would normally focus on when you go in this process? Yeah, I think of dodging and burning a little bit like, I guess, contouring in makeup. I do it very broadly. Pratik finesses his dodging and burning technique, which is what we're going to see later when he goes deeply into it. I'm literally just looking at the light and how it sits on her face and sits on the scene overall, so I'm quite rough and tumble with it, which sometimes drives you a bit crazy. Rough and tumble, I like it. Yeah, but then you know what you like, so, yeah. I keep my flow to 1% and I'm on the dodge right now, and essentially, this is basically what you have the layer mask for, which is where, right now you can't see the overexposed but I'm gonna brush that back in. Well, not overexposed but yeah, I'm just gonna brush it in where I like it. Oh, before I do that, sorry, we are going to have a fill layer. So, we're gonna turn this image into black and white. You can just um-- Go through the action? Yep. Perfect, color. No, that's not the right one. Oh no. Black and white view. There you go. So, this black and white view is really effective because all it is is a solid color adjustment layer, is black. When I set it to color, it gives me a perfect tonal range of how it looks in black and white. It's different from the black and white adjustment layer considerably. This is more accurate. If you wanna try it out, you can, as well. However, the reason for this is now you can see light transitioning a little bit easier, where you wanna focus light and focus attention. That's right. I get very distracted with color. I don't understand how some people can dodge and burn with color and I think they're amazing, yeah. I always turn my image into black and white first, and then, that way, all the distractions of color are out the window and I'm focusing just on light transitions and where I want them. At this point, my opacity's at 100%, my brush is set to soft, my flow is set to 1%, and I am essentially just running this brush very lightly and quickly over areas where I want the light to be hitting her. I'm changing the brush size as I go, again, very similar to when you're using a makeup brush, you know, you'd use a big powder brush across the cheeks and a small eye shadow brush across the eyes. This is my way of applying makeup. (chuckles) Here we go. I'm gonna brush some highlights. Highlight? I'm thinking of it as a highlight, aren't I? Across her upper lip, around the edges 'cause I quite like that look. That is something that I learned from illustrations actually, yeah. One of my favorite illustrators, she always has very light spots around the lip, and I thought, that's really interesting, let me try that in my photograph. Where are some areas that you always look for? Is it always the same areas, like, on top of the lip and the eyes-- On top of the lip, the inner corners of the eye, now, it's around the lip a little bit as well. Then I just drag the lights on her hands because as you know, I quite like bringing attention there, especially when they look as beautiful as the do over here. Anywhere where I want the light to be hitting, just that little bit more, and I think people get really nervous about dodging and burning, don't they? Yeah, because this is the most fun way to do it because at this stage, you're just contouring and adding in broad areas of light. You're not using it to do the fine bits that we'll talk about later. Yeah, that's right. We are tidying this up again later 'cause we are crafting an image after all, and, you know, you don't have to do it just one time and get it right. Exactly. You are allowed to make mistakes in Photoshop, and that's why we work in a very non-destructive way. Where we can go back and retrieve information, or get rid of information if we need to. Could you do me a favor and turn the layer on and off so we can see some of the differences? Yes, that's right. I'll zoom out, actually, in that case, okay. Zoom in just a little bit so we can see some of the detail in the work you did here. Let me turn this on and off. It looks just like you mentioned. Yeah. You're highlighting the areas that you want more focus to and let's see how it looks at the overall scheme. Which is beautiful about doing it so slowly, is you can see it build up and the focus is starting to come where you want it to go. Yeah. And all I'm doing is just emphasizing the light on her, and, actually, I think this is what makes people wonder whether or not I use deer lights sometimes outside. That's true. Yeah. So you're cheating? (chuckles) Oh gosh. Okay, so I'm on the burn now. Here we go, brush is a little bit bigger and we are just going to give her some bronzer, joking. Actually, when you look at it like that, like makeup, it makes a lot of sense 'cause makeup charts really do emulate direction in which you're going in. Yeah, well it does, doesn't it? 'Cause even when you put makeup on, you're emulating with the highlights and the shadows are on your face, you're cheating a little bit. When you handle, like making the jaw line slimmer. I totally get fooled by that. (chuckles) Alright. I don't really need to do much with it. It's just, like, around the edges a little bit. Yeah. I'm quite happy with how this is looking though. Alright, so we're gonna turn this off, I'm gonna see how it looks. Again, if you think it's too intense, I can change the opacity of that layer so I'm not restricted to everything I've done. I can make it less intense if I wanted to 'cause sometimes I do a bit too far. When I click on option or alt and I hold the mask down, you'll see Bella's brush strokes and it's quite beautiful. You can see the artistic strokes come through. It's like the blueprint of Bella. You can see the lady. Yeah, that's quite nice. Yeah, that's actually really interesting to be able to see-- So this is the burn? Yeah. Right? Yeah. And this is what the actual burn did. It just contoured a little bit. It just contoured a little bit, yeah. And then the dodge itself did more of the work, 'cause again, I guess the emphasis was on bringing attention to her. Yeah, that's right. I think, yeah, that's absolutely right. It made her stand out a bit more from the rest of the scene. Shall we take a look at the before and after now? Okay. You ready? Yeah. So, we have the before frame, and then our extension, as well as adding the flare, and finally, extending the hair as well. Yeah.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Practice PSD File - Sleeping Beauty
Pratik Naik Retouching Actions
The Royal Collection - Fine Art Actions
Practice PSD File - Location Shoot (~700mb)
Practice PSD File - In Studio Shoot (~1.3gb)

Ratings and Reviews


Great class and great instructors. Genuine and informative. Practical tips to create stunning images. Seeing them work through the process from shoot to finished image was great and I loved that they shared the thought processes behind the creative decisions. Definitely recommended!


Truly a remarkable duo. Bella is so down-to-earth and humble for a photographer with such a strong beautiful and ethereal voice. Her explanations of her process really inspired me--I was sketching concepts throughout the class. Pratik's process really opened my eyes to "smart" retouching--understanding what can be done in fewer brush strokes and slimmer PS files. All in all a really unique and inspiring class that makes me excited to realize my next conceptual shoot. They're also adorable together!

Mai Her

I've gained sooooo much from this I can't even contain my appreciation and excitement! So much inspiration and so much generous advice and tips to help me! Thank you so much Bella and Pratik and Creative Live!

Student Work