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Lesson 5 from: Local Dodging and Burning for Beauty Retouching

Chris Knight

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Lesson Info

5. Transitions

Next Lesson: Image Clean-up

Lesson Info


What we're actually looking for and this is probably the part that most people have the greatest obstacles with is just being able to recognize these transitions in the skin or microtransitions in the skin. So before we can even get into local dodging and burning, we actually have to know what we're looking for and we have to be able to recognize these little hills and valleys. And the more you do this, the better you will become. Don't necessarily expect yourself to be an expert at being able to dial in everything you're looking at right off the bat, but know that it will come in time and the more you train your eye, the better you'll be. Now every face has transitions. Back in the film day, you would photograph someone and you'd see all of these imperfections in the skin, so people would work around it. They'd use a combination of overexposure or printing on a high contrast paper in development and dodging and burning. And they would actually be trying to achieve what is fundamentall...

y the same thing we are trying to achieve. But because of modern cameras and their ability to see more tonal information, we have a lot more to work with. What we are doing here, local dodging and burning, it's rooted in the same sensiabilities that have been done for decades in processing of people. And because technology has evolved, we need to evolve with our techniques as well and we have the ability to come in and really work the image at an extremely microlevel. So we first have to recognize these transitions and then we have to be able to make the changes to them and specifically lightning the dark areas and darkening the light areas. We can equalize out these hills and valleys. This is gonna fix blotchiness to a degree. Sometimes discoloration. You can also tweak the colors a little bit after this. Because we are dodging and burning, you will sometimes get certain color shifts, which will need to be effected later, but by in large we're just effecting tone. And for that reason, the next three images that I'm gonna show you are all in black and white, so that all we concentrate on is the tone. Color can sometimes get in the way. When we're doing local dodging and burning, we are actually working in black and white anyway. It helps us visualize what we're doing. It just strips away what we don't need and it becomes a little bit less confusing to us. So here was the image as it was started. After a little bit of clean up, a little bit of healing, most people have issues in these problem areas, under the eye, by the nose and by the mouth. Super common for almost everyone. Those areas usually get a lot of attention when it comes to local dodging and burning. And it doesn't seem all that extreme here. So when we work on these images and we're gonna work through this, we're actually gonna crank up the contrast and make it very dark. So we can actually see more clearly what we're working on and it's going to make the skin look terrible. It is absolutely going to make it look terrible, that's the point. It's so that you can see where all the problems are and what you need to fix. And you can see it's a lot easier to see what we're working with. This was what ended up happening in terms of my dodging and burning. Again, you can see a lot more dodging than burning. And it's also quite surgical. You'll see that we're not slathering on brush strokes here and a lot of it. It's sometimes very, very precise, very small work. And what we ended up with was this. There's still dimension to the skin. There's still shape. It doesn't feel flat. Before. After. Before. After. And this wasn't too extensive of a retouch. This one was I'd say probably about 30 minutes for the whole face. Not too bad. And depending upon the person, depending upon the light, it can be a short amount of time or it can be much, much longer. There are definitely the images that have taken me an hour and a half to a couple hours to do this step. Again, it depends on the resolution of the camera as well. The higher your resolution, a lot more time you're gonna spend doing this. Here's another example. And so the texture is a little bit more defined on the face. So that means all of my work within this is gonna be a lot more detailed than it was in the previous image. Even though the light's pretty soft, I do know that I'm gonna have to come in and fix a few of the things. Again, under the eye, by the nose, and even a little bit more on the cheek because this is not uncommon. But the work here once you exaggerate it really shows the texture. And for this particular image, I wanted to soften it up quite a bit more and so what ended up happening was the amount of work that had to be done to equalize out the texture here was quite a bit more than in the previous image. This was probably an hour to an hour and a half of work to compare for the whole face. But what we ended up with was this. Before. After. Foreheads as well, notorious for having to a little bit of work, especially most people have the big piece across the middle. That's just something that human beings have. Between the eyes is also another common area where you need to soften out that transition. And then she happened to have just a little bit of a discoloration over on the right hand side as well, so that became a problem area for me. Lightning the dark, darkening the light, balanced it out a little bit and we ended up with something that looks like this. Before and after.

Ratings and Reviews

Andreas Böhrnsen

Great course on dodging and burning and beauty retouching in general. Think he went through all the steps very thoroughly. Well explained and overall a good course. Would highly recommend it to anyone into portrait and beauty photography.

Bjorn Carlen

A highly recommended class! Chris Knight is super efficient and tremendously clear an instructor. He manages to sqeeze so much useful information and tips into this hour, that I have to go back and revisit several times before i get it all. That may say something anout me myself, but I think also about the efficiency of the instructor. Very good!


I have viewed many Creative Live classes and rank this one among the best. Chris very effectively organized his class to impart knowledge. He Starts with an overview and summary level walk thru of the process and then goes into details and does an actual retouch. He concludes with a lesson on what can go wrong and provides practice images. I highly recommend this class to anyone seeking to learn Dodge and Burn. Thank-you Chris for a great educational experience!

Student Work