The Photoshop Dodge and Burn tool is an easy way to solve exposure issues, enabling you to darken or lighten areas as you please. Traditionally, printers would use special tools to Dodge and Burn, but today digital tools can be used. One main difference is that the digital photographer can work these tools more accurately, choosing the Burn options to darken or Dodge to lighten. This’ll give you more tonal control allowing you to quickly lift a flat image, create paths of light, or enhance shadows and reflections.
How to adjust tones with the Dodge and Burn tool
Step 1: Check the tones
Open the shot in Photoshop CS and duplicate the Background Layer. Create a new Levels Layer and set a Gray Point. Check the histogram, which shows there’s little black or white information (find out How to read a histogram).
Step 2: Increase contrast
Hold down Alt and move the Shadow slider until you see the Clipping Mask appear, then release. Repeat this for the Highlights slider and click OK. The image’s contrasts and tones should have improved.
Step 3: Select a Brush
With Dodge and Burn, subtlety is key, so use a large Brush of 200-300 and reduce hardness to 0 and Exposure to 5%. When you’re working with Dodge, switch Range to Highlights; in Burn switch to Shadows.
Step 4: Burn the shadows
The contrast in the rock needs to be increased. Use the Burn tool to make sweeps over the rock face. Use the Dodge tool on other areas to darken shadows.
Step 5: Dodge highlights
The Dodge tool can destroy image quality, so should be used in moderation. Apply it to the central section of rock to add impact. Use it to pick out reflections in the sea.
Or if you want to try something, Photoshop offers a number of tone adjustment tools…
Photoshop’s Exposure Toolkit
Photoshop CS and Elements have a wealth of tools to tackle almost any exposure issue. They vary in complexity from the very basic slider adjustments in Exposure and Brightness to CS’s Parametric Curves. Depending on the issue, the package you’re using and your skill level, one of these tools should help. The following aids form the basis of exposure adjustment. Learning what they do should help you master exposure issues (learn more about exposure with Dial M for… Your exposure modes exposed).
Use this crucial tool to gauge tonal information when it comes to exposure. The histogram shows shadows on the left and highlights on the right. Use Levels to correct colour casts. Move sliders to the histogram edge to improve contrast.
If you’ve made Levels Adjustments to correct the White Balance and moved the Black and White points, the central slider indicates Gamma (midtone) areas. By adjusting this point, you can give more preference to the shadows or highlights.
The Curves tool in Elements and CS gives you greater control over tones, meaning that you can adjust shadow, midtone and highlight contrast individually. Curves in CS also enables you to add your own custom adjustment points.
Exposure and Brightness
The Exposure and Brightness sliders can lighten or darken shots. In Elements, use Exposure through the ACR screen when opening a file. Exposure enables three points of adjustment in CS, plus White Balance tools for basic exposure issues.
Shadows and Highlights
Adjust the brightness and darkness of shadows and highlights through these sliders. Fine-tune them using the Tonal Width and Radius sliders. These can help you correct natural exposure issues or can be increased to create pseudo-HDR effects (see how to Make HDR images from 2 exposures).