Photoshop Technique: Dodging and Burning

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: December 17, 2010

Category: General

Following on from the recent Samurai Posts I thought I’d cover some of the Post Production techniques I used in Photoshop to get the final overall look.

The first technique I’ll cover involves how I worked on Mike’s skin in the 3/4 length composite. Time wise I guess I worked on his skin for about 45 minutes to an hour to finally get to the point where I was happy with the final look; but that’s not because the techniques are difficult but more a case of actually knowing when to stop.

So what did I do?
Technique 1:
The first stage called for some dodging and burning. Prior to CS5 one of the problems with using the built in dodge and burn tools, in particular the burn tool, was that it would not only darken an area but also over saturate the colours. Now in CS5 this issue has been addressed with the addition of a ‘Protect Tones’ check box which does a pretty good job:

However I do still feel that saturation is affected more than I’d like, so my workaround is to perform all dodging and burning on their own 50% grey layers. All I do is create 2 new layers, fill them with 50% grey and then rename one layer ‘Dodge’ and the other ‘Burn’. The blend mode of the dodge layer is changed to soft light and the blend mode of the burn layer is changed to overlay.

Then using the dodge and burn tools, both generally set at around 10% opacity, I’ll then work on each layer independently changing between the Shadows, Midtones and Highlights depending on what part of the skin I’m working on i.e. under the chin and nose the ‘Range’ was set to Shadows. Sometimes I’ll lower the opacity to 5% but the general way of working is that I’ll increase the effect by applying it over and over in certain areas. If the effect appears too strong I can then just lower that layers opacity.

This initial ‘Dodge and Burn’ stage is not something that I’ll rush. I’ll frequently walk away from an image having done some dodging and burning and then return to it to see if it needs any more doing to it. This works better for me rather than just sitting down for an extended period of time staring at the same picture; walking away and then returning helps me to see what I’ve done with ‘new eyes’ if that makes sense. That being said, dodging and burning is all about personal taste so my advice would be to just ‘play’ with this and see what works for you.

Technique 2:
Having manually dodged and burned the image, I then used a technique that I recorded a video tutorial for a short while back, and called the ‘Hollywood Abs Technique’, in dedication to Photoshop Wizard Calvin Hollywood. This particular technique does a superb job of enhancing the dodging and burning from the first stage and adds that little extra bit of magic to the final look.

Admittedly in the video you may find it a little difficult to see the results it achieves but believe me it does work and is a killer of a technique that I use on almost 100% of my images.

Before & After
In the images below you can see the ‘before’ and ‘after’ showing the difference that the dodging and burning made to Mike’s face in the final edited picture:

Next week I’ll be posting another editing technique from this Samurai Shoot showing how to quickly combine images to create realistic looking composites, but in the mean time if you have any questions or comments at all about the techniques in this post then as always feel free to make use of the comments section below.

Right, a weekend of last minute Christmas Shopping beckons, so have a good one and I’ll catch up with you in a couple of days.
Enjoy 🙂

Keep up with Glyn ‘Day to Day’ on Twitter
Get more ‘Behind the Scenes’ by becoming a ‘Fan on Facebook’

You may also like…

Interviewed by Ron Clifford
Interviewed by Ron Clifford

A few weeks back I was invited onto Ron Clifford YouTube LIVE Channel to speak with him about all things photography....


  1. DaveT


    Another excellent tip. Your experience of Photoshop shines through in the way that you are able to offer these great workarounds. I’ve just upgraded to CS5 and loaded it the other day, so I look forward to having a go with this tip in the coming week.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge


    • Glyn

      @DaveT…Great to hear you’ve updated to CS5…you’ll love it! 🙂

  2. evrimc

    Hey Glyn great post. I am wondering about where can you find stock photos for background?

    • Glyn

      Hi Mate. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. With regards to the stock photos for backgrounds, I use istockphoto at this address:

      Hope that helps,
      Glyn 🙂

  3. Claudio von grubens

    Hi glyn,

    that’s a cool tip – especially as i never use the burn/dodge tool! i’m really lookin forward to more tips that kind a way!


    • Glyn

      @Claudio…Great to hear you like the tutorial; thanks for commenting 🙂

  4. Rishi

    Your generosity in doling out all of this great info is overwhelming. Thanks a ton!



  1. There’s no escape…It all starts ‘in camera’ » Glyn Dewis Blog - [...] In an earlier post I included a complete walk through of this technique plus another for ‘super fast’ dodging…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *