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Dodging and Burning for Selective Contrast (CS2 and CS3)

The purpose of this lesson is to teach you a marvelous technique for adjusting and localizing contrast. Let' look at a simple "after" and "before" picture to illustrate what we are after. The idea here is to make the photo a little more interesting. The "before" photo has been converted from a raw file from the D200 with the histogram showing that all tones were captured. This, of course, might make the image a little flat at first, but you know you have all the tones. If you are a perfectionist you might even start with a 16 bit image instead of the faster and smaller 8 bit (like this one). This will be a SIMPLE tutorial. The idea is to teach the concept. I expect that as you experiment you will learn much more.

Before we start, notice that the clouds are a little weak and have some blown highlights. As this photo came from a raw file, it was a simple matter (less than a minute) to do a double raw conversion and expose one conversion for the clouds and one for the landscape. See Luminance Masking (lesson #9 above). Using levels I adjusted the mask and the two photos. I used the Erase Tool (to erase or paint white) the portion of the mask I didn't  want with a large soft brush. I then saved as a PSD and flattened for this lesson and saved as a tiff.

Now it's your turn.

1- Let's start by burning in the corners slightly. This directs the eye towards the center of interest (photographers have used this technique for a 100 years - and longer for painters). In PS CS2 (or CS3). Select  the Burn Tool (the icon showing the hand with the open finger-thumb). At the top of the page are options. Set Range to Shadows and Exposure to 25%.  Make sure you use a VERY large brush size with Hardness set to 0.

2- Now, use the Dodge Tool. It is found in the same place. Use the small arrow (lower right hand side) inside the selection box. Right click this arrow. This gives you the option of Dodge, Burn, Sponge.  Set the Range to Highlights and Exposure to 24%. Dodge the highlights to bring out contrast and detail in certain areas. This will be a judgment call but you will get better as you practice. Trying using different size brushes. I prefer a VERY large brush size but more specific detailed can be adjusted with a smaller brush.

3- Go back, and with the Burn Tool continue enhancing the blacks (shadows).  What you have done is Dodge the highlights (make lighter) and Burn the shadows (make darker). In essence, seamlessly changing only the contrast in areas of your choice.

That's it! I told you it was simple.