How To Dodge & Burn with Curves

 

dodge and burn with curves

As a photo lab tech at the local community college, I see a lot of film images every week.  Many of them start off rough, but I’m always amazed by how much they can be improved in the darkroom. With a little contrast and some dodging and burning, the difference is usually night and day.

In the age of digital, most images go straight to the web, but a lot of them could use the same TLC. Film may be dead, but the old techniques of dodging and burning still work.

In Photoshop, this arduous analog process is made easy.  There are many techniques, but I prefer to dodge and burn with curves because the process is easily modified after the fact.

How to Dodge and Burn with Curves

Step One

Create a curves adjustment layer

Menu ->Layers -> New Adjustment Layer -> Curves

Name the layer “Burn”

Lower exposure by pulling down center of curve

Step Two

Select curves layer mask and invert it (it should be black)

Crtl I – Win
Cmd I – Mac

Step Three

Select a brush and set to o% hardness and 7% opacity

Brush color should be white

Select the Curves layer mask and set layer blendmode to luminosity

Slowly brush areas that need to be darkened

Burn Layer

Step Four

Create a curves adjustment layer

Menu ->Layers -> New Adjustment Layer -> Curves

Name the layer “Dodge”

Increase exposure by lifting center of curve

Step Five

Select curves layer mask and invert it (it should be black)

Crtl I – Win
Cmd I – Mac

Step Six

Select a brush and set to o% hardness and 7% opacity

Brush color should be white

Select the Curves layer mask and set layer blendmode to luminosity

Slowly brush areas that need to be lightened

dodge layer

 

Final Steps

If the work is complete and you need to make changes, just paint back the mask or adjust the curve.  It’s that simple.  If you want to do more, just add another curves layer and make some more adjustments.  By working on a curve layer, flexibility is built in and changes be made down the road.

 

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