PPT: Post Processing Technique.
Processing your digital images is a source of major enjoyment to some. To others, it is a painful task. Whatever the case may be, we can all agree that adding the “little extra” that post processing affords can really spruce up your digital images.
Dodge and Burn with 50% Layer(s)
Dodging and burning is a term that has been carried over from the old film days that is simply lightening and darkening portions of the image. In lightroom, this is done with an adjustment brush and you can alter the lightness (or darkness) values with the sliders within the Adjustment Brush panel. It works well and many choose to use this technique for its super simple and straightforward operation. There is exposure, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks, etc that can be altered within the adjustment brush.
Photoshop has it’s own set of dodge and burn tools built right into the application and they are in the tools panel and have been for many years. These two options let you select specific tonal regions (highs, mids, shadows) from within the options in the tool itself. This method is also a fairly straight forward technique and one that works well. Many like to use Photoshop for editing over Lightroom because it simply works smoother and you have many more tools at your disposal. It is considered an “old school” technique because it was and has been a tool inside of Photoshop for many years. Unfortunately It is also a destructive way of editing because you are working on a pixel based layer and that means you are actually altering those pixels instead of having a non destructive edit which can easily be altered or simply taken away if you decide the changes aren’t what you want.
There is a more advanced method of dodging and burning in Photoshop that allows you to change blend modes to get different looks from dodging and burning with the brush tool. The ability to alter the brush tips and angles of the tip is a feature in Photoshop that is not available Lightroom. Here is how to make these 50% grey dodge and burn layers.
- Create a New Layer by hitting CMD/CTRL+SHIFT+N
- Name this layer DODGE & BURN
- Choose “Overlay” for the blend mode and check the box to Fill with 50% Grey
This creates a layer that is fully grey but since it is in the “Overlay” blend mode, it appears as a transparent layer. When you apply brush strokes to this layer using the “B”rush tool, a white brush will brighten the pixels under this layer and a black brush will darken the pixels. These colors can be changed also. This allows you to dodge and burn in color, perhaps using the color picker tool (easily accessed while using the brush tool by holding down ALT/OPT when brush is being used) to grab colors from within the image. This can really be helpful when adding highlights to a scene and you want to take colors already in that image such as a golden hour photo.
You can also use the “Softlight” blend mode to get a similar effect but the dodging and burning isn’t as contrast rich as the “Overlay” mode. It is a more flat, evened out lighting and darkening of the pixels. It works best with darker colors as the blacks can sometime “block up” and create undesirable effects in the shadow area. Using Softlight blend mode lessens the contrast and gives you a more flat adjustment. These adjustments are EXTREMELY powerful when used in conjunction with selections that are based on luminosity values. Dodge and Burn methods that use luminosity selections can create some fantastic images.
Many people who use this technique, myself included, use two separate layers for Dodge and Burn. The Dodge layer set to “Overlay Mode” and the Burn layer set to “Softlight Mode” work very well. Experiment with this and make sure to use a brush with a low opacity or flow so that you are gradually adding the alteration in subtle strokes. A little goes a long way and can and will really change how an image looks.
If you make an error, there is a simple way to paint back the 50% grey on the later. Go to the layer and click the eyeball for that layer while holding down OPT/ALT. It will reveal this grey layer. Simply using the brush tool, press OPT/ALT to choose an area of 50% grey and now use this brush to paint back over the area you want to fix. A very simple way to repair these 50% grey layers.