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Sometimes, the light you shoot just isn’t quite the light you wanted. And you sit there, staring at the image in front of you in Photoshop, wondering HOW on earth you can make it better. Well, dodging and burning is your best friend. Dodging is simply adding highlights to an image and burning is the opposite, deepening the shadows. Back in the old days when we spent copious hours in the darkroom, dodging and burning was done under the enlarger when light was passed through a film negative onto the actual photo paper. It was a lot of guessing, trial and error and trashed prints. You see, you could only see the results of your dodging and burning once you submerged the photo paper into the developing solution. So, you didn’t know what you got until you developed it. I can remember doing dozens of test prints on just one image to get it right.


  • Look for the shadows. One of the easiest ways to see the light is to look for the shadows. The shadows tell you where the light is coming from and how hard the light source is.
  • Don’t over do it. Go slow and build up your dodge and burning. Trying to do too much at once makes your image muddy and messy.
  • Remember the “fall off” rule. Light falls off (or fades away) because of a thing called the inverse square law. It fades off a subject faster, the closer the subject is to the light source. The further the light source is from the subject the softer the fall off gradient. Nowadays, Photoshop is our darkroom and our best friend in digital photography. What you see is exactly what you get and there are dozens of ways to attempt dodging and burning using different PS techniques. Today, we are going to look at just one, but it’s one that is very effective and customizable to each image. So, check out the video on to see step-by-step how I dodge and burn using Curves Adjustment Layers and Layer Masking.

Want more help with Photoshop? Have a look at our Everyday Post-Processing For Newborns course. I’ll walk you through all the common problems with babies and how to get smooth creamy, delicious skin tones. Plus, how using the liquefy tool can really help your parent images!

This Jewel TV episode comes with our FREE Dodge and Burn Action for Photoshop! Get it inside

Share, like, tweet and comment below. What issues do you run into with dodging and burning? Show us your before and afters with the hashtag #jeweltv.

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