Modern day photographers have a multitude of tricks and software that they can use to enhance any photograph. Sometimes the simplest trick is one that has been used since the beginning the history of photography itself, dodging and burning. Dodging and burning is used to control the exposure of specified areas of a photograph. Very often, available light may not fall at the right angle or an image may not be properly exposed to adequately distinguish between areas of lightness and darkness in an photo’s subject. Many factors contribute to the incorrect balance of light and dark: exposure, time of day, white balance or the use of an external flash. Often, an image looks fine when it is displayed on the back of a digital camera. But an image that is flatly lit will display quite uninteresting at its full size.
Dodging and burning improves an image’s contrast, the relationship between dark and light, and adds more depth and interest to the overall subject. Professional photographers have been using this technique in the dark room and in the field long before the digital photography revolution had replaced film.
Most photography software today offers a dodge and burn tool or feature to help give today’s photographers the same ability that was once used excessively by those artists processing film.
Before you go off and purchase expensive software with all the many filters and gadgets attached, consider mastering the art of dodge and burn. It is fun. It is artistic. It is a personal relationship between you and your photograph. If is usually all that is needed to bring a flat lit image to life.
BEFORE: A flat lit photograph
AFTER: Dodge and Burn Technique Applied