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My retouching style is very dodge and burn based. I will usually run a frequency separation to get the detail and texure on a different layer than my tone layer, then I work for a bit to minimize distracting elements on those two layers. After that it’s time for some good old fashioned dodgin’ and burnin’.

I set up a new layer and usually put it on “Overlay” blend mode. Then I paint with either black or white over areas that I want to either darken or lighten. I usually lighten eyes, cheekbones and the lower brow, and darken cheek hollows, necks and parts of the image that read as being farther away from the camera. I usually try and keep in mind how the light is hitting the subject and place highlights and shadows appropriately.

Dodging and Burning is a powerful way to define shapes in your picture. Just a little bit of lightening and darkening on a flat area can make an object appear very three dimensional and dynamic.

The Power of Dodging and Burning

The Power of Dodging and Burning

 

Back to my portrait up there, you can see I’ve fixed the side of my nose that was getting too much light, which makes it look a bit straighter. I also put a bit more light in my eyes and on my cheekbones, drawing a bit more focus there. Remember that the eye is drawn to the part of the image that has the most contrast, decide where that should be (I chose my eyes/the center of my face) and then lighten and darken to taste.

One painting trick for creating the illusion of depth is to have repeating dark areas next to light areas. And if you look at this finished image, I’ve done a bit of that. This style of lighting lends itself to that light-dark-light kind of interpretation, which wouldn’t make sense with an image shot in a flatter or softer type of lighting situation.

So those are some ideas for creating more dynamic portraits through Dodging and Burning. It’s not a perfect solution for every image, and it can be easy to overdo it, but when you do it subtly it can be an incredible tool.

TimLewisPhotography-Tonal-LightDark2

After

After