Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Dodging And Burning In Photoshop Using Curves

How would you like to have ultimate control of your dodging and  (D&B) in Adobe Photoshop (PS)?  I have to confess, lately I've been doing a lot of D&B using the Adjustment Brush in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (LR).  You can go either way, but last night I was asked about D&B in PS.  I've written about the technique a few times before, but I guess it's time to revisit it.  A buddy of mine has the "Photographer's Bundle" from Adobe.  She pays her $9.99 (in the US) each month and doesn't use LR at all.  She says she looked at it and thought it looked complex.  Complex?  Compared to PS it's simplicity itself.  Another friend in the conversation said he now uses LR for 90 - 95% of his work.  I agree, I probably use LR 100% of the time that I'm not doing composites or things that require Layers.  The only reason to go to PS is to do things that absolutely can't be done (or are easier to do in PS) in LR.  To find out how to use Curves Adjustment Layers in PS to do your D&B, hit the "Read More".

I'm not the one who came up with this technique.  I'd give credit, but don't know who I'd give credit to.  I've seen it explained on Youtube and written about online and in magazines.  It's around.  It gives much greater control than using PS's Dodge & Burn Tools (O).  It doesn't alter the colors of the image like using a 50% gray Layer and alternating between a White and a Black Brush Tool (B).  It uses the colors found in the original image.  The amount of control is total, 100%, the best I've seen.

As you can see in the screen shot I've included today this example has four Layers.  The base Layer was played with in LR before coming over to PS.  The contrast was increased to the point of being pretty blocky.  The purpose was to get rid of some very light, out of focus material in the lower left corner.  It could have been done other ways, but I was playing.  So, what came over was a highly saturated, low detail image.  That's what happens occasionally when you're going for something artsy.

Layer 1 is just cleaning up a few stray marks on the image and really doesn't have anything to do with today's discussion.

The key is the two Curves Adjustment Layers.  As you can see, the upper one is marked Highlights and the lower Shadows.  It really doesn't matter which order they're in.  It'll work either way because no two lines touch either other, so there's no interference between the two.  What's pictured is the Highlights curve. 

In order to follow where I've marked I'll set the Brush (B) size to about 10 pixels and the Hardness to 95%.  This gives very distinct marks on the Adjustment Layers Layer Masks.  This means the D&B areas can be seen with no problem,  You don't have to ask yourself "did I hit that area already?"  It's very visible.  The Mask is filled with Black and, for both dodging and burning the Brush color is set to white.

The curve (shown) for the Highlights is pulled way up about one third of the way in for pure white.  The Shadows curve is pulled down in a similar fashion, in from black.  At this point it really doesn't matter as long as the image is very changed. 

Typically I'll start marking the image with the Shadows.  Everywhere a shadow needs to be darkened I'll put a line.  Pen pressure (or mouse click) also doesn't matter.  I'll press the pen point down nice and hard to make the marks.  Areas that are already dark will get a darker line.  Areas that are lighter (but still should be shadows) appear to be lighter.  Same pen pressure.  It's picking up the density of the area being marked.

Right next to every line I lay down as a Shadow will get a corresponding Highlight line.  Just spaced a little off of the Shadow line toward the direction of the "sunlight".  (Or main light in a studio setup.)  The mantra for this is to keep putting a Highlight next to a Shadow.  This forms definition in the image.  If you want to have something recede, put a Highlight on each side of a Shadow.  To make something appear to come forward, put a Shadow on both sides of a Highlight.

The next step is to Blur both of the Layer Masks.  In more recent versions of PS you have that adjustment in the Curves Adjustment Layer Dialog Box.  I'll start at about a thirty pixel blur and adjust up or down as needed.  Click the Visibility Icon (the eyeball) off and on to see if you're getting the effect your looking for.

The final tweak available is playing with the curve itself.  Grab the point originally set down and move it around to see what it does.  Depending on how it's moved the Highlights (or Shadows) will get darker or lighter. 

Between the Blur and the movement of the curve you have infinite control (and flexibility) in your Dodging and Burning.

Try it, you'll like it.