My Favorite Way of Dodging and Burning in Lightroom
Dodging and Burning is an amazing way to add depth to your images. Take, for instance, these images. The one on the left is before any dodging or burning, and the one on the right is the finished product. See the Difference?
Dodging and burning can add lots of dimension if you spend a bit of time to make it look good. So, without further ado, here is my technique. Start by opening up your image in Lightroom's develop module and grabbing the adjustments brush. You can do this by clicking on the icon () or by pressing "K". Once you have the brush open, now we can begin. We will start by editing our brush settings. The size of the brush doesn't matter because we will change that as we use the too. However, the rest of the settings do matter. Your feather should be at 100 so you get a soft edge, the flow (this i
s the key to the whole thing) should be set to 5, auto mask should be off (unchecked), and your density should stay at 100. Here is what it should all look like: Now that our brush is configured, we can get to the fun part. Begin by resetting your brush so everything is at zero. Then, click somewhere on your image that you believe you want to burn. You won't see any change yet.
Now, drag the exposure slider all the way down to -4.
You shouldn't see much happen, but if you look, the area where you painted will be sightly darker. You are now ready to paint. As you paint you will notice that the more you go over an area the darker it gets. This is the magic of using a low flow. By configuring your brush the way we did, we can make small adjustments or big adjustments naturally. As you work, don't change the flow of your brush. If you want an area to be burned darker simply paint over it a few more times. In my image, you can see that I have varying amounts of burning added all over my image as shown by the red overlay.
When you are ready to dodge an area, simply create a new brush and repeat the process but pull your exposure up to +4 rather than down. Once you have both your dodging and your burning brushes creates you can switch between the two as you edit your image.
- Graceson Aufderheide