How do you use dodge and burn in post-process to enhance a photograph?

In lightroom, I've used dodge only to dial back some of the more drastic global settings in specific areas, but that's really it.

I'm curious what techniques are out there (tutorials or otherwise) on using dodge and burn.

  • Could I suggest adding 'digital' to the question somehow, anticipating that we might get questions about real dodging/burning eventually?
    – ex-ms
    Jul 27 '10 at 20:21
  • @matt: good point. done.
    – Alan
    Jul 27 '10 at 23:41

Dodge and Burn normally applies when you want to change the relative exposure of part of an image.

In Lightroom you can do this with an adjustment brush that you set to change the exposure or brightness (there is a difference)

In Photoshop and GIMP there are specific tools for Dodge and Burn that you can also use like a paintbrush. For example you may be happy with the general exposure of an image but may just want to burn (darken) the edge of a cloud or dodge (lighten) someone's eyes to make them "pop".

Here is a Photoshop tutorial on the technique


I like the way a burning vignette produces a more realistic result as opposed to a simple "fade to black". It affects the colors as well, and gives a little bit more contrast, and I prefer the look.


You can dodge and burn to make textures pop by applying contrast selectively - for example, on someone's clothes, you would burn the creases and darker areas and dodge parts where light is already striking.

  • 1
    Just to clarify, when you say "burn the creases and darker areas" -- so make the darker areas even darker? "dodge parts where light is already striking" -- so, make lighter areas even lighter?
    – jetset
    May 30 '14 at 19:12

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