Photoshop 101: Dodging and Burning

Have you ever been around people that understand photography and Photoshop and they throw around terms like dodging and burning?

Well here is a quick explanation and tutorial on what these terms mean and how you can use them to enhance your own pictures!

Dodging is simply a tool that helps brighten certain areas of images that were underexposed at the time the picture was taken.

On the contrary, burning is then darkening an image.  This technique is typically used as a measure of artistic rendering and does not effectively darken overexposed pictures.

After opening up your picture in Photoshop, select the dodge or burn tool (as described and pictured above).

In this image pictured below, you see it in all of its “Out of the Camera” awfulness!

It is difficult to manipulate settings on your camera while going in and out of a wide range of lighting situations.  In this case, the couple had just been married and were in a second line parade back to their reception site.  (I also was photographing while violently ill with food poisoning!)

So, the first thing that I need to do is to lighten my image by creating a curves layer.

Once this is complete I used the dodge tool to darken the outside of the picture.  This creates a line of sight for the person viewing the image to focus on what is important ~ in this case it was the bride and groom.

In addition, I had a great perspective of the street.  Utilizing the dodge tool, I was able to create what looked like tread wear, from French Quarter traffic, to lighten up the street and create another line of sight directing the eye to the couple.

Here is the image after editing:

Using the dodge and burn tools take much practice, but when used effectively, can create a great artistic touch and enhancement to any picture!


Melanie is the owner of Melanie Melugin Photography, LLC based out of North Dallas. She is a natural light outdoor lifestyle photographer that has a wide variety of clients ranging from newborn and children to celebrity and weddings.  She travels the country capturing lifestyle portraiture and was recently featured on for her newborn photography.

Please feel free to visit her at her website,, her blog, or follow her on Facebook and Twitter!



  1. 1

    wow, that’s an amazing difference. I had never even heard of those terms before! I love taking photos, I have been relying on the automatic settings, not always the greatest!

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