Photoshop Technique: Dodging and Burning

Following on from the recent Samurai Posts I thought I’d cover some of the Post Production techniques I used in Photoshop to get the final overall look.

The first technique I’ll cover involves how I worked on Mike’s skin in the 3/4 length composite. Time wise I guess I worked on his skin for about 45 minutes to an hour to finally get to the point where I was happy with the final look; but that’s not because the techniques are difficult but more a case of actually knowing when to stop.

So what did I do?
Technique 1:
The first stage called for some dodging and burning. Prior to CS5 one of the problems with using the built in dodge and burn tools, in particular the burn tool, was that it would not only darken an area but also over saturate the colours. Now in CS5 this issue has been addressed with the addition of a ‘Protect Tones’ check box which does a pretty good job:

However I do still feel that saturation is affected more than I’d like, so my workaround is to perform all dodging and burning on their own 50% grey layers. All I do is create 2 new layers, fill them with 50% grey and then rename one layer ‘Dodge’ and the other ‘Burn’. The blend mode of the dodge layer is changed to soft light and the blend mode of the burn layer is changed to overlay.

Then using the dodge and burn tools, both generally set at around 10% opacity, I’ll then work on each layer independently changing between the Shadows, Midtones and Highlights depending on what part of the skin I’m working on i.e. under the chin and nose the ‘Range’ was set to Shadows. Sometimes I’ll lower the opacity to 5% but the general way of working is that I’ll increase the effect by applying it over and over in certain areas. If the effect appears too strong I can then just lower that layers opacity.

This initial ‘Dodge and Burn’ stage is not something that I’ll rush. I’ll frequently walk away from an image having done some dodging and burning and then return to it to see if it needs any more doing to it. This works better for me rather than just sitting down for an extended period of time staring at the same picture; walking away and then returning helps me to see what I’ve done with ‘new eyes’ if that makes sense. That being said, dodging and burning is all about personal taste so my advice would be to just ‘play’ with this and see what works for you.

Technique 2:
Having manually dodged and burned the image, I then used a technique that I recorded a video tutorial for a short while back, and called the ‘Hollywood Abs Technique’, in dedication to Photoshop Wizard Calvin Hollywood. This particular technique does a superb job of enhancing the dodging and burning from the first stage and adds that little extra bit of magic to the final look.

Admittedly in the video you may find it a little difficult to see the results it achieves but believe me it does work and is a killer of a technique that I use on almost 100% of my images.

Before & After
In the images below you can see the ‘before’ and ‘after’ showing the difference that the dodging and burning made to Mike’s face in the final edited picture:

Next week I’ll be posting another editing technique from this Samurai Shoot showing how to quickly combine images to create realistic looking composites, but in the mean time if you have any questions or comments at all about the techniques in this post then as always feel free to make use of the comments section below.

Right, a weekend of last minute Christmas Shopping beckons, so have a good one and I’ll catch up with you in a couple of days.

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  • December 18, 2010 - 7:22 am

    DaveT - Glyn,

    Another excellent tip. Your experience of Photoshop shines through in the way that you are able to offer these great workarounds. I’ve just upgraded to CS5 and loaded it the other day, so I look forward to having a go with this tip in the coming week.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge


  • December 19, 2010 - 9:31 am

    Glyn - @DaveT…Great to hear you’ve updated to CS5…you’ll love it! :)

  • December 19, 2010 - 11:07 am

    evrimc - Hey Glyn great post. I am wondering about where can you find stock photos for background?

  • December 19, 2010 - 11:46 am

    Glyn - Hi Mate. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. With regards to the stock photos for backgrounds, I use istockphoto at this address:

    Hope that helps,
    Glyn :)

  • December 20, 2010 - 9:28 am

    Claudio von grubens - Hi glyn,

    that’s a cool tip – especially as i never use the burn/dodge tool! i’m really lookin forward to more tips that kind a way!


  • December 21, 2010 - 5:56 am

    Glyn - @Claudio…Great to hear you like the tutorial; thanks for commenting :)

  • February 4, 2011 - 11:38 am

    There’s no escape…It all starts ‘in camera’ » Glyn Dewis Blog - [...] In an earlier post I included a complete walk through of this technique plus another for ‘super fast’ dodging and burning and you can find them both here [Link] [...]

  • February 23, 2011 - 7:05 am

    Rishi - Your generosity in doling out all of this great info is overwhelming. Thanks a ton!

Meet my good friend A.J. Wood

Regular readers of this blog will recognise the name A.J.Wood; a great friend of mine from Dallas, Texas who runs Media Cats; a Digital Media Training Company and also who just happens to be the one of the most incredible instructors in all things Adobe:

I first met A.J. at a Photoshop World Convention in Las Vegas a few years back and we’ve remained great friends ever since. I can remember being sat together during a workshop by Photographer and Photoshop Hall of Famer Eddie Tapp, and watching A.J. tinkering away on his MacBook Pro effortlessly creating all manner of designs from scratch.

A.J.’s knowledge of Photoshop and Lightroom to name but a few of the Adobe products he’s mastered is mind blowing and that combined with a natural flair for teaching makes him someone I would suggest that if you don’t know already then you really need to.

I’m constantly in a state of learning and as a consequence every day despite the work I have to get through, will always give up some time to learning more tips and techniques in Photoshop and Lightroom. Sure nowadays there seems to be unlimited places to learn and pick up some tips and techniques but I always start in the same places; anything from the guys at the N.A.P.P. and Kelby Training … and A.J.

Seriously, if you haven’t already then be sure to head on over to A.J.’s website [Link] and his constantly updated YouTube page. Incidentally, don’t forget to Subscribe to his YouTube page so that you’ll be notified each and every time he uploads a new gem of a video.

Oh and if you’re into the social media scene, then be sure to add A.J. to your Facebook [Link] and Twitter [Link] feeds; hands down I guarantee you’ll learn so much from him and you’ll see why I’m real proud to call him a friend.

Incidentally, both A.J. and myself are regular contributors on the TipSquirrel website [Link]; a superb resource dedicated to teaching Photoshop, Lightroom and Photoshop Elements so I guess that makes us offically ‘Nuts’:)

• • •

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  • December 15, 2010 - 5:35 pm

    A.J. Wood - You got me. I’m speechless.

    Thanks. :^)

  • December 15, 2010 - 8:02 pm

    Glyn - No worries mate; you’re more than welcome.
    I’ve learned and continue to learn so much from you so the thank you is from me :)


  • December 16, 2010 - 2:57 pm

    David Kelly - Hi Glyn,
    I’ve been following the Adobe Wan for a while now (since you mentioned him as part of a #FF post) and I must say I really like his tutorial style / manner – very informative and easy to follow (much like yourself ;-)).
    Oh and for those who don’t know, A.J. also has an iPhone app (called “Adobe Talk” – it’s free!) which makes it really easy to follow & keep up-to-date with his work.


  • December 19, 2010 - 9:30 am

    Glyn - @David…Totally agree with you mate; A.J. has a really captivating teaching style :)
    Cheers, Glyn

    >Thanks for mentioning his iPhone App

Samurai: Full Length Composite using Photoshop

Hi All.
Following on from Friday’s Samurai ‘Walk Through’ post, here’s one final edited image from the shoot…

As you can see from the images below this is a composite, with the original shot of Mike being taken against a grey seamless and this is one of the full length shots I mentioned about in which I had to pay particular attention to the shadows cast for the final composite image to work.

With the new Refine Edge command in Photoshop Cs5 the time and effort it takes to extract parts of one picture to place into another to create a composite has been made considerably simpler and quicker. However when it comes to making the composite believable by including the original shadows cast in the studio shot is where an understanding of Blend Modes and how they react to different layers is essential.

Later this week I’m going to be recording a short video tutorial to show how to use blend modes to include shadows in your composite images and I’ll be sure to post it here on the blog and on my YouTube page as soon as it’s put together, so be sure to check back for that soon.

In the meant time, as always any questions or comments then please feel free to make use of the comments section below.

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  • December 13, 2010 - 2:19 pm

    DaveT - Spot on Glyn – the devil is in the detail, and that is what professionalism is about.

    Looking forward to seeing the video.


  • December 14, 2010 - 9:54 am

    Claudio von grubens - hi glyn!

    simply a great job! did you had all the ‘ancientish’ style in your head after the first talking to mike? a bit of grain and these shots may also be taken thousands of years ago!

    i really like this project!


  • December 14, 2010 - 7:11 pm

    Glyn - @DaveT…Absolutely mate and that’s where slowing down is so important.


  • December 14, 2010 - 7:11 pm

    Glyn - @Claudio…Thanks again for the kind words. With this project i went into it knowing what it was I wanted to get at the end so I researched the backgrounds etc and then in the studio put the lighting sets together that would match in.

    Thanks again,

Samurai Photo Shoot Part 1: A Walk-Through

Ok so rather than do a complete walk through of both the photo shoot and editing in one long post I though it best to split it. So, for this post I’ll concentrate on the lighting set ups and then in a few days I’ll cover some of the editing techniques I used to create the composite images.

Before we move on though I think it’s important to mention that the subject of this photo shoot, Mike Jay is the real deal; a genuine Samurai and not someone playing the part. The clothing & weaponry Mike brought along to the shoot was all the genuine article so I know I speak for both Neal and myself when I say that we both felt honoured to be doing this shoot.

Warming Up/Getting in ‘The Zone':
As is always the case in every shoot I do there’s a time at the start, usually a window of about 15 minutes where both I and the model (subject) need to get warmed up and in the zone. It’s at this time that I stick to the most basic of lighting set ups such as a single Nikon SB800 and reflective umbrella, and like I said the point here is just to get warmed up. Occasionally I may find that some of the shots from this warm up period become ‘keepers’ but for the majority of the time this isn’t the case.

The Shoot: 1st Set Up:
After a short period of time both Mike and myself had got into the right frame of mind so from here we moved onto a 3 light set up using the White Walls of the studio as the backdrop:

Two Profoto 500’s into strip boxes to the rear and either side of Mike were us to add some rim lighting and to the front all that was used was a Profoto 500 and Beauty Dish with Honeycomb Grid fitted. Normally this would be on a boom above and to the front but this time was on a light stand above and to front directly in line with the camera shooting position.

It was always the intention that shots from the first set up would be used to created a composite image so the lights and mike were positioned in such a way that the backdrop turned to a shade of grey which later on would make the compositing process that much easier and quicker.

Below you can see the out of camera image and the stock image that was then used during the editing stage to create the final composite:

Next week I’ll cover the editing that shows how I placed the out of camera image and background together plus touch on some of the techniques used to get the final overall look.

The Shoot: 2nd Set Up:
Moving on our next set up was the White seamless including the reflective flooring:

The purpose here was to make some clean simple shots to show some of the stances/poses so once the set had been put together it was just a case of running through some moves:

Editing this series of images consisted of cleaning up the white background and flooring and then just a couple of simple techniques to bring out detail. Again, I’ll cover these in the follow on post in a few days time.

The Shoot: 3rd Set Up:
The 3rd set up saw us using the grey seamless; reason being that again I had a few ideas for composite images to come out of it.

The lighting was very similar to the very first set up with two rim lights and then a single light above and to the front of Mike; occasionally switching to using just the one rim light:

I wanted to get a mixture of both 3/4 and full length shots from this set up so had to pay a lot of attention to the shadows being cast on the flooring. Here’s one of the 3/4 length shots but at the moment I’m still in the process of editing a full length shot so as soon as one of those is complete I’ll be sure to post it here too along with any editing tips/techniques you may find useful.

And Finally:
Before calling it a day and we’d cleared the studio down, I positioned Mike between the two strip boxes; one to the front and one to the back, both in line with each other. To get the black background all that was needed was to set the camera to it’s maximum sync speed with the Profoto heads which was 1/160sec and then choose a suitable aperture to give us a completely dark shot. The lights were then brought in to light the subject i.e. Mike … simple:)

With the result being…

•    •    •

So there you have it, Part 1 of the Samurai Photo Shoot. In part 2 I’ll cover some of the editing techniques that I used to create a couple of the composites including how the backgrounds were added in, adding detail and touching a little on a dodging and burning technique to show how as an example we can take an image through the stages needed.

In the mean time if you have any questions or comments then please as always feel free to make use of the comments section below. Oh and incidentally, this is the first of two shoots with Mike; the second being out on location in a field in Aldershot complete with a horse in full battle armour & some smoke bombs to create mist…definitely a shoot I’m looking forward to.

Have a great weekend and I’ll catch up with you in a few days,

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  • December 10, 2010 - 5:55 pm

    Rajesh J Taylor - I must say I cannot wait for the composite image tutorial. I really need to start using these techniques!

  • December 10, 2010 - 7:56 pm

    Glyn - @Rajesh…Cheers for commenting mate. Hopefully the 2nd part covering the editing will be useful.

    Hope all is well with you,
    Speak soon,

  • December 11, 2010 - 5:07 am

    Keith Hammond - That must have been a really good shoot, a room full of dedication, you and Neal dedicated to your photographic craft and Mike’s dedication to being a Samurai.
    In my mind i assosiate Samurai as old and traditional and for this reason i love the mono and the composite images as they fit really well with how i imagine a Samurai to be.
    Good informative lighting diagrams as usual Glyn.
    Did Mike tell you how long he had to train to become a Samurai ?

  • December 11, 2010 - 7:45 am

    Glyn - @Keith…Yeah it was a thoroughly enjoyable shoot that’s for sure. Mike is putting together a short ‘Bio’ about how he became a Samurai and I’ll be looking to post that on the blog along with one of the full length composites I’m working on.


  • December 11, 2010 - 10:48 am

    Chanel Fusco - Absolutely fantastic Mr Dewis

  • December 11, 2010 - 4:20 pm

    Rick Wenner - Excellent work here Glyn. As I said in the previous post, I am a huge fan of Japanese culture, so these samurai photos really catch my eye. The two striplight photo is very nice and dramatic. Looking forward to the composite post and definitely to the location shoot photos. Sounds very interesting.


  • December 12, 2010 - 3:25 pm

    Tim Gonzalez - As always, when I need a little inspiration I can look forward to finding it here. Thank you Glyn!


  • December 12, 2010 - 8:00 pm

    DaveT - Great post Glyn, and very informative as usual. I had tried to reverse engineer the lighting set up from an earlier post. There I was thinking that the first shot was a snooted light on the background – wrong! And that’s why I find your posts so informative; they are really helping me to understand how to use lighting.

    Am I right in thinking that a ‘strip light’is a long narrow softbox?


  • December 12, 2010 - 8:03 pm

    Glyn - @Chanel…Thanks for that :)

  • December 12, 2010 - 8:04 pm

    Glyn - @Rick…Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment mate. Glad you like the results so far and yeah I’m really looking forward to the ‘location’ shoot; definitely have to video that one :)

  • December 12, 2010 - 8:04 pm

    Glyn - @Tim…That is real nice of you to say; thank you :)

  • December 12, 2010 - 8:07 pm

    Glyn - @DaveT…Your comment means alot mate as by the sounds of it the composite is realistic enough to pass as a genuine single shot, so thanks for that.

    It’s really encouraging to hear that you find the blog useful and yeah you’re spot on with the strip light mate.

    ps> How’s the Mac??? :)

  • December 13, 2010 - 6:32 am

    daniela - wow, glyn, again, there’s so much to learn here! i’m very much looking forward to seeing how you achieved the amazing look in setup #1, with the colors and shine.. can’t quite express my admiration in words – all i can say is wow!

  • December 13, 2010 - 2:16 pm

    DaveT - Your very welcome Glyn and thanks for confirming my thoughts about the strip lights.

    The Imac – well it’s early days and I am still finding my way around. Love the quick look feature by the way, its great and a real time saver.

    Thanks for the offer re the Imac – you’re a star.

    Cheers, Dave.

  • December 14, 2010 - 7:09 pm

    Glyn - @Daniela…Wow…thanks for such kind words…that is really nice of you :)
    The overall look on Mike’s face is from dodging and burning so I’ll put together a post to show a few techniques I use to get that look later this week.

    Thanks again,

  • December 14, 2010 - 7:09 pm

    Glyn - @DaveT…No worries mate; you’ve got my contact details so just shout :)

Photographing a Samurai (Coming Soon!!!)

Hi All.
With a busy few days ahead I thought I’d just give you an overview of a post I’m putting together of the recent Samurai Photo Shoot…

With three different lighting set ups, I’m putting together a complete ‘walk through’ and will post up a selection of images from the White Seamless and the Grey Seamless backgrounds plus a couple of the composites I’ve put together using Photoshop, such as the image above.

As well as the lighting diagrams, I’ll also do a quick run through of the editing involved including before (out of camera) and after (final edit) pictures. In a later post I’m also thinking of putting together a short video to show a technique I use to dodge and burn parts of an image as I have in the composite images from this particular shoot.

In the mean time if there’s anything specific you’d quite like to see explained be it regarding the photography or the editing involved, then just shout me out in the comments section below.

•    •    •

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  • December 8, 2010 - 6:31 am

    daniela - wow, the lighting is amazing!! i love all the details, so curious to read this post

  • December 8, 2010 - 9:08 am

    Olivier - Great photo and light, love it!
    Looking forward to your post.
    (i am not so sure about the print on the sleeve)

  • December 8, 2010 - 10:26 am

    Jim - Would love to see how you use acr presets to make images of a varied exposure to a general consistent set. I realise this is more a natural light issue rather than flash.

  • December 8, 2010 - 10:43 am

    todor - Glyn
    Am looking forward to reading the full post. I have to say you have made that first image so lifelike that I think he is about to carve me up!
    Well done!

  • December 8, 2010 - 12:13 pm

    Davet - Really looking forward to these Glyn.

    I am restricted to viewing on my Itouch at the moment whilst the new machine gets configured :-)


  • December 8, 2010 - 3:39 pm

    Rick Wenner - Great shots here Glyn. I am a big fan of Japanese culture so when I heard (read) you were photographing a samurai I was excited to see what you came out of that shoot with. So far I’m really enjoying the results. I am interested in details of the entire shoot honestly, from lighting to final edit.


  • December 8, 2010 - 8:53 pm

    Smurf - Nice pic of Mike Sensei …post some more ..


  • December 9, 2010 - 12:13 pm

    Neil Glover - Love that B&W version with the side lighting!

  • December 10, 2010 - 12:24 pm

    Claudio von grubens - hi glyn,

    like the first one looks really ancient and makes perfect mood for this old but modern tradition!


  • December 10, 2010 - 7:49 pm

    Glyn - @Olivier…Thanks for dropping by and commenting; the first part of the walk through is now online :)
    Re the print on the sleeve, the clothing is 100% the genuine article so that’s how it would be and Mike was carrying a very sharp sword as you’ll see in the pictures so I wasn’t going to dispute it…lol :)


  • December 10, 2010 - 7:50 pm

    Glyn - @Daniela…Thanks for that :)

  • December 10, 2010 - 7:51 pm

    Glyn - @Todor…Thanks for commenting mate and yeah I know what you mean…felt like that was going to happen in between shots as Mike went through a few moves :)

  • December 10, 2010 - 7:51 pm

    Glyn - @DaveT…Ah so by the sounds of things, you’ve made the move to Mac :) How are you getting on?

  • December 10, 2010 - 7:53 pm

    Glyn - @Rick…Thanks mate. Hopefully I cover everything you’d like in the first part of the walk through. I’ll put the editing post together over the next couple of days but if there’s anything specific you’d like me to cover then just let me know.

    Glyn :)

  • December 10, 2010 - 7:53 pm

    Glyn - @Smurf…Cheers Buddy; ask and you will receive :)

  • December 10, 2010 - 7:53 pm

    Glyn - @Neil…Thanks mate

  • December 10, 2010 - 7:55 pm

    Glyn - @Claudio…Great to ‘hear’ that you like the results. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment.

    Best wishes,

  • December 12, 2010 - 8:12 pm

    DaveT - Hi Glyn,

    Yes, the Imac arrived this week. Things didn’t go well on the initial set up by the Apple Store when they only transferred some of the files from my old computer. However, I bought a caddy and managed to extract the missing files form my old hard drives myself, so I now have my images back.

    On the plus side I love the large 27″screen and scrolling web pages with the magic mouse is Ace. Looking forward to loading my upgrades to LR and CS5 and seeing how much quicker the machine handles imaging rendering.


  • December 12, 2010 - 8:18 pm

    Glyn - @DaveT…Fantastic mate; glad it’s all sorted. Anything I can help with just shout :)