Using dodge and burn to add depth and dimension to your photos

Using dodge and burn to add depth and dimension to your photos

I’m a collector of quotes and share them when I speak to groups. Someone asked me if I had fashioned any quotes myself. Here’s one: “Don’t look at what a subject is, but what it might become.” By Bob Coates. Hence the article today on enhancing an image.


Initial capture. Note that this was at ISO 10,000. I sometimes do that for the noise, aka grain, that is introduced to the file.

The oleander is a poisonous plant that produces quite lovely blossoms. I’ve found nature can use a hand when creating macro images. When photographing close details, slight imperfections as well as the beauty becomes magnified. So it’s time to clean up and enhance the subject.


Photo gear used to photograph oleander bloom
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III with a 60mm M.Zukio Macro Pro F/2.8 lens was mounted on a Platyball Elite and Platypod eXtreme. A Magic Arm was used to hold the 20 inch Westcott scrim. A Platypod Gooseneck with a clamp was used to gently hold the flower in place.

You need to get in close and especially when photographing outdoors, it’s good to have some extra “hands.”

In this instance, I used some of my Platypod gear to hold the bloom in place and hold a scrim to control contrast and spread the light. As a Platypod Ambassador, I get to try out all the new gear such as the Platypod Elbow.


A quick run of the RAW file through Adobe Camera Raw gives the base with which to work. Setting color, opening shadows and taming highlights were completed.

Then I opened the image as a layer in Photoshop, and the process of enhancement began. The layer was duplicated and using the Camera Raw filter and masks, and some selective tweaks were done. Specific sharpening also completed.

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Check out the Layer names for hints on how the image was processed. Soft Light layers and Adjustment Layers figure prominently.

Using the Spot Healing Brush tool and the Clone Stamp tool, small imperfections were cleaned up. Three different Soft Light layers were used. I find that if you gently add shadows and highlights rather than trying to do it all in one go, helps to deliver more pleasing results.

When you paint on a Soft Light layer with either black or white and a soft edged, low opacity brush, you add shadow and highlight to the image. Shadows create form and depth in the image.

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Final image of the oleander bloom.

Final color and tone were handled using Curves Adjustment layers. Adjustment layers allow you to close the file, save as a Photoshop Document and reopen for changes if necessary without losing file fidelity.

Yours in Creative Photography, Bob