A Guide to Retouching Using Dodging and Burning in Photoshop

There is a veritable plethora of ways to retouch a portrait, and a lot of the time, it is a game of balancing the ultimate quality with the time spent retouching. If you really want to get into one of the most respected techniques out there, it's well worth taking the time to learn how to dodge and burn.

Coming to you from Unmesh Dinda with PiXimperfect, this excellent tutorial will show you the ins and outs of dodging and burning for retouching a portrait in Photoshop. Dodging and burning is nothing more than lightening and darkening different areas of the image, and it might surprise you to hear that one of the top techniques is so basic at its core, but it's the fundamental simplicity that makes it so powerful. By only altering luminance data, you preserve the texture of the subject's skin, an aspect that becomes problematic with a lot of other techniques. It's a tedious technique and certainly not one you want to use on large sets of photos, but if you want to see how the best beauty portraits are retouched and apply it to some of your own images, it's well worth taking the time to watch the video above. 

And if you really want to dive into the power of dodging and burning, check out "Master Dodge and Burn For Beauty, Fashion, and Portrait Retouching With Michael Woloszynowicz!"

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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I'm being a little cheeky (see what I did there?) but seriously I think dodge and burn as overused and can easily turn that image into unreal looking. I don't know if it's a photography sensitivity to the way light works or something else but I am personally turned (way) off from dodge and burn. Gradients ftw.

The reason dodge and burn is a necessary step in beauty photography is because flash photography exposes uneven skin in a way that you don't normally see in person. It's kind of like shining a light on a piece of notebook paper and seeing what's underneath. I think this dude went a little overboard with it, but when done correctly the technique is very useful.

This video is not a great example of retouching using dodge and burn. If anything, it makes the method look bad. Really bad. He went overboard. Her face is as flat as an ironing board. Looks freakish. Transitioning shadows to highlights and vice versa are your friend.

In contrast to this video, Michael Woloszynowicz is definitely one of the ones to learn from.

Unmesh frequently overdoes techniques for the purposes of demonstration.

I've seen him do that on many of his videos, but, he would also tone it back down when he's done demonstrating the effect.

Yes. It's the technique that matters, not the extent to which it's used.

I think I prefer the untouched-up version.

It is also important to consider the importance of a good make-up artist…

Or models with flawless skin

could have used a less creepy photo to start with :/

This is the best High-End Skin Retouching video tutorial I have seen. A lot of photographers like to edit images "the easy way" which a lot of time renders a poor quality image. If you want to play around with the pro's and earn like a pro you need to learn how to edit like a pro and this video tutorial teaches you exactly that.