A Tutorial on Dodging and Burning Film Photos

You have probably heard of dodging and burning before, holdover terms from the film area that describe the process of making areas of an image lighter or darker to emphasize different parts. If you're interested in working with film and creating your own prints, this great tutorial will show you just how it's done. 

Coming to you from Lina Bessonova, this helpful video tutorial will show you how to get started dodging and burning in the darkroom, including making your own materials and the proper technique to ensure the best-looking prints. The terms "dodging" and "burning" might sound a bit strange in a digital context as opposed to something like "lightening" and "darkening," but when you see their actual physical manifestations, they make perfect sense. Dodging decreases the exposure by blocking the light hitting the print, while burning increases the exposure (by blocking it from the rest of the print), making that area darker. Nonetheless, like any photographic technique, there are subtle nuances in both what you use and how you apply it, and since this isn't digital, where you can just hit the "undo" command, it's important to understand them well. Check out the video above for the full rundown. 

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3 Comments

I used to loop stiff wire to my fingers...usually one on each hand ...with paper cut dodge spots at the end of each...cut to the shape of areas I wanted to dodge....and dance them in and out of the light during exposure. Think Edward Scissor Hands over a print. Oh the memories.

Chad D's picture

being 55 I used to work in a darkroom and did a lot of work in them for others like I do now for digital :)

one trick we used to use was ortho litho film and make masks of what we needed

ortho litho was also good depending on complexity such as a mtn range with trees you could make it smaller and have a exact replica of the mtn getting near perfect results that were repeatable !!! and that was the thing for some that were selling say 50 copies is consistent repeatability unlike today but also some did not want to do a interneg etc.. but truly wanted the original to be hand done for each

but yeah wire and stuff was the common method

Jeff Colburn's picture

Good video, thanks. It brings back memories of developing prints in the darkroom, which I did for decades.

Have Fun,
Jeff