Dodging/Burning

Color and black-and-white prints are traditionally made using an enlarger, which casts an image of the film onto a photosensitive sheet of paper for a carefully calculated number of seconds. For about as long as photographers have been making prints, they have also been sticking their fingers, hands, or other objects in the light path to reduce the relative exposure of one part of an image (dodging) while increasing it in another (burning). The result is an image in which the light and dark tones are more evenly balanced or, in some cases, deliberately changed to provide a different appearance (as with vignetting, discussed next).

Cupped hands with a gap between them are often used to burn parts of an image. The darkroom worker is able to keep the hands moving, varying the size and position of the opening, to blend the burned areas with their surroundings. A hand can also be used to hold back or dodge part of an image, but it's more common to use a homemade dodging tool (such as a piece of cardboard fastened to a length of coat hanger wire) so the adjustment can be made only to a portion of the image in the center portions.

Because the image being exposed on the paper is visible, and the length of the overall exposure known, the printer is able to adjust the tones quite precisely. For example, with a 60-second exposure, a portion of the image that needs to be lightened or darkened can be dodged or burned in roughly 5 or 10 second increments by viewing the enlarger's timer while working. The amount of dodging or burning required comes from experience, usually gained by redoing a print that hasn't been manipulated properly.

It also was widely believed that some small changes could be made in black-and-white prints by fiddling with the paper development, usually by controlling how the paper went into the developer, by rubbing portions of the paper with the fingers (to generate heat and "faster" development of that portion), as well as through mystical incantations and applications of alchemicals like ferricyanide.

Today, you can do the same magic with Photoshop. You can use the image editor's built-in dodging and burning tools, or create a selection mask and adjust the brightness using controls like Brightness/Contrast. Open the file lighthouse.pcx from the website and follow these steps. The original image looks like Figure 3.44.

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