If you split an image into its most basic components, you can look at each pixel as the sum of the following info:

  • Brightness
  • Color Tone
  • Saturation

If we look at a black and white photo for example, one only element present in the photo is brightness. So any three-dimensionality is determined exclusively by the (relative) brightness of neighboring pixels. Our brain is trained to “think” that bright pixels are located closer to us, while dark pixels are more likely to be further away.

Here is an example:

This is a simple gray area
a bit of “Dodging” provides some highlights (closer)
a bit of “Dodging” provides some highlights (closer)
A bit of “Burning” provides shadows (further)
A bit of “Burning” provides shadows (further)

And now, the circle has turned into a ball (Of course, you can go the other way around and smooth any damaged surface)

Taking this concept further, many things that you would not really do with Dodge and Burn, can actually be done with dodge, burn and a bit of color correction.

While this eye may not be perfect, there are no three dimensional elements in it. Only darkening and brightening of gray.

My point is this: The depth of the image is controlled by brightness. This is what makes Dodge & Burn such an interesting and powerful tool.

In this picture the face was given more depth by targeted Dodge & Burn.

But… As with any interesting and powerful tools, the path from good to overdone is short. You know the saying

With great power comes great responsibility” – Uncle Ben

When you are in the craziness of editing, it is not easy not to pass that “good” mark and cross into “this is way too much” land. If you are uncertain and ask yourself “is this too much?” The answer is most likely YES! Trust me on this one.

It’s tricky, even good work can become amateurish if you overdo your dodge and burn. In this case, less is more "</p

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