Not 50 shades of grey I hasten to add

During the recent Show & Tell session various techniques were discussed about how to lighten or darken an area of an image aka Dodge and Burn.

One technique that seem’s to be used a lot with varing success particularly on sky’s when the original image really needed a graduated ND filter, is to select the sky, apply a large feather selection and then create a levels adjustment layer in which you move the black point on the histogram to the right to darken. This technique is often then followed by inverting the selection, creating a new levels adjustment layer and then moving the white point on the historgram left to lighten the foreground. The disadvantage of this technique is if you over do it by moving either the black or white point beyond the ends of the histogram you tend to leave a halo effect along the selection boundary i.e.

Before The Storm-Gary Wood

An alternative method which has been discussed before is the 50% grey adjustment layer with an overlay blend mode. Martin Godfrey discribed this method last season as a way of implementing a non distructive Dodge and Burn.

To recap I will discribe this in relation to Adobe Photoshop elements.

Open your image in PSE

Open Image

Create a Solid Colour Adjustment layer

New Solid Colour Adjustment layer

Select the colour

Solid Colour Picker

In the layer pallette you should now have

Solid Colour Adjustment Layer

You can simplify the layer

Simplify Layer

The Layer pallette should now look like

Simplified Solid Colour Adjustment Layer

Set the blend mode to Overlay (Soft light has a similar but not quite so dramatic effect)

Blend Mode

If the colour you selected for the solid colour was black it would cause the final image to be darker i.e.

Overlay Solid Colour Black Darkens

If you had choosen white the final image would be lighter i.e.

Overlay Solid Colour White Lightens

But if you choose 50% grey you would see no difference

Overlay Solid Colour 50 Grey no effect

Martins discussion then showed how you could use a paint brush to paint on this adjustment layer either white to lighten, or black to darken an area of the image also if you use a low opacity you can build up the effect


Another option is to use a gradient fill to apply a foreground to transparent fill

Gradient Editor

where you set the forground to white to lighten or black to darken and by implement two fills you can lighten the foreground and darken the sky in one go

Overlay Solid Colour 50 grey with top black gradient bottom white Gradien