No right-click allowed. © Mareike Keicher

Tag : Dodge and Burn

Photo by ROMBO from Pexels

The concept of sharpness

You see them again and again, totally over-sharpened images. Funny Jesus halos were created, hair looks super dry, and somehow everything becomes cheap again.

What is sharpness?

Sharpness is in contrast. The contrast in the form of differences in brightness at edges and details – but also color contrast or saturation contrast. Yes – even the image content can affect image sharpness.

Adobe Photoshop looks for edges when sharpening them and makes them lighter on one side and darker on the other. Photoshop has no idea of color contrasts.
Photoshop can only make luminance contrasts:

Let’s take a closer look and do the same thing again:

Pay attention to the eye – that’s nice and sharp in this image – unfortunately, the skin texture suffered from it, the hair is strawy, and the hands “glow”.

But for luminance processing, there is an excellent, manual tool: Dodge & Burn. So here the ” manually sharpened “version:

In this example, too, the eye is sharp – and there are no side effects. Incidentally, this took almost 2 minutes.

Sharpness through color contrasts

Let’s take a look at this image here:

The two colors are very similar – the red and the orange differ only by a small offset in color. Saturation and luminance are the same. If we now change one of those color fields in hue (but leave the saturation and luminance the same), this is the result:

The separation between the two fields is so strong that even JPG compression reaches its limits and shows artifacts in the middle. The contrast is extreme here – only by changing the color tone.

Transferred to an image, you could apply it as follows:

Here the color tone was changed only minimally, and a sharper image emerged. A very subtle effect – again without side effects.


If you want to have sharp images, you can keep the contrasts and contrast edges in mind when retouching – this usually makes subsequent sharpening obsolete. At Dodge & Burn, I always try to darken the edges a few percents more and lightly lighten the other side of the edge. When it comes to colors, I pay attention to the color harmonies, so that you automatically achieve very harmonious, but at the same time, sharp contrasts.

A little hint at the end

If you sharpen while using the raw converter (meaning before retouching) or pull the saturation upwards, you will get a sharper picture, but in the end, you do twice the work. All of the problems highlighted by this global sharpening also want to be eliminated again. It is better to use the raw conversion for a somewhat flatter but balanced image and to increase the sharpness in the image during retouching deliberately.

Stay tuned for the next blog article regarding sharpness in the upcoming week.

You might also be interested in those:

Do you have any suggestions, additions, is this post out of date, or have you found any mistakes? Then we look forward to your comment.
You are welcome to share this post. We are very grateful for every recommendation.

Foto von Shiny Diamond von Pexels

Aging and anatomy in retouching

Facial aging is a dynamic process involving the aging of soft tissue and bony structures.
In image editing or retouching, we influence this bone structure and the fall of light on the human face through Dodge&Burn (painting with light and shadow) and Liquify.
We must therefore be clear whether we are artificially rejuvenating a model and whether this is intentional or undesirable.
We also have to be careful not to mix different signs of age, i.e., to hide some signs of aging while others are preserved. This can lead to an unusual, inharmonious, and unnatural overall impression.
It is particularly essential to maintain the age of so-called “best agers” and only to make them look “fresher”.

The goal of this article will be to know different signs of aging and to use this knowledge (carefully!) accordingly in image editing.

The major forces responsible for facial aging:

    • Gravity,
    • Soft tissue maturation,
    • Skeletal remodeling,
    • Muscular facial activity,
    • Hormonal imbalance
    • Environmental factors: mental stress, diet, work habits, drug abuse, disease
    • and solar changes.
      (Zimbler MS, Kokoska MS & Thomas JR, 2012, p. 1)

The age-related facial shape change is similar in both sexes until around age 50. Afterward, the effects of aging are more drastic in women (Windhager S, Mitteroecker P, Rupić I, et al., 2019, p.1).

Signs of Youth:

The youthful face is characterized by a diffuse, balanced distribution of superficial and deep fat, which confers a well-rounded 3-D topography that is delineated by a series of arcs and convexities.

In profile, three primary arcs are the most definitive features of youth:

    • The lateral cheek projection (the “ogee” curve), extending as an unbroken convex line from the lower eyelid to the cheek,
    • The arc of the jawline, extending from the lateral lower jaw to the chin
    • and the arc of the forehead.
      (Sydney R. Coleman, MD; Rajiv Grover, 2006, p.5).


Figure 1 – Woman aging from left to right. Arrows illustrating the loss of facial fullness that occurs with age. (Source: Aesthetic Surgery Journal 2006)


Signs of Aging:

The face loses volume as the soft tissue structures age. Epidermal thinning and the decrease in collagen cause skin to lose its elasticity. Loss of fat, coupled with gravity and muscle pull, leads to wrinkling and the formation of dynamic lines. Facial bones are also effected (Windhager S, Mitteroecker P, Rupić I, et al., 2019, p.1).

This is shown, for example, in:

    • Global:
      • Textural skin changes,
      • Skin thickness decrease
      • A flatter face,
      • Reduction in facial height,
      • The defining arcs and convexities of youth are disrupted in higher age.
    • Upper third (forehead and brows):
      • Loss of fullness underneath the skin in the forehead, brow, temple, and upper eyelid areas,
      • The bony outline of the skull and supraorbital rims become more evident, as do the muscles of the brow,
      • The temporal blood vessels assume an increasingly tortuous appearance,
      • Loss of fullness in the upper eyelid,
      • The eyebrow seemingly descending to a position at or below the superior orbital rim,
      • Fixed wrinkles or folds
    • Middle third (midface): 
      • Smaller visible areas of the eyes;
      • Deeper and broader orbit and double convex deformity of the lower eyelid;
      • Darker coloration to the thin infraorbital skin, resulting in a tired eye appearance;
      • Lid-cheek junction lengthening,
      • Deeper nasolabial folds,
      • Tip of the nose dropping
      • Ear lobe lengthening
      • The upper jaw decreases in size,
      • In profile, the primary arc of the cheek is broken.
    • The lower third (chin, jawline, and neck):
      • Lips are straight, thinner, drier and angular,
      • Sagged soft tissue (“broken” jawline)/ bone resorption in the lower jaw, the height and length of the lower jaw decrease, the lower jaw angle increases, so the shape of the chin changes,
      • A relative excess of the skin occurs in the aging lower face, leading to loss of definition of the jawline,
      • Development of the characteristic jowled “turkey neck” deformity,
      • The hyoid bone and larynx gradually descend.

(Windhager S, Mitteroecker P, Rupić I, et al., 2019, p.1)(Sydney R. Coleman, MD; Rajiv Grover, 2006, p. 4 ff.)(Windhager S, Mitteroecker P, Rupić I, et al., 2019, p.678)


Figure 2: Aging of the female face, as represented by models representing an individual at ~20 years of age (left), ~50 years (center), and ~75 years (right). The first event of aging is the loss of facial volume. All the aspects mentioned above can be recognized (Source: Aesthetic Surgery Journal 2006)



Figure 3: Aging of the female face based on facial scans in different stages of age. (Source: American Journal of Physical Anthropology 2019)

Have a closer look at those images and compare them. Use those references at the beginning, when retouching middle age or older models, to do a proper natural style of retouching.
50-year-old women don’t have to look like 20-year-old ones!
A little tip for better image editing at the end of this article: If the intention to reduce wrinkles, you should only reduce the small ones; the large ones are very important for facial expressions and anatomy.

Now we have dealt a lot with the topic of aging to be able to edit model images better. If you want: Here you will find books on how you can do something good for yourself:

Do you have any suggestions, additions, is this post out of date, or have you found any mistakes? Then we look forward to your comment.
You are welcome to share this post. We are very grateful for every recommendation.

2-Point Curve as best option to do Dodge&Burn

Dodge & Burn – Different methods compared

Dodge & Burn is a subject where opinions differ. There are many ways to make areas in the picture lighter or darker. We quickly discuss the different methods and test them for suitability – there are sky-wide differences.

Dodge & Burn Tools (DE: Abwedler & Nachbelichter)

Photoshop has always offered two tools for Dodge & Burn. Surely everyone has experienced this situation: take the Dodge tool and painted around in the picture, oops done too much, used the Burn tool to compensate, and the final result: light and dark patches in the image in which nothing would fit anymore. Many put these two tools in the “not to use” drawer.

It gets much better if you create an additional layer, fill it with neutral gray (50% gray) and switch it to the “Linear Light” blending mode:

50% gray layer

A 50% gray layer in blending mode “Linear Light” initially does not change the image. But if you make the layer lighter or darker — of course also partially — the picture also becomes lighter or darker. The advantage of the 50% gray layer is that we can also work with regular brushes, and if something went wrong, you could always paint over with 50% gray to get back to the original state.

Some people use the blending mode “Soft Light”, which has a more subtle effect (hard to push it really dark or light). Other than the layer has an impact on saturation, which should be taken into consideration.

Pro Tip: You can also leave the layer empty and paint with black or white – the effect is 100% the same and saves storage space.

Multiple RAW conversions

What is sometimes helpful is to use different RAW conversions.
One for the skin tones, one for the background, one for the hair — depending on what the picture requires. These individual RAW developments are loaded as layers in Photoshop and can then be masked accordingly. Of course, there are a lot of options here, because RAW development offers countless parameters — but this technique inflates the Photoshop file properly and can only be used at the very beginning. So you have to be sure of your decisions here.

Dodge & Burn Curves

Two curves – one for Dodge and one for Burn – are the optimal solution. Masking the effect in and out with white and black is very simple. Switching between layers is pretty easy with the following shortcut
Windows: Alt +, (down), or Alt +. (up)
Mac: Option +, (down), or Option +. (up)

However, the correct usage of curves for Dodge & Burn needs to be learned. There are many people out there, pushing and pulling their curves by their current mood. In addition to luminance, curves can also influence saturation and contrast. Tiny differences can make big differences.

Conny Wallström (a photographer, retouching-teacher, and software developer based in Sweden) tested various curves over a more extended time and compared them with the results of exposure levels of the raw converter Capture One.

The idea for that process was that a raw converter such as Capture One reproduces the most natural and realistic way of dealing with color with different exposures without simultaneously causing color problems and color shifts.

The result of the research was a 2-point gradation curve that he integrated into this retouching toolkit. So if we use the following Dodge & Burn curves, we can assume a natural, realistic result. At the same time, we work consistently and time-efficiently, since it is an action in Photoshop that always works in the same way.

But that’s not all. Many who already use this retouching toolkit know that this action creates two folders and that in addition to the special curves for Dodge and Burn, hue/saturation corrections are included.
Here is the reason for the hue/saturation corrections:
When we take an analytic look at a portrait picture, we find out that by increasing luminance, the saturation tends to decrease; with decreasing luminance, the saturation tends to increase. If we only lighten an image based on luminance, the proportion of saturation in the now lighter areas is suddenly too high (vise versa). The use of such hue/saturation corrections is, therefore, a measure against saturation problems caused by Dodge and Burn to save editing time in retouching.

Such hue/saturation corrections make the most sense when processing skin (skin build-up, blood flow in the skin).

Of course, this cannot be generalized 100%. Every image requires slight adjustments to the hue/saturation correction layers due to other camera manufacturers and raw formats. Therefore, a recommendation is to adjust those layers slightly for each image. However, one cannot avoid looking at the saturation in the image afterward (at least briefly).

Hidden Gems / Tips and Tricks

Pro tip 1: Separately adjusted curves for very granular, high-contrast structures such as make-up (see example below) are useful to avoid flattening the contrast.

(Photo by 𝐕𝐞𝐧𝐮𝐬 𝐇𝐃 𝐌𝐚𝐤𝐞- 𝐮𝐩 & 𝐏𝐞𝐫𝐟𝐮𝐦𝐞 from Pexels)

Pro tip 2: Dodge & Burn tools — these work perfectly for eyebrows. If you paint them on an empty layer, you can make individual hair lighter and darker for a realistic result. You will only affect the painted hair, which is very useful.

Don’t forget Dodge & Burn is much easier by using Wacom tablets.


Do you have any suggestions, additions, is this post out of date, or have you found any mistakes? Then we look forward to your comment.
You are welcome to share this post. We are very grateful for every recommendation.