Aperture 2 Dodge and Burn

I am not sure why I was acting to ridiculously. When version 2 came out, I was super psyched, then I found out that if you wanted to use the Dodge and Burn tool, Aperture would make a copy, and send you to the plugin. If you had made any adjustments before this, you couldn’t tell anymore, all the sliders would look reset. It bugged me that the dodge and burn plug in wasn’t non destructive. So… I ignored it.

Just recently I came across an image (can’t find it now) that was adjusted with this plug-in, and I had a “what the heck” kind of moment. I immediately fired up Aperture to re-check out this tool. To get to the plug-in, right click on an image, select Edit With… and pick Dodge and Burn.

Selecting Dodge and Burn

This is an image that I recently worked on. When I look at this image, I want the boat to be the focus. I was trying to take a picture of this tender, just peacefully sitting there, but I need to draw the  viewers attention. To do this, I will dodge (lighten) and burn (darken).

The first thing I was going to do is lighten the near side of the boat. Pay attention to the sliders at the top. First select Dodge, and select a tool from Pen, Eraser, and Feather. Lets start with the Pen. Then pick a size. Don’t be afraid to pick a very large size if you are doing a larger area. It make it quicker, and helps reduce uneven lighting. The softness slider is important. All the way to the right, the brush is very soft, and will create very gradual transitions. This is usually the most realistic way to do this. All the way to the left and the edge is a very hard edge. I will often do that with the Eraser. Soft brush to lighten, and if I went past an edge, I will switch to a hard edge to back up a bit. Now select a strength. You can experiment with this. Usually I find you want a lighter touch, and to apply several brush strokes.

Dodging the boat

So the above image is showing the side of the boat getting burned in a bit. You can see with a soft brush that the light appears pretty nicely. And remember, if you go over where you wanted to paint in with light, you can use the eraser. If you catch what I am saying, while you are in the plug-in, the tool is non-destructive. You can apply and erase light all you want. Sweet. What if you are unsure where you applied the light. Look to the far right drop down. Select “Show Dodge as Overlay”.


You can see that the window goes grey, and the parts of the image that have light applied show up in red. This can be really helpful, especially when you are using the eraser.

Now, lightening isn’t the only way to draw a viewers attention. You can also darken everything else, or just parts to direct attention. For this image, I darkened the dock and the top of the sky. Remember that thing about non-destructive editing when dodging, well you can switch back and forth from any of the the different effects you want to apply. There is more than Dodge and Burn to this tool. You can also do saturation, sharpening, contrast, and others. Experiment with the tool to see what works. I find that selective sharpening is also a great use of the tool.

Because this tool creates a new image, I find it  best to do early on, even first before doing anything else. Then the normal tools will make more sense when you get back to the normal editing environment. Your image will have a little dot within a circle to indicate a image copy was made. This happens with all plug-ins and when sending the image to Photoshop.

Here is the final image after applying some dodging to the boat, burning to the dock and upper sky, and sharpening to the boat edges. In this case the changes are fairly subtle, but that is what I thought was appropriate.

Peaceful Tender at Night

So I have changed my mind. I find this to be a very useful tool now. I still think that it is unfortunate that a new raster image has to be created every time you use this tool, so I would advise trying to avoid going in and out of this tool. Try to get it all corrected and saved once.