A Lightroom SECRET to Dodging & Burning Photos (VIDEO)

As the great Ansel Adams once said, “Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationship.” And that holds true whether you’re working with film in the darkroom or editing digital images on the computer.

Simply put, dodging and burning is a technique for adjusting the tonal values of an image by making some portions of a scene brighter (dodging) and other areas darker (burning). If you think iconic images from great photographers like Adams came straight out of the camera, well, you’re sadly mistaken.

That’s why it’s silly to criticize digital photographer for the adjustments they make with image-editing software. The process works differently that it did in the wet darkroom, but many of the goals and results are the same.

In the eye-opening tutorial below from pro Serge Ramelli, you’ll learn what this acclaimed French photographer insists in “the best kept secret to dodging and burning in Lightroom.” Ramelli is an outstanding photographer himself, and he uses three recent projects to illustrate “the magic of dodge and burn like never before.”

Ramelli has developed a system he calls “natural drama in five steps.” He summarizes his general approach to dodging and and burning, with stunning examples of the difference it can make—like “turning on the lights in the city” in an image with dark highlights.

His method is also illustrated with images shot in Iceland, as well as those from a Glacier Lagoon project. Ramelli walks you through his process for creating natural drama, with adjustments to exposure, white balance and other key variables, while relying upon his method for dodging and burning.

Ramelli also employs some interesting “final touches” to arrive at his very special imagery. None of his editing techniques are particularly difficult to accomplish—it’s just a matter of starting with a good image and understanding how to transform it into a great one.

You can find an abundance of outdoor photography tips on Ramelli’s popular YouTube channel, so be sure to take a look.

And don’t miss the tutorial we posted earlier, explaining how to customize your camera settings for landscape photography.