Local Dodging and Burning for Beauty Retouching


Lesson Info

What is Local Dodge and Burn?

What we're doing is we are lessening the texture and the contour a lot of times on skin to make it feel a little bit smoother and a little bit more aesthetically pleasing, it's about taking skin and going from this to this, okay and this is all done through dodge and burn, there is no healing in this particular step or patch tool or clone stamp or anything else, that's purely done through local dodge and burn, so I'm gonna take you through a few different images in just a minute and you're actually gonna see the entire process a little bit more succinctly as to what we're gonna be doing today. Now, local dodging and burning compared to global dodging and burning, it smooths out the transitions between the tonal areas of skin, whereas global dodging and burning was all about building shape, we are trying to make the changes in the actual dimension a little bit less abrupt, so that's kind of the goal for us today. This can be very labor intensive, when I'm doing this on a portrait image ...

or when I'm doing it on a beauty image, depending upon the severity of what I need to do and where it's ultimately gonna be seen, in an image that may take a couple of hours to do, this particular step can take an hour of that, so it by far is the most time consuming part of any retouch, doing the skin, I usually do it pretty early on, it's one of the first things I do, just so that I'm not lingering on it later on, but it is very, very, very time consuming, so don't necessarily think this is gonna be a quick solution. The final look does depend largely on your preference, I'm gonna show you the tools and the ways to do this, but the degree at which you implement this and how heavy-handed of an effect, that you want to apply is entirely up to you, you can completely smooth out everything and you can make it look really smooth or you can save quite a bit of realism, you can even, because we're working non-destructively just lessen the opacity and blend it back together, so there's a lot of different ways in which there's a big spectrum as far as you can apply this. Also, very important, you should think about how this image is going to be viewed, if it's gonna be blown up and put on the side of a building, maybe you wanna spend a little bit more time on it, but if it's only gonna be shown very small on the web, maybe on Instagram or Facebook, you don't have to spend two hours on an image, you can kind of do this a little bit more spottier and quicker and it's gonna be just as effective for you in the long run, so it really depends largely about where this is gonna be seen and how big. So this is where this particular image started after a little bit of clean up, this is a few little healing bits, nothing too heavy-handed at all, again, this is pretty close to the RAW conversion. So we started here, this was the dodging and burning, that was done to this image locally, the red represents dodging and the blue represents burning, traditionally speaking, I personally do a lot more dodging than burning, usually I end up getting the dark patches and trying to lighten them up, just to match it to everything else, but I will oftentimes work to blend certain hills and valleys together, for example, by the nose, which is always a particular problem area for most people, I'm gonna darken that light highlight and I'm gonna lighten the dark bit and it kind of evens them both out in a way that helps blend it together versus doing all of my work in one particular part. This is actually not a very extensive retouch, it's gonna, the colors are a little bit more exaggerated, so it's not quite as heavy as it may look, it's just to help visualize it out, but this probably ended up taking 15 minutes, so this was a relatively quick one and what we end up with is something that looks like this, it shouldn't actually look all that different from the original, so here's the Before and here's the After, again, we'll do one more time, okay, not a huge difference, but definitely does make for a really nice effect. Here's another one on a very different style image, this was meant to feel a little bit grittier, it's a harder light, which is going to accentuate a lot of the issues and imperfections, so for me, the goal here was not actually to smoothen out everything to make it look beautiful, it was just to help with a few of the more abrupt areas, so where I ended up concentrating my issue was in a few of the spottier areas on the cheek, a little bit by the mouth and that very harsh transition by the nose, where the light was and so it ended up looking like this and it was just meant to help it out a little bit, you don't necessarily have to pour this effect over your image, sometimes a little bit goes a long way, here's the Before and the After, it's subtle, but it does make a difference. Here's another image and she actually, again, very slight clean up, has absolutely terrific skin, so my issue here was actually in no way, shape or form with her, it was the hard light that I was using to create that spotlight effect on the face and because it's a hard light and because it's directional, very much to the side, it's raking across the face and it's really creating a lot of intense textural issues, especially around where that light falls off, so most of my work is concentrated in the areas, where it falls off near the edge, a lot of lightening, a lot of darkening, a lot of evening out those transitions and what ends up is this, okay, here's the Before, After, okay.

Chris Knight demystifies local dodging and burning to show you one of the most effective ways to make skin look amazing in your images! He'll show you how to use one of the most powerful tools in a retoucher’s arsenal. Chris will walk through this non-destructive technique that speeds up your workflow while softening the transitions between skin tones without losing the details you want to keep. Get an in-depth look at skin retouching and take your portraits to the next level.

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2017.1.1



  • A highly recommended class! Chris Knight is super efficient and tremendously clear an instructor. He manages to sqeeze so much useful information and tips into this hour, that I have to go back and revisit several times before i get it all. That may say something anout me myself, but I think also about the efficiency of the instructor. Very good!
  • I have viewed many Creative Live classes and rank this one among the best. Chris very effectively organized his class to impart knowledge. He Starts with an overview and summary level walk thru of the process and then goes into details and does an actual retouch. He concludes with a lesson on what can go wrong and provides practice images. I highly recommend this class to anyone seeking to learn Dodge and Burn. Thank-you Chris for a great educational experience!
  • I found this course to be a great explanation of dodging burning. I found the pace to be great and the information helpful. Chris is a great instructor.