Written by Jeff Sobel of the John Lennon Bus
In my last post I talked about the saturation and vibrancy adjustments in Aperture 2. I mentioned that these powerful tools are great when you want to adjust the color in the entire image but not a good solution for selectively adjusting color in only parts of the image. Aperture provides an often overlooked tool which is fantastic for making these types of selective adjustments. It’s the Dodge and Burn plugin and it can be found in the Images>Edit With> menu as seen in the screen grab below:
Though Dodge and Burn is included with Aperture 2 it is actually a plugin so when you select it in the menu your image opens up in a new window. It’s much like sending the image to an external editor except that it’s more tightly integrated with Aperture. The name Dodge and Burn comes from the darkroom technique of using a card to dodge (lighten) or burn (darken) select areas of a photo print while it is in the chemical bath to manipulate the exposure of the photograph. The Dodge and Burn plugin in Aperture 2 allows you to do the same thing with your mouse, no noxious chemicals required. The great thing about the D&B plugin is that it not only allows you to adjust light/dark but a half-dozen other effects as well, including saturation (see screen grab below).
By playing with this tool you’ll quickly learn how to manipulate the color saturation in certain areas of your image while leaving other areas in their natural state (or manipulating those areas in a different way). Here are some examples (all images can be clicked to embiggen).
I took some photos at a friend’s wedding last year. They were married in Golden Gate Park and the grass and trees were a vibrant green. I found that even though I had a fairly shallow depth of field that threw the background out of focus the vibrant color of the plants was distracting the eye from the important parts of the image (the bride and groom!).
I wanted to reduce the saturation of the plants and people behind my subjects to separate the bride and groom from the background. However, I couldn’t simply reduce the saturation in the whole image because I certainly didn’t want to take away from the bride’s amazing gown. So I turned to the Dodge and Burn plugin. Using the Desaturate setting I ‘painted’ desaturation onto the background. It took a little time but I loved the results:
By applying the same effect to all the photos a consistent look can be achieved which can really tie an album together (much like a good rug ties the room together). Here are a few more examples of using the Dodge and Burn plugin to desaturate the background while leaving the subjects vibrant:
Now here’s one final example that has a similar look but was produced using a slightly different method. Instead of using the D&B plugin to desaturate the background in this photograph I first reduced the color by adjusting the saturation and vibrancy sliders in Aperture:
Then I sent the image to the Dodge and Burn plugin and using the Saturate setting I added color back into the photograph by carefully painting the bride’s dress and the flower lei each is wearing.
Spend some time with the Dodge and Burn plugin and I think you’ll find it can do some interesting things to your photographs. These are the same techniques you will learn in this summer’s Digital Photography and Photoshop courses at Digital Media Academy.
Or, you can learn Photoshop with DMA on a Final Cut Pro and Photoshop Cruise this summer! Learn more about DMA on the Sea!