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We're very pleased to turn our Back to Black-and-White feature over to Bernhard J Suess for the next series of articles. As many of you may know, Bernhard's the author of two popular books on Black-and-White Photography: Mastering Black-and-White Photography: From Camera to Darkroom and Creative Black-and-White Photography: Advanced Camera and Darkroom Techniques both published by Allworth Press. We're also thrilled to announce that we're hard at work on a new Course on Black-and-White Photography based on the teachings, books and philosophy of Bernhard J Suess. Email us at Black-and-White Course to be on the list to find out about this Course as soon as it is available. Back to Black-and-White is in very capable hands, so sit back, relax and get ready to learn!

Back to Black-and-White - Part 15

Dodge and Burn: Part Two

In the last installment, I discussed the basic principles behind using burning and dodging techniques to give selective exposure to various areas of a print.

Let's go step-by-step through the entire procedure. Since you might make several prints as you attempt to fine tune your dodging and burning, I recommend using a permanent marker to write information on the back of the RC (resin coated) print. If you're using FB (fiber base) paper, you can use a pencil. For example, in addition to the negative number (so that later I can find which negative was used) I'll write the aperture and timer setting. You can also include any other information that might be relevant, such as enlarger height, paper type, paper grade, and so forth.

After making a test print with a good exposure, decide which areas should be a little lighter or darker. Remember, this is a judgment based on your preferences and experience. For now, just try it in small increments. As you get better at it your judgment will improve, too.

For example, this test print of a photograph taken at the Sun Inn in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania looked pretty good with the basic print exposure of ?/11 at 10 seconds. I liked the composition of the old log book and glasses. With permission, I moved the glasses onto the log book to improve the composition. The shapes and textures are enhanced by the soft light coming from the upper left corner of the composition. But the lighting created a problem, too. The upper left corner of the photo is too light and I find it to be distracting. The light area pulls the viewer's eyes away from the subject. That's not what I had in mind when I shot the photo. To make the image look more like what I had in mind, I wanted to darken the upper left corner. Since I was making another print, I decided to also lighten the diagonal gutter of the log book (though only slightly).

If you haven't done any dodging or burning before, I recommend that you take a few moments to practice with no paper in the easel. Learn how to position your hands or the tool that you'll be using. Even try moving your hands while the timer is running. A few dry runs will help save paper.

When I was ready to make the next print, I put another piece of printing paper into the easel. My basic print exposure remained the same (?/11 at 10 seconds). During the basic exposure I used a small dodging tool to dodge the gutter for about 5 seconds. If your timer has an option for a foot switch, you might consider getting one. It allows a hands-free operation of the timer, making it easier to position your hands so they're ready to dodge and burn.

At the end of the basic exposure it's critical not to move anything. I also suggest leaving the aperture and timer settings at the basic print exposure settings for any additional exposure you'll be making. It's easier to understand the dodging and burning if you think of them as percentages or increments of the basic exposure. Also, if you change the exposure for your burning, you'll probably forget to change it back next time you make a print. Usually it takes a few tries to get the dodging and burning just the way you want it, so this can be a problem.

Whenever I burn I put my hand immediately under the enlarger lens and start the timer with my other hand or a foot switch. Any additional exposure will darken the print, so you have to block the light as soon as the exposure begins. If you were to start the timer, then move your hand to block the light, there would be a second or two of additional exposure in areas you didn't want to be darkened.

The burning in that I did on this print was for 200% - that is, I burned in for two additional exposures at the basic print settings (?/11 at 10 seconds done twice). During that time I moved my hand diagonally so that the upper left corner got the most additional exposure. The area near the curve in the page received the least additional exposure.

The print was then developed normally. The result shows the difference. I'm pleased with the results. The dodging and burning do not draw attention to themselves, which is what I prefer. The viewer's eyes tend to move around the central part of the image to a greater extent than they did in the original photo. If you did not have the first photo for comparison, it would be hard to see where the dodging and burning were performed. For most photographs, if the viewer can't tell there was any dodging or burning, I consider it a successful improvement. If it wasn't the result I wanted I would make adjustments accordingly. For example, if the upper left corner was burned in too much, I would burn in for a shorter time on the next print.

Once I have a good print, I'll make a "map" which I can refer to whenever I want to print the image again. The red area represents the dodging and the blue section is the burning. Believe me, after you've made hundreds of prints it can be difficult to recall how you dodged and burned on a particular print, especially if it was done a long time ago. The darkroom map gives me a good idea of how I made the final print, even if the photograph is reprinted to a different size or on a different paper. It can save you from repeating the work that went into fine tuning your dodging and burning the first time the print was made.

Nearly every photograph needs some dodging and burning. Even the best test print can stand improvement. I've been making prints for over 25 years and I can't remember a photograph that didn't need some additional work. You'll probably even have a good sense of how much dodging and burning a particular photograph needs before you print. Because dodging and burning are basic darkroom procedures, you'll be glad once you've put them into practice.

Once you've learned and mastered dodging and burning, you will find yourself using these techniques often.
-Bernhard J Suess

Copyright ? 2003
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