Everything is duly noted...
Note this: D&B is completely unnecessary if you can control your process.
D&B is often needed to fix a mistake in exposure and development.
It is child's play, today, to design your technique to eliminate D&B.
And not every major portraitist D&B'd (beyond simple corner darkening).
Originally Posted by df cardwell
1. by what tools you design your technique today (I'm still learning)
2. I agree that not everybody D&B'd. But it also seems to me that some photographers (notably Sieff) built his career on D&B'ing.
I teach beginning photo classes. I discourage much burning and dodging, but I do show them how to burn edges and corners. Due to the geometry of the enlarger's optical system, the edges receive less light than the center, and the corners even less. To correct this visual issue a standard burn in from the edges is precisely what is needed. It has very little to do with what's in the image; more to do with the evenness of the projected field.
I really don't want them to do much burning and dodging because they often think that they can simply do so, thus avoiding having to learn the basics of print exposure and contrast, and how to use both of these factors together to achieve a print. I have had students who have adopted burning and dodging and end up "painting" the image, exposing every part more or less independently of the other parts. Why not just take a painting course instead? It would be easier and more likely to succeed.
Whenever you have to burn or dodge to "fix" something, you can be sure that there is something wrong with your basic vision and metering/development decisions. The techniques are great for correcting edges, and for making minor adjustments in local values for the purpose of integrating the image. They are not good for covering up your mistakes. Unfortunately, I believe that most photographers, at least beginning ones, use them to try to cover their errors.
I very rarely burn/dodge. I'm not rigid about it, but I just don't think it is generally all that useful except for the uses I've mentioned above.
1. by what tools you design your technique today (I'm still learning)
We're ALL still learning.
The most powerful tool we have is Visualisation.
The second most powerful tool we have is Simple Technique.
Look, See... shoot, print. That's about it.
Weeding out all the rubbish is the hard part.
Sponsored Ad. (Subscribers to APUG have the option to remove this ad.)
I actually practice quite a bit of dodging and burning. Even with perfect negatives, ones that look good as a straight print.
To me it's a tool to enhance and improve the final print. It's not about fixing errors (like others I just don't make mistakes ), it's about giving the photograph the attention I think it deserves. In a particular scene, despite using all kinds of filtration, waiting for the right moment, etc, there are always going to be values that would look better if they were contrasted against each other more (or less), or elements in the frame that need to be toned down or accentuated. To me that's just making the photograph the best it can be.
I'll challenge the wise ones here and ask how you can have the stance that dodging and burning is a tool intended to fix geometrical problems with the enlarger.
Bruce Barnbaum, for instance. You may, or may not like his photography, but nobody can ever deny that he's a true master printer. Out of the hundreds of exhibition prints that are in his books and exhibits, he says himself he only has 3 straight prints, which he believes he cannot improve with dodging/burning.
I'm hardly Bruce Barnbaum, or have his skill, but I dodge here and burn there to balance tonal relationships in the scene. On every print I make but a few.
To me that takes nothing away from the importance of lighting technique and composition.
Last edited by Thomas Bertilsson; 01-26-2009 at 06:52 AM. Click to view previous post history.
"Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank
"Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman
"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh
Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson
Originally Posted by The Supreme Idiot
There is nothing at all wrong with your approach. Sure, there is plenty of precedent for even rather extensive B&D. When one does it with a negative that has great quality, I think it comes down to some very basic philosophical/ethical issues, as well as the utility it has in achieving a result that corresponds with your own visualization of the image. Let's push this over the edge, take it to a logical extremity: Does Jerry Uelsmann burn and dodge? He not only does, but he dodges holes in the image (however he does it) and burns with different negatives to fill them. In doing so, he accomplishes something that simply cannot be done any other way (prior to Photoshop, that is). Could I fault Jerry for that? Nope.
I know someone who shoots 8x10, and if the image requires any burning and dodging, he throws the negative away. Can I fault that? I can. That seems utterly ridiculous to me.
My own mentor burned and dodged a lot, even to the extent of flashing the developing print in the tray with a flashlight. He did this sort of thing impeccably. Minor White. Could he have made the kinds of images he did without burning and dodging? I think not, and the world would be much poorer without them. Here again, we are looking at someone's aesthetic. Was MW concerned about "reality"? Generally not very much. He was interested in transcendence, and to that end, he used subject material to provide raw material for the kinds of images he visualized. Then he did what he needed to do to make it work.
Back to the OP:
It's a great question because it makes us think about basic issues. For me, the answer must be that it depends upon your aim. If you are shooting a portrait wherein you might want to alter the background to look like the fires of hell with an elephant standing behind your subject, for example, it might not be possible to do that with lighting and the zoo might not be very supportive of your project. For a normal studio portrait, however, lighting and process control is absolutely essential. You can use the perceived need to burn and/or dodge to identify needs that you have for tuning both. If you need to burn or dodge in a straightforward portrait that intends to represent what's in front of the camera, it may indicate that some improvement can be made. A commercial portraitist wouldn't have time to do a lot of that, and most likely would try to get the basic technique to eliminate the need for it.
Originally Posted by pierods
So "which one am I supposed to do?" They are not the same thing, and they don't address the same purposes. You aren't going to be able to fix lighting by burning and dodging. It's for something else. So get the lighting right, your exposure and development right, then if it wants burning and dodging, do it.
Thanks for your input.
Originally Posted by bowzart
Light comes first, and print manipulations are used to take that light and the overall image closer to an intent, be it a slight polishing or a more extensive reworking. But the light is the first step.