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.