Dodge and Burn With Complete Control

To dodge and burn is one of the most effective ways to control exposure in isolated areas of our image. helping to emphasise or demphasise specific areas of our images with much greater control. Take control to another level by combining this with luminosity masks. Control the tones affected in any area while dodging and burning.

In this tutorial, we create specialised masks that allow us to dodge and burn with precision. All this while protecting the brightest or darkest areas in the image, to avoid clipping.

ADP Pro Subtraction Masks Luminosity Mask Plugin
Zone System Heat Map Plugin
Dodge and Burn Plugin for Photoshop - Choose How To Use
Dodge and Burn Plugin in ADP Pro

Tools Explained

Subtraction Masks

The easiest way to protect tones in your image is to create your luminosity masks selection using Subtraction Masks. Bright highlight and dark shadows can by adversely affected when you’re working on images. We can eliminate those areas from our adjustments by using the Subtraction Mask Plugin.

Creating a specialised mask using Subtraction Masks you need to make two choices:

Select A Tonal Area To Subtract From

Choose the area that you want to work within.

Select A Tonal Area To Subtract

Choose the area that you don’t want affected.

Create Subtraction Mask

Once you have made your two selections, press the Create Subtraction Mask button to execute.  After pressing the button, you will go through two steps, these steps are to modify each of your selections. You will be given a Levels adjustment to modify the mask for each of your selections. Once you press OK on the Levels adjustment, it will move on to the next mask. The first mask is the area you want to subtract from and the second is the area you want to subtract. By choosing “All” as the area to subtract from, you will not be given the option to modify your selection. So, you’ll only see 1 levels adjustment to modify.

Heat Map

The Heat Map is visual tool for making luminosity masks selections. It overlays 11 – tonal zones on your image and assigns a specific colour to each of those zones. It’s a great way to easily see where the tonal zones are throughout your image. On top of being very easy to see the zones, it’s extremely easy to make selections.

You have two options when you’re making selections. Either make luminosity selections, these are selections with smooth transitions, or hard line selections. Identify in your image which zones you want to work within, based on the colours in the Heat Map. Once you’ve done that, make the selections of those colour on the panel. Each button you press will add that colour to your selection.

To watch videos and see more on how the Heat Map Plugin works, check out this Heat Map Zone System Tutorial

Dodge & Burn

Built into all of the Luminosity Masks creation tools in ADP LumiFlow Plugin are three methods of Dodging and Burning. These options are important, as they allow you to control the image in different ways. Giving you the ultimate control over your image.

In the first image on the left, are the tools that are built into all of the luminosity creation tools. After creating a mask, you can choose to use that mask to Dodge & Burn, with any of the three methods.

In the second image, this is an independent Photoshop Plugin built into ADP LumiFlow. Load this panel up from the main panel at any time.



This method works by painting onto a transparent layer to lighten or darken. Actually allowing you to both Dodge and Burn on the same layer at the same time. The greatest benefit is you can use colour while dodging and burning to enhance colour at the same time. Colour is effected using this method, and it can be difficult to see where you have worked.

Middle Grey

This method works similar to a transparent layer, instead you are working on a middle grey layer. Painting white on the layer lightens, painting black darkens, you can do both on the same layer. Colour is effected when using this method, but it’s easier to see where you have made the adjustments.


This method uses a Curves adjustment layer to either darken or lighten. With the curves layer is grouped, paint with a white brush on the group mask revealing lightening or darkening. This is the best method to use if you don’t want colour to be affected, as it uses the luminosity blending mode to effect exposure only and not colour.

Burning The Rocks

Often we’re dealing with dark areas in our images that we want to darken further to create more impact and direct light. Issues we can commonly face are areas that are already very dark, because of the shadows in the area. So, If we darken these areas further we run the risk of clipping those areas and losing all detail. 

To draw the viewers eye to the middle I want to darken the light areas on the rocks. This gives the appearance that the light is coming from above the waterfall, drawing our eye from the foreground to the background. 

To darken the foreground, I want to darken all the tones, while protecting the very dark tones from getting darker. Traditional luminosity masks will not allow me to darken without affecting the darkest tones. To allow the protection of the darkest tones I need to create specialised masks. The two most effective methods built into ADP Pro are Subtraction Masks & the Heat Map.

Modify The Rocks

Using Subtraction Masks to Make Selection

In this example, I wanted to darken all of the tones, without affecting the darkest tones. So, on the left side of the Subtraction Mask panel I choose to work with “All” Tones, and the right side I chose to subtract away the “Dark” tones, to protect them.  

Because I chose to work in all tones, I didn’t need to modify that selection as every tone is selected. So, it went immediately into the area I wanted to subtract. I wanted to protect the darkest areas, so I restricted the selection to just protect the darkest of the darks, using the levels adjustment provided. Once you press OK, it completes the subtraction and shows you the resulting mask. 

Once you have created your mask, you have the ability to modify the mask, or Choose How To Use it. In this case I chose to “Burn” with “Curves” to avoid colour being affected by the adjustments. 

Using The Heat Map to Make A Selection

Selections with the Heat Map are visual, making it much simpler to make selections. With the Heat Map you are not subtracting tones, instead you’re choosing the tones that you want.

With this adjustment I want to avoid darkening the darkest tones. So, I will not make selections of the two dark blue tones, and instead select the remaining tones. Using the luminosity selections 3-11, instead of the hard edge selections, so I have smooth transitions. You can show the luminosity mask by pressing the “Show” button, and then further modify the mask to make sure it’s working in the exact tones you want to work within.

The options to use the mask are the same in the Heat Map as they are in Subtraction Masks. I use a “Burn” with “Curves” for the same reason, and avoid colour being affected by the adjustments.

Dodge and Burn Photoshop Plugin Heat Map
Dodge Waterfall with Plugin

Dodging The Waterfall

The sun was causing issues when it came to exposing this scene, because it is directly in front of the camera. With dark shadows throughout the image, slightly underexposing the image deals with the bright sun.The waterfall becomes underexposed when exposing for the highlights. 

The issue with lightening the waterfall, was the bright highlights from the sun at the top of the waterfall. In order to lighten the waterfall, I needed to create specialised masks that allowed me to work in the waterfall without affecting the bright highlights. 

The water in the waterfall resided in tones through the brighter midtones through to the brightest highlights. This part of the tutorial I shows how I use Subtraction Masks and the Heat Map tool to work within the waterfall without affecting the brightest highlights.

Dodge Waterfall with Subtraction Masks Selection

Dodge and Burn Using Subtraction Masks

Making the selection here is a little more involved than the one I did in the shadows earlier. The reason for this is, instead of choosing to dodge in “All” tones, I chose to work in the highlights. This means that once I hit “Create Subtraction Masks” I needed to modify two masks in the process of developing the final mask. 

The first adjustment was to concentrate on selecting all of the water, by darkening the rock around and behind it, and lightening the water. In the second I modified the mask to choose the areas I didn’t want affected, which were the bright highlights. 

After creating the mask I chose to dodge using the Transparent layer. The reason for this is colour was no longer an issue. If I was darkening the water, I’d have to take more precautions, when you darken water it can add a lot of blue. 

Dodge Waterfall with Heat Map Luminosity Masks

Dodge and Burn Using The Heat Map

Making the selection of the water in the waterfall is much simpler and more visual using the Heat Map. As you can see from the image to the right there are two areas that we want to avoid. The darker blues from the surrounding cliff and the bright reds from the highlights are not wanted in the final selection. 

With this image, I chose to work with all the tones in between, from 3 – 9, giving a strong selection of the water. I then modify the mask a little further by brightening the highlights of the water and darkening the blacks, to ensure that I am only affecting the water.

I choose to Dodge with Transparent layer again, as I did with the Subtraction Masks. This can be done, because we are lightening with a white brush and colour will not be affected.