Dodging and burning were the most readily available and most often used techniques in the darkroom to selectively adjust tonality throughout an image. These techniques often required the use of pieces of cardboard, paper boxes, or even the photographer’s hands to selectively add or remove light from portions of an image. Due to the available tools, the control provided by dodging and burning was never extremely precise. Areas either stayed too light or too dark, or obvious signs of dodging and burning being added into the finished print. Silver Efex Pro 2 provides incredibly precise selective adjustment of not only tonality, but over contrast and detail as well. The combination of both more precise control as well as more available options makes it possible to do more in Silver Efex Pro than was ever possible in the darkroom.
In this image the default conversion produces an image that is too flat and where the bright trees on the right side distract the eye away from the bride and groom. Using control points, we can draw attention back to the bride and groom and create a great mood.
Use Global Adjustments to add some contrast and adjust the brightness of the entire image slightly. To do this, the Dynamic Brightness slider is first used to darken the entire image while maintaining highlights throughout the image. Next, both the Amplify Whites and Amplify Blacks sliders are increased to around 50% to bring out more whites and blacks throughout the image. Finally, a small amount of Structure is applied to the image to add texture and detail throughout the image.
Once the overall level of contrast and tonality desired is achieved, selective controls can be used to balance the light throughout the image and draw attention to the subject. First, a control point is added to the bride’s arm. Next, the Brightness slider is used to brighten the skin while the Structure slider is used to remove texture from the skin, leaving the skin slightly softened.
Next, the control point on the bride’s arm is duplicated and placed on the groom’s face by highlighting the control point on the bride’s arm and pressing the Duplicate button found in the Selective Adjustments section. Another duplicated control point is placed on the bride’s face as well. All three control points are then added to a group by selecting the control points and pressing the Group button in the Selective Adjustments section.
Now that the desired tonality of the skin has been achieved, it’s time to adjust the tonality of the trees throughout the image. To do this, a control point is first added to the tree to the left of the groom. The Brightness, Contrast, and Structure sliders of this control point are then moved to the left to darken and reduce the contrast of the tree. This helps draw attention away from the tree and back to the bride and groom. Next, the control point on the tree is duplicated and placed on other trees throughout the scene to select them and reduce their brightness and contrast as well.
By reviewing the Zone Map tool beneath the Loupe or Histogram, it is possible to see that the dress currently falls in zone 8 and is not bright enough. Adding some additional control points to the dress and increasing both the brightness and structure can help move some parts of the dress to fall within zone 9, which will ensure there are still details in the brightest part of the dress but also ensuring that the dress falls in the highlights of the image. Making sure that the dress is one of the brightest parts of the image ensures that the viewer’s eye goes directly to the dress, and then to the bridge and groom.
Image by Curt Littlecott