Dodging and burning at the enlarging stage are among the most fundamental tools for the black and white printer, right up there with paper contrast and cropping.
Dodging is a means of local density reduction, by holding back light over part of the image during part of the exposure time, while burning is a means of increasing density locally by giving part of the image extra exposure.
Although it is often possible to make a 'straight' print without dodging and burning, these two techniques (which are two sides of the same coin, in effect) will usually allow you to make a better print: one that more accurately reflects the way you remember the scene, and with added drama and interest.
Both techniques are easy: we are constantly astonished by people who say things like "I haven't got into that yet" or "I'm not that advanced."
Illustration from 'Dodging and Burning'
This module runs to 8 pages and contains 8 different pictures, though several of them are step-by-step or comparison shots so there are 18 pictures overall. Alternatively you may wish to look at our book Darkroom Basics which has step-by-step illustrations of how to do it. Other useful books include The Black and White Handbook and Quality in Photography.
Other modules in the Photo School that you may find to be of related interest are:
Subject Brightness Range
Backgrounds and Foregrounds
Exposing Negative Films
Negative Development Technique Dodging & Burning Module
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last updated: 19/02/05
© 2005 Roger W. Hicks