To get a good commercial product photo, you need to get away from the state of flatness of your file. You want to make it pop out of the screen, have contrast and engage the viewer in a story of highlights and shadows. This last commercial image that entered my portfolio is a very good example. Very contrasty.

As one knows, Photoshop is THE tool to retouch, manipulate and perfect one's imagery. In there, you have a plethora of ways to do everything, including adding contrast. Here's the best way to do so. It’s called Dodge & Burn. The basic concept is to selectively lighten (Dodging) and darken (Burning) parts or your image to add contrast. Let me show you how.

1. Create a New Layer

The New Layer Panel

The New Layer button

By pressing Alt + the new layer button, a New Layer panel pops up. There, you have the ability to name it (I use DB), apply a colour (I don’t), choose a mode (it needs to be set to Overlay) and to fill it with its neutral colour (tick the box). A neutral colour is one that, once a layer is filled with it and set to a particular layer mode, has no effect whatsoever to your photo, even at 100% opacity.

2. Select the Brush tool

Smash the “B” key to switch to the Brush tool. Then, you need to play with the Opacity and Flow settings. I typically set these to 40% and 60%, respectively. The Opacity setting controls the transparency of the brush stroke (100% is completely visible). On the other hand, the Flow parameter commands the amount of digital paint applied each time the brush moves. I also click on every little icon beside the settings. They allow you to brush more naturally when using a graphic tablet.

3. Brush White or Black

Obviously exaggerated D&B Effect 

Assuming that you’ve got #000000 black and #ffffff white as background/foreground colours, just brush on the image to lighten or darken. You guessed it, black darkens and white lightens. Want to switch the active colour? Just press the “X” key. Want to change brush size? Just hit the left bracket key ([) to obtain a smaller brush and the right one (]) for a bigger one. This step is the actual Dodge & Burn process.

4. Gaussian Blur the Layer (Or Not)

Gaussian Blur the Layer

You can get a feel for how the Overlayed layer looks like by switching its mode to Normal. Then, head up to the Filter menu, hover on Blur and select Gaussian Blur. Enter the proper value and click on OK.  You absolutely don’t need to accomplish this step but I pretty much do it every time because it makes the fact that you did Dodge & Burn a lot less visible. Don’t forget to switch the layer back to Overlay.

That’s it. Simple, quick and easy. Dodging and Burning is a technique I use on almost every commercial product or still life photo I produce.

What’s your way to Dodge and Burn? Do you do it? Let me know in the comments.