Jeff T. Alu processes his images by primarily dodging and burning them in Photoshop. Below is a tutorial that explains his technique. Visit our Inspiration Section to see one of his mesmerizing photos, or visit Jeff T. Alu's website to browse his galleries.
Jeff T. Alu's Photoshop Dodge & Burn Technique
All of my photos are taken digitally using Minolta DImage F300 and Kodak DC280 cameras. Actually, the Kodak is no longer functional and the DImage has a bit of sand inside after a brush with a Dust Devil so that I have to pull the lens out manually. Anyway, I don't use any filters and normally use the default, automatic settings on the cameras.
I take all my pics in color and covert to black and white and process in Photoshop. For me, the cameras are merely data gathering devices and all of the real work is done after the fact. Also, I don't use a tripod and very rarely wait for the right lighting, etc. I usually take my photos while hiking around and as soon as I see something, I just point and click.
Convert To Black & White
First, I convert to Black and White in Photoshop via the Channel Mixer. I turn on the Monochrome setting, and generally take the red channel to 0 and the green channel to 100 or so. This tends to cut down on the amount of noise in the image.
Dodge & Burn
Next, I dodge and burn the image using the Dodge and Burn Brush. I alternate between the two brushes while working on an image. When using the burn brush, I always have the range set to "shadows", and when using the dodge brush, I always have it set to "highlights".
I never dodge or burn the "midtones" of an image. I very rarely set the exposure above 15%, unless I'm trying to completely burn out the sky, in which case I will set it to 100%.
The Unsharp Mask
I use the Unsharp Mask in two passes: one to make the image more intense, and another to sharpen it. The first pass has a high radius and a lower amount. This tends to make the image "pop".
The second pass uses a low radius and a higher amount, which sharpens the image on the pixel level (making it less blurry).
When I dodge and burn, I like to think in terms of a battle between light and dark. I sometimes go back and forth between the dodge and burn brushes over the same area, alternately brightening and darkening. This can give the image a somewhat harsh look, which I think adds to the drama.
More On This Technique
You can go to my website to see a Flash movie that shows how the image evolves as I work through the process.
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