Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs


Workflow Techniques #0100

Dodge & Burn Fine-tuning using LightZone

essay by Uwe Steinmueller


We have reviewed LightZone before and found it a very innovative image editing application. Yes you can perform your whole workflow in LightZone but we find it even more valuable for the final fine tuning of our images.

We use most of the time a workflow that we have shown here. This often brings us to the final version of our image. But if we would look closely there is nearly always some room to perfect the photo by using local dodge & burn techniques.

Here is one of those images that we considered quite nice actually:

Cotton Wood in Death Valley

We thought that we may take the sparkle of the tree a bit further without brightening the brighter parts of of the rest of the image. Reaching this goal in LightZone is easy and fun.

LightZone with a region selected

With only a few control points we created a region in LightZone and allowed a wide feather range to avoid harsh transitions.

The following ZoneMapper brightens the tree branches and leaves:

ZoneMapper 1

The lower control point helps to protect all the darker tones of the image from changes. Finding this control point is easy using LightZone's unique ZoneFinder. The other control points tune the brightness/contrast of the branches and leaves.

This works fine and got us thinking to also darken the surrounding volcanic soil.

Here a powerful feature of LightZone comes in handy. You can copy a region from one ZoneMapper to a different one and even link them. This means if you change the region it will be changed for both ZoneMappers. As said we wanted to darken the area that does not include the tree. Lightzone tools allow to use either the defined regions or the inverse areas which we used in the second ZoneMapper (see the red circle):

ZoneMapper 2

This time we protect the brighter tones and darken a bit the darker midtones and shadow. Here is our resulting photo:



crop after

crop before

We show the crops because the changes are subtle but still very important.


  • Create in Photoshop a 16 bit TIFF file with all the global corrections you need to get a good good image (consult this workflow again as example)
  • Flatten the file (or at least have no alpha channel in the TIFF files as right now LightZone won't read TIFFs with alpha channels - will be fixed hopefully soon)
  • Save result as 16 bit TIFF
  • Open in LightZone
  • Tune the image in LightZone
  • Save result as LightZone LZN file
  • Export to a 16 bit TIFF with a different name
  • Open this TIFF in Photoshop
  • Place this file as a new layer on top of the original layers (we wrote a little helper action for this)

Sample Layer Stack



LightZone is one of the finest tools on the market to perform tonal corrections for selected areas. LightZone is close to the logic of classic dodge/burn in the traditional darkroom.

While Photoshop allows optimal dodge/burn control via powerful painting techniques LightZone provides as top class tonal correction via ZoneMapper and regions.

Try LightZone on some of your images that you thought are already perfect and experience how selective tone corrections can even improve those images in most cases.






This is one of the many techniques we will teach during the 2006 Summit. We will also work with you 1 on 1 and help you with your own images and with how to use this technique, and many others, in your own work. Click here to read a detailed description of the 2006 Digital Fine Art Summit. Joseph Holmes will join the Summit 2006 as a guest instructor means you can ask this world class printing expert directly.

About the Fourth Annual Photography & Fine Art Printing Summit

The 4th Photography & Fine Art Printing Summit will take place November 10th to 13th, 2006, in Page, Arizona. Seats are limited. In addition to studying color management and color spaces, we will also do field photography in stunning locations such as Antelope Canyon, Lake Powell and Horseshoe Bend, as well as study Raw conversion, Photoshop processing, image optimization, printing. We will also conduct print reviews of your work created during the Summit. Find out all the details of this unique learning and photographing opportunity on the 2006 Summit page.




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