Dodge and Burn With Complete Control
Using Luminosity Masks

Dodging and burning is one of the most effective ways to control exposure in isolated areas of our image. This helps to emphasise or demphasise specific areas of our images with much greater control. We can take this control to another level by combining this with luminosity masks. Now we can not only dodge and burn in an area, we can choose exactly which tones in that area that are affected.

In this tutorial, we create specialised masks that allow us to dodge and burn while protecting the brightest or darkest areas in the image, to avoid clipping.

Subtraction Mask Panel
Heat Map Zone System Luminosity Mask Panel

Tools Explained

Subtraction Masks

The Subtraction Masks panel is used when you need to create a luminosity mask to protect tones within your image. There are times when we are working on images and find that the bright highlights or dark shadows are being adversely affected. The Subtraction Mask panel allows us to eliminate those areas from our adjustments, so they are no longer affected.

When you are creating a specialised mask using Subtraction Masks you need to make two choices:

Select A Tonal Area to Subtract From:
Here you are choosing the area you want to work within.

Select A Tonal Area to Subtract:
Here you are choosing the area that you don’t want affected.

Create Subtraction Mask:
Once you have made your two selections, press the Create Subtraction Mask button to execute.  When you press the button, you will go through two steps, and those steps are to modify each of your selections. You will be given a Levels adjustment to modify the mask for each of your selections. Once you press OK on the Levels adjustment, if will move on the next mask. The first mask is the area you want to subtract from and the second is the area you want to subtract. Note: if you have chosen all as the area to subtract from, you will not be given the option to modify your selection, so you’ll only see 1 levels adjustment to modify.

Heat Map

The Heat Map is visual tool for making luminosity selections. It overlays 11 – tonal zones over your image and assigns a specific colour to each of those zones. It’s a great way to easily see where the tonal zones are throughout your image. On top of being very easy to see the zones, it’s extremely easy to make selections.

You have two options when you’re making selections. You can either make luminosity selections, these are selections with smooth transitions, or hard line selections. All you need to do is identify on your image which zones you want to work within, based on the colours. Once you’ve done that, make the selections of those colour on the panel. Each button you press will add that colour to your selection.

To watch videos and see more on how the Heat Map Panel works, check out this Heat Map Tutorial

Dodge and Burn - Choose How to Use
dodge and Burn panel

Dodging & Burning

Built into all of the Luminosity Mask creation tools in ADP Pro v3 are three methods of Dodging and Burning. These options are important, as they allow you to control the image in different ways, and give you ultimate control over your image.

In the first image on the left, is the tools that are built into all of the luminosity mask creation tools. With any mask you create, you can choose to use that mask to Dodge & Burn, using any of the three methods.

In the second image, this is an independent panel built into ADP Pro v3, which can be called up from the main panel at any time, instead of going through a luminosity mask tool.


This method works by painting onto a transparent layer to lighten or darken. It actually allows you to actually both Dodge and Burn on the same layer at the same time. The greatest benefit is you can use colour while dodging and burning to enhance colour at the same time. Colour is effected using this method, and it can be difficult to see where you have worked.

Middle Grey:
This method works similar to a transparent layer, instead you are working on a middle grey layer. When you paint white on the layer it lightens, when you paint black it darkens, so again you can do both on the same layer. Colour is effected when using this method, but it’s easier to see where you have made the adjustments.

This method uses a Curves adjustment layer to either darken or lighten. The curves layer is placed inside a group, then you paint with a white brush on the group layer to reveal the lightening or darkening. This is the best method to use if you don’t want colour to be affected, as it uses the luminosity blending mode to effect exposure only and not colour.

Burn Rocks with Subtraction Masks and Heat Map

Burning the Rocks 

Quite often we’re dealing with dark areas in our images that we want to darken further to create more impact and direct light. The issue we can commonly face is areas that are already very dark, from the shadows in the area. If we darken these areas further we run the risk of clipping those areas and losing all detail. 

In this image, I want to darken all the light areas on the rocks around the middle to draw the viewers eye into the middle. This will give the appearance that the light is coming from above the waterfall and will help draw our eye from the foreground into the background. 

To darken the foreground, I want to darken all the tones, while protecting the very dark tones from getting darker. Traditional luminosity masks will not allow me to darken without affecting the darkest tones. To allow the protection of the darkest tones I need to create specialised masks. The two most effective methods built into ADP Pro v3 are Subtraction Masks & the Heat Map.

Burn Rocks with Subtraction Masks

Using Subtraction Masks to Make Selection 

In this example, I wanted to darken all of the tones, without affecting the darkest tones. So, on the left side of the Subtraction Mask panel I choose to work with “All” Tones, and the right side I chose to subtract away the “Dark” tones, to protect them.  

Because I chose to work in all tones, I didn’t need to modify that selection as every tone is selected. So, it went immediately into the area I wanted to subtract. I wanted to protect the darkest areas, so I restricted the selection to just protect the darkest of the darks, using the levels adjustment provided. Once you press OK, it completes the subtraction and shows you the resulting mask. 

Once you have created your mask, you have the ability to modify the mask, or Choose How To Use it. In this case I chose to “Burn” with “Curves” to avoid colour being affected by the adjustments. 

Burn Rocks with Heat Map Luminosity Selection

Using Heat Map To Make Selection

Selections with the Heat Map are much more visual then Subtraction Masks, making it much simpler. With the Heat Map you are not subtracting away tones, instead you’re choosing the tones that you want to work with.

With this adjustment I want to avoid darkening the darkest tones. So, I will not make selections of the two dark blue tones, and instead select the remaining tones. In this example I use the luminosity selections 3-11, instead of the hard edge selections, so I have smooth transitions. You can show the luminosity mask by pressing the “Show” button, and then further modify the mask to make sure it’s working in the exact tones you want to work within.

The options for How to Use the mask are the same in the Heat Map as they are in Subtraction Masks, and all of the luminosity tools in ADP Pro v3. I use a “Burn” with “Curves” for the same reason, to avoid colour being affected by the adjustments.

Dodging the Waterfall

The sun was causing issues when it came to exposing this scene, being directly in front of the camera. With dark shadows throughout the image, I chose to slightly underexpose the image to deal with the bright sun. As a result, the waterfall itself was not exposed to my liking. 

The issue with lightening the waterfall, was the bright highlights from the sun at the top of the waterfall. In order to lighten the waterfall, I needed to create specialised masks that allowed me to work in the waterfall without affecting the bright highlights. 

The water in the waterfall resided in tones through the brighter midtones through to the brightest highlights. In this part of the tutorial I show how I use Subtraction Masks and the Heat Map tool to work within the waterfall without affecting the brightest highlights.

Dodge Waterfall Tonal Selection Description

Dodging Using Subtraction Masks to Make the Selection

Making the selection here is a little more involved than the one I did in the shadows earlier. The reason for this is, instead of choosing to dodge in “All” tones, I chose to work in the highlights. This means that once I hit “Create Subtraction Masks” I needed to modify two masks in the process of developing the final mask. 

The first adjustment was to concentrate on selecting all of the water, by darkening the rock around and behind it, and lightening the water. In the second I modified the mask to choose the areas I didn’t want affected, which were the bright highlights. 

Once the mask is created I chose to dodge using the Transparent layer. The reason for this is colour was no longer an issue. If I was darkening the water, I’d have to take more precautions, when you darken water it can add a lot of blue. 

Dodge Waterfall Using Subtraction Masks

Dodging Using the Heat Map to Make the Selection

Making the selection of the water in the waterfall is much simpler and more visual using the Heat Map. As you can see from the image to the right there are two areas that we want to avoid. The darker blues from the surrounding cliff and the bright reds from the highlights are not wanted in the final selection. 

With this image, I chose to work with all the tones in between, from 3 – 9, giving a strong selection of the water. I then modify the mask a little further by brightening the highlights of the water and darkening the blacks, to ensure that I am only affecting the water.

I choose to Dodge with Transparent layer again, as I did with the Subtraction Masks. This can be done, because we are lightening with a white brush and colour will not be affected.

Dodge Waterfall Using Heat Map Luminosity Masks