Feel the Burn – Digital Photography Tip of the Week

When I was younger, still in high school, I spent a lot of time learning photography, not unlike today. I read all the books I could, I talked to the guys in the local camera shops and most importantly, I shot a lot. However, back then my choices were all film based which was expensive. I also learned how to bulk load my own film (in rolls of 39 or 40!), develop and print in my own darkroom. Doing this enabled me to shoot much more than I otherwise would have been able to as the do it yourself approach was more cost efficient. One of the things I did as a printer to enhance my final work was to burn my edges in order to draw the viewer into the photo.

Burning the edges of your image refers to the process of given more exposure to edges of the print during the printing process to darken them. Even though I am all digital now, I still do this on my competition, presentation and many other prints.

There are many ways to burn your edges. One simple one that is non destructive and adjustable is to create a levels adjustment layer and move the grey slider to the right. You will see your image darken as you do this. Don’t worry too much about the amount of darkening, you can adjust it later. Next, select black as your colour and with the paint bucket, fill your adjustment layer with black. Switch to white and choose a large brush with a very soft edge. On a 6 MP image I use a brush about 200 pixels. Now, paint the edges of your frame using only half the brush. This will give you a nice, soft transition in the darkening of your edges. This process works in all recent versions of both Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Elements.

If the edges are too dark, you can either double click on the adjustment layer and move your grey slider back toward the left a bit, or you can lower the opacity of the adjustment layer. It may take a little bit of fine tuning, but you are looking for a subtle burning, not a drastic one.

Until next time, happy shooting.

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