Making of an Image

In this tutorial you will see how I edit an image and learn how to apply a dodge/burn adjustment layer in Photoshop.

Step 1

This is a SOOC (Straight Out Of Camer) image. I took this with a Nikon D800 and 105mm Macro lens at 1/250th, f5.6 100ISO.
SOOC (straight out of camera) image

Step 2

I imported the image into Photoshop and did some basic editing. First I removed the distracting branch and flowers in the lower left corner to give the image some negative space. This helps to draw your eye into the image and to the subject. First I selected the entire area using the Lasso tool and then selected Fill and chose content-aware fill. Secondly I used the healing brush to fix any areas that didn't look right.

I also adjusted the color balance to make it warmer. I then zoomed into the image and went around it looking for dust, bugs, and other distracting bits of stuff and removed them with the healing brush. It is usually best to create an empty layer and then apply your healing brush changes to that layer. Just make sure to set it to sample all layers.

Before you start the next step you should duplicate all the layers and merge them into a single layer.
Edit image

Step 3

Now I ran some filters against the image to apply some effects. I performed another Iris blur with a heavier blur on the outside. I then added a curves adjustment layer to increase the contrast of the image. Next came a slight vignette and finally a slight guassian blur. The last effect was a color balance adjustment layer to warm the image.
Filter image

Step 4

The next step is where things get cool. I found that the image has some areas that are too dark or too light. To fix this most people will use the dodge or burn tool. What they don't do is use a layer mask to do it. To perform this you need to create a new layer and fill it with 50% gray. You then set the layer mode to Overlay. Since the adjustment layer is filled with 50% gray and is set to overlay the end result is no change to the image.

You then select the Dodge or Burn tool to lighten or darken areas of the image. Make sure to select a feathered brush and set its exposure to 10-30% and check protect tones. With a low exposure setting you apply the dodge or burn effect in small amounts. A soft brush avoids harsh edges. Protecting the tones avoids color shifts in the effect.

If you turn off the other layers you can see the changes to the dodge/burn layer. Whiter areas are dodged and darker areas are burned. 
Dodge/Burn Layer Mask

Step 5

Turn on all layers and you have the finished image. Enjoy.
Finished image
You can see a larger image on my Google+ page here.