Dodging & Burning

I gingerly removed my print with tongs from the last basin of chemicals and waited for it to dry. I squinted as I left the darkroom, and a waft of chemicals followed me as I laid the latest version of my assignment in front of my teacher.

“Mmm…a little more here on the leaves. Yes, burn it a little more. Then you should be good,” she said. Back into the darkroom I went…


I took a darkroom black and white photography class in college. One of the (many) crucial elements to developing a quality picture was achieving good contrast. The blackest blacks, and the whitest whites were the goal for any assignment. To obtain that contrast was difficult at times, but so worth it in the end.

Dodging and burning requires either exposing a portion of the photograph to more light (burning) or shielding parts of the photo from the light (dodging). It can be a tedious process, depending on the composition of your photo.

I remember one photo I developed pictured delicate Japanese red maple leaves against an overcast sky. I don’t know how many times I put the print back under the enlarger and worked to achieve the perfect contrast.

cc4e9-img082Contrast is what is most pleasing to the eye. To see trees or buildings stark against a bright sky is much more appealing than muddy gray buildings against an equally muddy sky.


In thinking on this concept, I realized it applied to our spiritual lives as well.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

Sometimes Christians can look rather muddy and blend into the dull landscape of our fallen world. We don’t stand out as clearly as we should, as often as we should.

37366-img083

We need to increase the “contrast” in our lives so the world knows what Christ looks like as He shines through our lives. Extending the photography analogy, it’s interesting to note that it’s much harder to achieve good contrast in photos taken on cloudy days. Just as the absence of the sun inhibits contrast, so does the absence of exposure to the Son contribute to a dull spiritual life.

Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. Philippians 2:15b-16a

Leave a Reply