Burning and dodging. This duo was an integral part of the chemical darkroom for me, and a black hole for money (remember the expense of fiber based paper?) as I tried and tried to get it right. These words are residual from the chemical days. Burning, meant adding extra light during the exposure process – making an area darker. Dodging meant actually holding light back, sometimes with you hand, sometimes with a makeshift wand – making the area underneath lighter. [See icons on the toolbar in PhotoShop]
The top images is SOOC. The second image is after a bit of burning and dodging. You can see that the eye is redirected to the subject (the dancing couple), and to the opened up shadows on the right hand side, while avoiding the whites of the table cloths in the background on the left.
Our eyes want to go to contrast. Our eyes want to follow lines. You can use burning and dodging to direct or redirect the eye. To keep it in frame, to open all the parts of the image to being read. It makes a difference. Maybe the difference between you and them. Them being in this case the competition.
While sometimes it still seems that I spend too much time finessing an image in post, it is so much easier to make exacting changes now. And my lungs are happier.