retouching skin with frequency separation in photoshop { wisconsin photographer }

I'm always looking for better ways to process my images, and the discovery of this technique has me pretty stoked.  Frequency separation allows you to separate the colors from the texture so you can go crazy with the clone stamp and spot healing tool without messing with the colors in your image. Okay, let's do this!

photography tutorial by casi lea photography

STEP ONE:  Open your image in Photoshop, however you like to do that.  My beautiful model was lit by an off camera flash in a soft box, and because the light is so directional, it's skimming across her face and showing every little pore, blemish, and hair.  No bueno!  I'm going to use frequency separation to retouch her skin and retain beautiful texture, instead of using blur techniques that give humans a crazy plastic look.  AND I'm going to do it in a non-destructive way.

STEP TWO:  If you've already been working on your image and have some adjustment layers, press the keyboard shortcut CMD(Mac) or CTRL(Win) + Shift + alt + E to create a new merged layer.  After you've done that (or if you didn't have to do that, start here) duplicate your layer twice by clicking CMD(Mac) or CTRL(Win) + J, and then again.  Rename your layers however you like.  I use HF for high frequency, which is the texture layer... and LF for low frequency which is your color layer.

STEP THREE:  Turn off the HF layer by clicking the eye icon next to the layer.
STEP FOUR:  Go to Filter - Blur - Gaussian Blur and  set it so your image looks about like this, though you can play with this part for other effects, for the purpose of skin retouching, this looks great.  The larger your image is, the higher the radius will need to be to smooth out the colors.  Click OK.

STEP FIVE:  Turn your HF layer back on by clicking the eye icon next to that layer.
STEP SIX:  Click on the HF layer so it is selected, then go to Image - Apply Image.

STEP SEVEN:  This dialog box will pop up.  Choose the LF layer from the layer drop down box, then choose a blending mode of Subtract, a scale of 2, and an offset of 128. Then click OK.

STEP EIGHT:   Change the blending mode of your HF layer to Linear light, now your image should appear normal again.
STEP NINE:  Go crazy with the clone stamp and spot healing tool to create perfect skin with texture.  There isn't any one way to do this, but if you're using the clone stamp, clone from a spot close to what you are fixing and select an area that is of a similar texture.  I like the results best when the highlight areas have a fine pore texture and the shadowed areas have a less defined texture.  Keep playing with it until you're happy.  Zoom in closer for small areas, but make sure you're zooming out once in a while to see how it looks.  You can continue on editing afterwards with more adjustment layers, but make sure you save a .psd file before you flatten!  Also you need to make sure when healing on the HF layer that you selected current layer and not all layers in the tool menu.
STEP TEN:  Just because we got this far, I'm thinking we need a step ten.  I've sped up the process a little bit by making my own action that creates the separated frequencies, and it's in my etsy shop available for purchase for a nominal sum.  Have at it! 

There are a lot of tutorials out there on different ways to accomplish this technique and multiple ways to take advantage of this magical trick. Here is a well put together video showing the process.
 And there was also a segment by Lindsay Adler on CreativeLive showing this technique.

Here is my finished image:

PHOTOGRAPHER: Casi Lark of Casi Lea Photography
MODEL: Samantha Foshee
HAIR DESIGNER: Angel Jessica
MAKEUP ARTIST: Sarah Lynn Leland
FASHION DESIGNER & STYLING: Twig Noir with Aaron Basler
LOCATION PROVIDED BY: Joel Portmann & Danelle Mortenson

1 comment

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