It’s been really hard to keep updating this blog. But I was motivated to write a little bit about how I retouch my images by Midgiee. I can’t talk to Midgiee for more than five minutes on MSN without us thinking up of of new ideas for photos. She kindly volunteered to let me use an unprocessed image of her for this tutorial
These are the steps I take for doing frequency separation editing. I adapted this technique for Photoshop Elements, because I am cheap and I didn’t have CS5 when I started using it. This should also work using that other editor. There’s many ways to do this technique and there’s plenty of tutorials to be found on google that do this in different, possibly better ways. This is works for me though.
Here is the original image, because I overexposed, I had to set the exposure to -1. Otherwise, settings are default.
Make 4 copies of the background layer.
At the layer at the top of the stack, gaussian blur. Usually do between 4 and 6 for closeup portraits. In this case, I used 4.
Invert the image, then set the opacity to 50% by now, your layers dialog should look like this:
Select the top two layers, right click and select merge.
You should see an image that is just gray with little bits of detail. Rename this top layer to “High Pass” or something meaningful.
Change the top layer blend mode to Linear Light. At this point it should look like this.
The main image now looks very sharp (too sharp) so we need to add the blurred colour layer. Select the layer underneath the high pass layer and use a gaussian blur with the same value we used in the second step (4)
Take the third layer, and gaussian blur it to 20. This is going to be a super smoothing layer that we’ll use later.
Add layer masks to the both the colour and the smoothing layer
Fill the smoothing layer’s mask with black, then move it in between the high pass and the colour. Your layers dialog should look like this.
Now comes the fun part. What we’ve done is separate the texture and colour into different layers. I think the best way to show how this works is by using the clone stamp tool and copying a bit of hair onto the skin, only on the high pass layer.
So still on the high pass layer, you clone the “good” textured skin over the blemishes and bumpy bits. Try and clone from regions that are close by. Because we’ve separated the colour from the texture, it doesn’t matter if the part you’re cloning from or to is a different shade.
You sometimes need to alternate between the colour and the high pass layers. Basically, the high pass is to clone out rough spots, and the colour is for cloning out blemishes and spots, sometimes you need to clone on both layers. I constantly adjust the opacity and flow of the brushes to make this easier.
To reduce the shadows under the eye, we can clone bits of colour select the colour layer, then click New Layer.
Use the clone stamp tool but set the sample to current layer and below
Copy from nearby sources for the right tone. You can then control how much this shows by changing the opacity of the colour clone layer.
Next, we can use the brush tool to paint “white” onto the smooth layers mask. The whiter the mask is, the more opaque it becomes and the more blur shows through. I usually do this on the arms/neck area that don’t usually get makeup. You can also use it to reduce the contrast of shadows.
The last step is to sharpen. This can be done by painting black onto the colour layers mask to let the high pass layer filter the unedited background. I made the eyelashes sharper (actually, I probably over did it in this case) , and also the white catchlight. Because Midgiee’s wearing blue contacts, I would also hue shift or just paint black the brown iris that shows through the blue, but I was lazy and didn’t for this tutorial.
You can hopefully see why this technique is so great, particularly in the area under the eyes. The skin texture is still there, while the shadow has been softened. However It’s very easy go overboard and turn the skin to very smooth plastic, so I’m constantly referring back to the original image. It also helps to do things on different layers with masks to use brushes and opacity to fine tune the amount of softening.
I then added a curves adjustment layer to the top of the layer stack to increase the contrast a little bit.
Here’s is a before and after comparison.
For fun, I tried the same thing with Lightroom’s “Soften Skin” brush, which I dislike more and more each day. I notice the weird things that it does to the colour tones in the shadows (under the eyes, they look a reddy orange). The photoshop version is on the left.