Skip to main content

The Art & Business of High-End Retouching

Lesson 19 of 32

Retouching Workflow: Frequency Separation


The Art & Business of High-End Retouching

Lesson 19 of 32

Retouching Workflow: Frequency Separation


Lesson Info

Retouching Workflow: Frequency Separation

We've gone to the point where we kind of want um really clean image we want as you can see with this point of view is the textures really clean on the transitions are as good as it's going to get at this step with this level of work there's also a lot we could do one for one we can dodge you burn a lot more for three hours or whatever and you could you could see me sit here and dodge and burned for that period time, which I'm not going to do to you because I know people want uh faster work though, and even though this tolls really powerful what I typically do in my work float is with my dodging burn settings I keep it to the point where all the transitions they're even out from a distance so I don't sue me and I don't mix level dodger burn a lot of the times for commercial jobs maybe, but for standard workflow this is what I do I keep it zoomed out and I see all the areas that need to be dodging burned I fix it and then the rest of it which includes a micro transitions will become part...

of the next step within our lighting subcategory okay just like we mentioned not going back to our image you see that zoomed out a lot of our dodging was to even out darker areas of the skin so that they blend in better with the straw ning areas and that's the effective principle I want you guys to take away as you're looking at this similarly, with burning, we want to darken areas that stand out as to light it was black and white layer was essentially just a mask to see exactly what our total values were, because if you started dodging, we thought your black and white layer you're going to create a lot of work for yourself and it's a good challenge, but it's not that fun to do so with that being said, we're going to continue on after dodging, burning and going on to our next step, which is going to be where I use my frequency separation and let me go and start from the beginning about frequency separation I'm gonna give you a layman layman's terms of all frequencies separation is for those of you don't know, surprisingly, even within my workshops way have half people half the people on more still don't know what it is, and then the rest of the group people know what it is, but use it for a different purpose or intention that I use it for now what frequency separation is is essentially the ability to split an image into two different layers in split it into its texture, components and color components so you have everything that's color related about the layer on it's only about the image on its own layer anything regarding the texture of the image is placed on its own layer so you have these two different layers that combined into one that become high frequency which is your texture the low frequency which is your color and light information collectively they become your image now I'm going to show you first how it's done and then I'm gonna show you what use it for okay, now this is also an action or included within the downloads is the ability to do this because of separation I thought manually having to go in and create every single time okay so I'm not gonna click on the action in my shop menu but I'm going to go and manually do this so first and foremost I'm going to click on the top most layer make sure that your black and white adjustment there's depleted because you don't want to continue with your black heart just earlier on otherwise your whole image from this point will become black and white okay now first and foremost safe and yes I read that you think I'm not saving up every I don't say it enough but again it's definitely important to make sure that we save quite often now going forward let's go inside this whole frequency separation process I'm going to create a stamp emerge visible stamp essentially what this means I call mergers will stamp I think there's a more technical name for it, but I don't know what it is however what this means and what this is going to do is everything that you see right now on my layer stack, we're going to take a snapshot of it when it pasted back on top because right now as we look in photo shop, you'll see that there's no way to copy everything we've done here and put it in his own layer if you try to copy it right now you copy a folder and so we want to collect a snapshot of everything we've done so far and the way that we're going to do this is by holding a few commands it's shift option command in the letter e on the mac side I forgot what is on the pc side that's a lot of keats remember, how can you go over there? I think it's something like control option shifty so your century placing control command an alternate option which are very similar keys yeah, so the mac shift option command e will generate this layer here, which is my stamp and what that does is it is a copy of everything we've done so far, so if I turn every layer below it off, you'll see that that is exact copy of everything we worked on so far and also really cool tip if you hit option and the layer itself on the eye, it hides everything else except that layer. So if I home adoption pushed down and I click on the I, it selects just the layer group that you are honestly, just a quick tidbit, it's, just something that I use when I rhyme working really quickly I want to see that before or after the quick that's a good idea do so another thing you can do is you can hold down once after enabled visibility on one layer and as you're holding down, scroll down and it lights up every one of your players so I can easily go in and hold on my bottom layer and scroll up and it takes up the visibility of everything and that's one of the way that I typically like to go on back and forth between changes. Okay, back to our original point, we have this much visible stamp essentially we're recreating a copy of everything we've done so far and place it on its own layer. Now we're going to be using another word, another version of the same thing and these two things are going to become our low, low frequency and high frequency okay our texture and color so let's go go ahead and duplicate this layer or do that murderous little stamp one more time we can command jay and duplicates the same thing, which is the same thing as creating another merger visible copy now first and foremost on this bottom layer don't freak out when I do this this is not what you think it is I'm going to go ahead endler I got like he's a liar throw him on the cross okay when I was causing blur, I'm going to make sure that the intense of this is I'm going to throw it all the texture, okay? I'm thirty and the reason is I'm going to take that back and put it on the top I commit a little magic trick here, so when it comes up with the amount of ghazi blur to use, I will typically not rely on the number but I will rely on looking thistle preview and figuring out just to the point where all my texture is gone. And for example, when I move this and click on slow preview, you realize that the textures there and now it's gone if I go and have a low number say hello like one point three there's still some texture detail present we essentially want to remove that we see nothing but the actual, uh color and light information and all the texture details gone I typically think it's either between three point o r two point two or three point oh if you do it too much, what will happen is a lot of that color and light detail will go back into the texture and descending very funky and you'll see what I mean as I redo this incorrectly okay, because lobby will also duce incorrectly they don't have the figure to use with me I think teo and three is a great number typically so I'm going to hit okay? And so what happened was essentially that lear got blurred. Okay, fantastic. No, not fantastic, but fantastic for now. Oh, god, I hope someone's not to me right now just wondering why he's learned everything. Ok? The next thing we do is we're going to use this top layer to retain everything we've thrown away and the way that we do this is we're gonna go to image make sure that layer selected the top image and apply image where did you go? Here my eyes are going crazy here or here is run your layer that's why apply image? Clearly I have use action too much. You'll remember where it is. All right, so now it's his layer maybe sure you're selecting layer one because that's what's gonna be what that is where it could be feeding off the city is as follows for a bit images we have to go in and select cease attract scale must be too offset must be won twenty eight and you wanna make sure invert is not selected this is why include in action I said rather you not remember everything but this how you menu we do it now I'm going to hit okay and the blending mode is going to be the new light now we've effectively created a beautiful split I'll show you exactly how I know I'm going to select these two layers painting shift and clicking on both of them or command on we drag it down or whole g whatever to bring into another group I'll name this frequency now when I turned this layer on and off what typically happens is nothing happens right? It looks exactly the same as original image so let me travel these other layers for a second so this everything you've worked on so far so check this out when I turned off the bottom you will see that the texture of the lips and the pores and everything in the eye is all there but you don't see this color seeping through okay now when I turned low on it fills it in like a coloring book you literally split in half it's a beautiful split now let me show you what happens when you do something wrong someone's going to leak this again around my action let's say that I have us um pizzerias uh like eight and it created this frequency what happens is I put this off, you see all the color that came through that means some of the low frequency details the color in light spilled into the texture so it's not effective, meaning sometimes you may not be able to retain the results that you would accordingly. Ok, so that is what frequent separation is. We haven't talked about what we're gonna do with it or how it's typically used so typically the way this works let me actually do a proper one first, so I'll put it back to three point oh, which I think is fantastic I'd rather err on the side of caution rather going too far, which again is I think something that's based on whatever number you typically is, but I use between two and three for the most most part the way that this typically is used is because we have our frequency set up. What this means is that we can adjust these independently, so say that you were starting on image and this is what you were asking why I don't use it before. What you can do is say if you were on your low caste layer you sick like currently what happens is you can heal out the color of a blemish without touching the texture, and then you get independently hell out or clone out the texture of a blemish separately so they're done independently. The reason why I don't do that initially is because whenever I'm healing, it typically takes care of my texture and color information together in a way that's better than doing independently when I heal every stroke will heal texture and the color of a blemish because what I'm healing, I'm typically removing something or a substance that's both texture and color together I don't trust mice well enough to do them independently, which is fine if you have that workload ok, but again, this is just my work and that's another reason why people uses quite often now there's been something recently where people have gone really carried away with this where they start really damaging files by moving textures around too much and colors around too much that can create lot of problems, so that's also I don't use it initially because I want to just quickly use my hitting brush I found that faster for my for my purposes at least now. So what does this really mean? You know, why are we even bothering with this? Why should we care? Well really important reason is that now that we have our color and light separated, we could even auto analogies manually in a way that we don't have to dodge and burnt everything mind my needle pixel so essentially what this means is, for example let me find a good area to consider like say, the chess for example we have a lot of mine needs details going on what I'm going to do is select a blank layer underneath to or between them and what I'm going to do with that is I'll have a brush selected I'll make sure that my brushes soft and I will start sampling colors of the skin and brushing our gently very minute lee mind you not to alter the image too much and make sure those minute transitions are evened out so that it replicates the hours you typically spend dodging bring two minute degrees which is why it's still important to dodge and burn initially to be able to get close as you can to reasonable point obviously it's like the principle of diminishing returns you after certain after a certain point like ninety percent every single percentage doubles your time frame so with me in regards efficiency I will get that eighty five ninety percent of dodging burning and then with this technique I will gently with a few strokes even out areas with harsh transitions or micro transitions where you see a lot of little micro blemishes, I'll show you exactly what I mean, so let me make sure I have a really good air selected to show you exactly what I'm talking about so say for example here I'm going to go on rotate this real quick see, I haven't brushed brush selected and I'm going to sample say along this color here let's say that I want to not only even out the transition but also replaced the color of the highlight with the neutral color that's resembling something closer to the edges of the skin I'm going to select a really low flow against low is important and really soft brush so I select the brush now start brushing and what happens is any area so let me go and talk tone on this high real quick so selectively neutral color close the highlight and just tone it down and what typically happens is why trent running off the highlight color itself dissipates while the texture of the area still stays intact so it's kind of like a replacement as well you can do things teo even out skin tones actually or replace and subdue highlights even and it's fantastic because you can also use this to further emphasize the makeup to say you have highlights in the makeup you wanna tone down as well khun sample the same color and tone it down or if you want to improve the transitions of the makeup you can select it and then brush it out brush it in what happens to the transition become really smooth and gentle without destruct disrupting a lot of the texture of the image now similarly going back up top along the transition's what you can do is you khun sample along the transition line and even out love those micro micro blemish our micro recall them there is that are dark and light the blotchy nus for, say and you can sample and gently with a really low flow lessen the effect of those intense transitions blotchy areas even along the highlights. Over here people think you know it's really impossible to get up or subdue. What happens is you can select a neutral color and then bring in the area of the highlight on what happens is it not on ly evens out the blotchy areas of the forehead? Because again, I'm not doing a lot of strokes it's literally just two or three strokes that even out the skin just enough for the still realism their regards to natural, dark or light areas, but it's still evening out things naturally and so even on this ridge line over here, khun sample of color here and fill in those beautiful highlights that are now much better than they were before. And similarly on the other part of the face khun sample of color and tone down those highlights under her face even attend transition I can even our transition next with the face over here this also I rotate it was very print so I can work across all countries of her face was just a few strokes even across the makeup so if you have makeup that's extremely transitioned and you're getting love grittiness that you may want to tone down just a bit you could even out the colors by doing the same thing because the luminosity well I guess you could say the texture still stays intact but you're just going and tampering with the tones of the makeup so all those creases and everything to stay there what happens to make up just because we're beautifully transitioned and the key is always subtlety which is why I dodge and burn as much as I can project in the step because if you try to do the step first what would happen is you get or you get quite carried away when there's more to even out in that sense what happens is it becomes impossible to um control the steppe without going too far because my flow is low I can see the changes its coming in so I know not to go too far or know that might transitions to be neutral so you look at the forehead for example you see how brighter it wass when you turned on you so you know specifically like contour and you're dodging burner you just kind of overall contour throughout the process then and not have like a specific contouring set yeah I really want contoured most of my shop it's I think countries kind of optional if a photographer wants me to it would either come during the dodging burn step actually if you know for sure what you like or give me something in your extra steps you can say I want to leave contra until the end so it makes it completely modifiable um I would probably do things like enhance a makeup through country but I wouldn't go as far as country the whole face because sometimes it goes really wrong if you've seen some images that are contoured improperly and I tried to stay away from that because unless you're very confident and contouring face then it becomes very difficult to control that but the techniques would be exactly the same yeah and so now what happens is as I zoom out and look at the image it still has his beautiful radiance about her and the transitions are even out. The important thing to remember about this is the fact that you have to keep sampling and changing your brush size depending on where you're working and secondly you have to be able to ensure that you're not changing her face shape and on lee evening out areas that are extremely watching because you're not doing entire face you're just in the areas that are need work essentially or even here when I would take a color then even off the heirs of the skin just based on how blotchy they were and again like a mention typically you would spend the time to dodge and burn everything to get to that certain point so it's not like this step will really you know take place everything but it does help especially we have is really, really small transitions that are impossible to blended right it's like a makeup principle, isn't it it's like doing makeup under the skin where your skin tone should be perfect still and the best part about this is you can mask it and take it out in case you've gone too far this also happens on the skin arm whenever you see these really small areas and again I want to mention that this is just something that I do because it is something I feel allows me to have the efficiency with the results time wise but it is also imperative to know that everyone has a different work flow, you know? And again nothing is set in still nothing's fact but these are all tool to help you get to where you want to go. The best part about the best part about this is the fact that my texture is still precedent and set on top, so I'm basically sampling and just do a couple of strokes in the direction of the light or shadow and something colors again and again so if I'm working on a shadow I'll sample in the chateau region just like the same principles with healing so what happens is when you zoom in all the texture and everything still remains. All those fine details are still there, but what happens is you see that we have is a micro transitions that even out that really makes things like extremely beautiful as a transition over. And I think it really works well in areas where you see makeup, right it's beautiful, because what happens is these little gaps here get faded together, and I would have done that manually anyway by burning in the light bits in life, in those dark pit to this level, where you could still see some bits that are darker, lighter, I wouldn't go much further. However, I mention this because it's very easy to be carried away with his process, why flow is extremely important, let's, say, have another blank layer and I have my floor really high. You could actually flip the whole layer, right? So it is limitless in that sense, which is why I mentioned the flow and why mentioned you have to be very careful with how much you do it, because it can do exactly what you wanted to do. You have to be very gentle with groups that layer come back to my flow. This is also another method of filling eyebrows, because the texture is independent from, you know, the color itself of underlying area in the eyebrows let me go in for a few more gaps here just for the sake of demonstration definitely wouldn't go further than this really it's just again a finishing stuff like a cherry on top so to speak but a beautiful cherry would you replace color for saying like clips or something if the photographer one of that here or in your color processing and my color process yeah definitely because when you try to replace an entire color using this step it won't look accurate because within the lip itself you have white because the highlights yourself red we try to replicate that is very difficult so typically use things like curves are you saturation to change soft colors so it keeps the luminosity of the white areas of dark areas and so forth good question this is also great for backgrounds as well it does a lot for that um you know, many years I have a little issues england takes care of that too because my flows so low I'm only doing a couple of strokes here and there I'm not doing a lot because you can see the changes very gradual because the fact that I'm not doing insane amount of work it's just a few steps here and there because again if my fluids hi what's gonna happen is it will totally change everything about tomorrow not even within the ridges of the nose even that out even told this highlight a bit do you like and diminished the appearance that little freckle here you know something we'll make up the fine lines and everything are still there the transition's air much clear and if you have a hot spot brothers even more you can take that down to another stint as well. I think if you notice on the forehead what happens is when I turn on and off you see how powerful is highlights were originally you could turn that down in any place you feel like you've gone too far, you can always add a mask and essentially just even out the area and what happens when you put this together? You get this really nice image where the transitions are extremely beautiful and the best part about this is that again, you can always drop capacity completely or bringing in suddenly so you control everything in every area that you want. So again, this is not a step that you have to do. I think it's great instances where is very difficult to tone down particular areas or transition things. And so lots of people ask you, how do you get those extremely beautiful transitions but still keep the texture detail there and that's, how I do it is after my dodging burn, stephanie get really close. My last two or three percent will be just the finished off to a certain degree it may not be to this extent, because my dodger, where is more extensive? However, this could meet me halfway there, if necessary.

Class Description

One of the biggest challenges a photographer faces is the amount of time spent on retouching images. Creating a beautiful high-end finished photo requires the right tools and techniques — but the process doesn’t need to dominate your workflow.

Join international retoucher Pratik Naik, owner of Solstice Retouch, as he shares his secrets for creating beautiful photos in less time. You will also learn the business and marketing side of retouching — everything from working with clients to creative branding opportunities.

During a live photo shoot, Pratik works with photographer Felix Kunze, demonstrating how photographers and retouchers can work together to craft a final product that exceeds the expectations of both parties. You’ll learn every single step of the retouching process by watching as Pratik turns Felix’s raw photos into high-quality images.

Whether you’re a photographer who wants to present high-end final images to your clients, or you want to break into the world of retouching, Pratik will provide you with the skills necessary to be the best at your craft.

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 14.2, Adobe Lightroom 5



Really wonderful course, thanks. May I suggest a fantastic idea for maybe those who purchase the course? It would be extremely useful to be provided with a summary of the content of each video segment, perhaps a 30-60 second video with written 'dot-point' sheet at the end of each segment, to be reviewed at a later time. It just takes too long to replay each video to get the important messages. The notes provided by Pratik were a step in the right direction but they need more detail of what was presented, including tips and tricks, in each segment. In this way, once having watched the entire course, you could go back and review the nitty-gritty aspects of each segment quickly and efficiently. These quick 'summary' clips could make up a separate 15 minute video, recapping in detail the hard-core content of the course, without interruptions from questions. This would be extremely useful and hopefully not take the presenter too long to film. I feel this would be a wonderful 'added value' aspect of buying the course, as it would not be available for for free viewing. It would certainly encourage me to buy more of the available courses. Keep up the great work at Creative Live! I have stopped my Kelby subscription and just watch you guys now!! Well done!! Peter Bourne Australia


Pratik has been a revelation and a revolution at the same time, even kinda a benediction because of its huge generosity to show us such an efficient and powerful workflow. His genial approach turns impossible things into possible. What amazed me most, was Pratik ability to see further the shot and take the best of it to reach the perfection. The original photo is still there, very recognizable, but through a precise and meaningful workflow, it becomes eye-catching, high quality, high impact. Pratik is a wonderful person, very genuine, high talented, with a sophisticated sense of the aesthetics and arts. This course changed drastically my way to look at photoshop and at the retouching techniques. Thank you!!

user d3cdf7

I have been a retoucher since 1992 and a commercial photographer and I am amazed at the wealth of information Pratik is teaching us. Love his great sense of humor. Yes, retouching takes me way into the early part of the morning...up to 4 am. I've learned to listen to Books on DVD from the library which help my attitude much better. Several degrees behind me and I know I was meant to make a difference with portrait photography. NO ONE wants reality, especially at elder ages. So I continue to learn to retouch professionally and not use a quick retouch filter which renders a fake look. I may incorporate a light retouching filter, but I find I must always do some manual retouching first, in order to have the appearance look real. Which is the old first rule to retouching itself. In the film days, I use to make my own texture screens in order to create more beautiful faces. My photographer friends would ask for my help in using them, when they had blurred an important celebrity shot. The texture screen would help spread the dots and give the appearance of your digital noise now. The results were the image looked more focused Thank you Pratik Naik, for being so generous with your techniques. I am interested in how to price out retouching jobs, as I have been told I give my retouching away with my photography. Thanks,, Jeri Goodwin-Akari cherished moments photography in walla walla, WA