Whether you believe the approaches are passé, amazing, or just reasonably useful, frequency separation persists in the photography industry still, and has for years. Here's how to use a new method I created that expands control over all three main ranges: highs, mids, and lows.
The tried and true methods that retouchers have used for years when it comes to frequency separation are, to put it mildly, controversial. If you've spent any real time using frequency separation in your retouching, you probably have determined what you like and don't like about the method, and you probably have developed simple work around techniques to circumvent the limitations you continually encounter. For me, losing contrast was a common issue, so I brainstormed ideas on how I could make it easier on myself to preserve contrast (especially when working in a hurry under deadline stress). So while it would be presumptuous to think I've created a super useful and fresh method for using frequency separation, I'll let you be the judge.
Wait, What's Frequency Separation Again?
But before that, let's refresh ourselves on frequency separation in general. Broadly speaking, there are two distinct methodologies for using frequency separation:
- Modify the High and Low frequency layers directly, cleaning up blemishes on the High and smoothing out color transitions on the Low.
- Use blank layers in between the High and Low frequency layers to paint in skin color to smooth out transitions (this method assumes you've done your due diligence with healing and dodge and burn prior to running frequency separation.)
I utilize the latter method almost exclusively. I find it gives me more control in general, and since I use dodge and burn as my principle technique for perfecting skin, frequency separation is a final polish for me that's only to be used when needed.
If you've read up to this point but still haven't the most remote idea of what frequency separation is, sneak a peek on Fstoppers for numerous explanations and approaches about it.
I'm a Control Freak, So What's Next?
But what about even more control? An afternoon of retouching a few weeks ago had me wondering if I could quickly and easily control my frequency separation "painting" in a more precise way. After some experimentation, I determined that a decent aspect to control would be the big three ranges: lows, mids, and highs. A few minutes later I had created the Tri-Range Masking Action for Photoshop (free download link below) which allows you total mask control of your frequency separation painting work divided over the three main ranges in photo editing. Check out the video above for a six-minute explanation on how I sometimes use it. Please keep in mind, this action is hardly a master solution to all things, so please experiment with it to see if you can get results you like with it and eventually determine when it's best to use it in your workflow (if at all).
This action is a perfect complement to my Freqsep Control plug-in for Photoshop, but can be reprogrammed to work with any frequency separation setup you already use.