How to use Frequency Separation in Photoshop LSP Actions by Lemon Sky

How to use Frequency Separation in Photoshop

Frequency Separation in photoshop can seem a little daunting to begin with but, once you understand how it works, you are able to open up a whole new bag of photoshop tricks and take your skin editing to the next level. In this video, I explain how you can create your very own frequency separation layers and (most importantly) help you understand a little about how they work.

Are you offended by the 'F' word?

Do you shudder at the 'S' word? Don't worry, many do!

Read now to learn about Frequency Separation, or skip to the bottom to just watch the videos if you're not a reader (or only have a few mins of browsing before life calls you back again #fastlane)




As a newborn photographer, you are sometimes presented with challenging skin edits. We shoot for sharpness and though this is stunning for eye lashes and other precious details, the camera also picks up and amplifies any temporary spots, wounds, flakes and scratches on baby's delicate skin. These are *very* temporary blemishes, sometimes cropping up on the day of the session and fading the next day and every newborn will have some degree of acne, scratched skin or red blotches. This is all part of being a brand new little human adjusting to the outside world. Washing powder, dry air, temperature changes, lotions, you name it, so many factors can affect babe's precious skin those first weeks.

These blemishes are likely to not be particularly noticeable in normal daylight, on a mobile phone snap or when baby is out swaddled in the pram - but add in a professional shooting environment and a still moment captured in time and BAM, all the little spots suddenly appear a lot more prominent. We want to photograph our little newborns through the "parent's eyes", but these temporary blemishes can totally dominate a portrait, taking away from baby's beautiful little features.

The secret to newborn skin editing is not to over-do it. It's so easy to get carried away and not know when to stop. I recommend using Frequency Separation toward the end of your edit, once everything else is taken care of. I'd recommend never starting off an edit with fixing the skin, this will be incredibly time consuming and can lead to an over-smoothed, over-edited portrait. Fix the light, white balance, background etc first.

So, what is Frequency Separation? Frequency Separation is basically "separating" the tones from the textures of your image. The tones are the colours (made up of Red, Green and Blue), the textures are the details (made up of shadows and highlights). For example, check out the image below: 


If you look from a distance (or squint your eyes), you can see the word "FREQUENCY" this is a low frequency layer, meaning it is actually just made up of colours and is very blurry, there is no hard detail remaining. BUT If you look right up close, you can now make out the word "SEPARATION" this is the high frequency layer, the texture only and is made up only of hard-edged shadows and highlights.

Sound super complicated? Stick with me *brings you a strong drink*  it's actually pretty simple to understand once you break it down into the basics: By separating the high frequencies and low frequencies of a photograph onto 2 separate layers, you are able to independently edit the tones (ie red blotches) and the textures (ie spots), meaning a much more natural looking edit that you have full control over.


So, how does this all apply to a newborn image? Right off the bat, I don't believe in removing birth marks / stork marks / other defining features / hand and foot flakes. I don't remove mama's stretch marks unless she requests it. These are a part of the individual and celebrate their new little self.

90% of the time, you can edit a newborn image using your normal tools (spot healing, patch, clone...) but occasionally... well, occasionally we are presented with a more challenging edit where the blemishes dominate baby's little features. Think severe baby acne, lots of scratches or bruising... This is where understanding Frequency Separation comes into play.

In this video, I am working on the image below: Left is straight from the camera (minus the support hand holding baby comfortably and safely). Right is a quick edit using the Signature Newborn Collection followed by Frequency Separation to fix the scratches, acne and red blotches:



If you already own the LSP Newborn Actions, Studio Retouch Actions or Forestry School Actions then you already have the in-built LSP Frequency Separation Action! Just scroll down and check out the manual section of your action set :)

If you do not own the LSP actions, don't worry because I'm going to show you how to create your very own Frequency Separation layers, from scratch. I explain the process of Frequency Separation and what each setting means when you are creating your own frequency separation layers to hopefully help you understand this process a little more. It's not just about knowing what buttons to click, it's also about understanding the why... or at least it is when you're a geek like me.

I hope this short, free video series helps you become friends with the dreaded FS. As always, these free videos are un-scripted so I apologise for my oh-so-incredibly British rambling.



Please watch VIDEO #1 first to understand how Frequency Separation works and how you can create your very own Frequency Separation layers:






Please watch VIDEO #2 to learn how to use your new found awesome FS skills to edit a newborn in Photoshop:







BONUS: How to use Frequency Separation to remove Stretch Marks 



Questions about Frequency Separation? Link to join the private LSP facebook group: 


Psssssst - Don't watch & run, leave me a comment below:

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