Retouching Revolution: A Veteran Photographer's Take On The Complete Overhaul of Frequency Separation
Hey there - this article was originally published on April 4, 2018 on our RGG EDU site. We've revamped it and made it better, just for you!
Does Retouching Need a Revolution?
Something that makes retouchers and photographers rethink the way images are polished in post production. Something to save time, increase profits and allow for more creativity. Something that is built on the existing tools within Photoshop yet completely changes the way people work.
Let me state straight away that I am not a retoucher. I have been working with Photoshop for 20 years, but I am a photographer first and foremost, with enough knowledge of post production to be dangerous in the right ways. Over my career I have cleaned up some of my own images, but I have always relied on a small army of retouchers to bring my images to life.
Beverage Photography Before and After Frequency Separation
So why do I say that retouching needs a revolution? Because it’s about to get one.
Photoshop gets better all the time. Adobe is always tweaking, updating and changing the industry's best post production tool. It has grown to the point where there are probably two hundred ways to execute a singular task depending on your knowledge set and workflow. Despite all the advances, some tasks are laborious, mundane and difficult. Retouchers get bogged down with cleaning and fixing images on the most minute levels that they waste hours of time. And that often takes the joy out of the job.
Earth Oliver is a 20+ year veteran retoucher. His list of clients is ridiculous, he is well connected to developments at Adobe, and he is at the top tier for commercial retouchers. Earth got to the point where cleaning, fixing and polishing images at the ever-changing requests of clients was burning him out in the business. He often passed on jobs that required too much work because his profitability would be diminished. Earth wanted to find a better way to work. One that was faster, far more accurate, and would allow him to spend more time on the creative process of retouching.
After clearing his plate and sitting down with the sole purpose of completely changing his post production workflow, Earth settled on the most misunderstood and misused aspect of Photoshop: Frequency Separation.
I know, I know, Frequency Separation is terrible and has a bad reputation. One earned from a history of the process being improperly used by retouchers mainly when working on skin. An image where Frequency Separation has been applied often has visible mistakes leading to falsified looks. Simply put, Frequency Separation has been used the wrong way the entire time it has been employed.
Enter Frequency Separation 2.0
Earth unlocked the secret to Frequency Separation, from here on known as FS 2.0. By ripping the process apart, Earth found an approach to using FS 2.0 that could quickly fix any problem area. And I mean any area.
His method is based on texture. Earth can fix blemishes, gradients, you name it. All while maintaining texture. Texture is the key word here because when texture is diminished in any way, so goes the image and it’s believability.
Coffee Maker Before and After Frequency Separation 2.0
I will admit it took me a bit of time to really get my head wrapped around this idea. Years of knowledge of Photoshop left me in a place where thinking differently about post production did not come easily. But once I grasped the concept and watched the ease of Earth’s new workflow, I saw clearly the way every retoucher should be working. A technique where you can wipe problem areas away without making yourself crazy and most importantly, without damaging your images.
Why FS 2.0?
You probably think I am full of it right now. That I am writing a fluff piece just to get your attention. So I want to challenge you to try this process. Learn about it, put it to use, and try to break FS 2.0. Earth has boldly stated that he has yet to find a way to break FS 2.0. Let’s put it to the test. No matter what kind of images you are working on, I want to know if FS 2.0 fails you in any way. If you learn this process and use it in the right manner, you will shave off hours of retouching time and completely boost your profitability. This should breathe new life into your workflow and allow you to concentrate on the truly creative elements of post production.
Earth has stated that FS 2.0 has saved him as much as 90% of his time in post production. This has greatly increased his profit margins, freed him to take on larger jobs, and allows him to retouch images with much greater accuracy. That sounds like a retouching revolution to me. 🙃
This article was written by Food and Beverage Photographer, Rob Grimm.
Rob Grimm is a 30-year veteran of the commercial photography industry, owner and co-founder of PRO EDU. See Rob Grimm's Biography