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Frequency separation: Really non-destructive?

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  • Frequency separation: Really non-destructive?

    I have recently been experimenting with frequency separation, using the Apply Image method to create a "blurred" layer and a high frequency one.

    I absolutely love the amount of control you get when cloning directly on the high frequency layer: it's not something you can normally do with the clone stamp or the healing brush. I understand why it's a better method.

    Before I used frequency separation, I always had a "clone" layer, an empty layer on which I did all my cloning and healing, with the tools set to "Current & Below". This was great because I could selectively erase parts of that layer and start over, at any time. It's truly non-destructive.

    Now, my problem: how do you do that with frequency separation? As I understand, you must clone directly on the high frequency layer for it to work. So what if, after 3 hours, you decide that you shouldn't have removed that blemish, or you made a mistake somewhere, but you don't want to start from scratch? You can't selectively revert certain areas of the high frequency layer to its original state.

    Is there a way to do this? Say, make a blank layer on top of the high frequency layer, and have the clone tool only clone from the high freq layer onto the new blank layer? I can't get this to work because of the Linear Light blending mode. Is there some method to achieve this?

    Otherwise, frequency separation is actually quite destructive, since you can't go back (unless you Undo of course, but that's not what non-destructivism is about). Sure, you can take your original layer, frequency separate that, and then copy bits of the original high freq layer onto your modified one to revert those areas… but that's very fiddly and leaves you with way more layers than seems necessary.

    Thanks!

  • #2
    Re: Frequency separation: Really non-destructive?

    Dupe the high frequency layer before retouching and turn it off. If you want to change your mind about a certain area, make a soft selection around that area, copy from the unretouched layer and paste into the retouched layer. A bit of a work around, and, if you've done a lot of retouching, you might risk losing pixels you want to keep, but if you're careful, it addresses your issue and retains all the benefits of retouching the Hi Freq layer.

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    • #3
      Re: Frequency separation: Really non-destructive?

      Actually you can make it a non destructive workflow. Duplicate the HF layer, change its blend mode to Normal and clip the duplicate to the HF layer below. Now add a layer mask to ithe Duplicate HF and also add a layer mask to it. Do all of your work on that duplicate HF layer. If you need to go back and undo anything, just paint with a black brush on the layer mask. This technique is fully non destructive and your only penalty is adding an additional layer to the image.
      Cheers, Murray

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      • #4
        Re: Frequency separation: Really non-destructive?

        I'm surprised no one has mentioned the option of using the history brush. Make sure you have enough history states set in preferences. Set your history state to the point before you start to work on the HF layer. Using the history brush not only allows you to revert any part or all of the HF layer, but also allows you control over the edge-quality and opacity of your reversions. This seems so obvious that I suspect I must be missing something.
        If there are issues re the history log getting too big, there is also the option of making snapshots.

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        • #5
          Re: Frequency separation: Really non-destructive?

          Originally posted by AKMac View Post
          I'm surprised no one has mentioned the option of using the history brush. Make sure you have enough history states set in preferences. Set your history state to the point before you start to work on the HF layer. Using the history brush not only allows you to revert any part or all of the HF layer, but also allows you control over the edge-quality and opacity of your reversions. This seems so obvious that I suspect I must be missing something.
          If there are issues re the history log getting too big, there is also the option of making snapshots.
          History states are great but they carry with them a huge overhead in memory, disk space, and Photoshop's processing speed. In static mode they are equivalent to adding flattened layers which you can do by just adding those layers. In dynamic mode they are meant for short tern use (20-50 steps). When you are working on a large file, if you don't run out of memory, PS grinds to a snail's pace. With image files that are now 24-36 megapixels per layer and during retouch can be 25+ layers high can have take 10hrs+ worth of hundreds or thousands of brush strokes, history states are not very practical practical.
          Cheers, Murray

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          • #6
            Re: Frequency separation: Really non-destructive?

            I always have my history set to 100 states, I work entirely with hi-res images and working file sizes in the region of 200 to 800Mb. Occasionally I go over 1 gig, but usually for temporary 16bit operations. Photoshop seems to be quite happy with that.

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            • #7
              Re: Frequency separation: Really non-destructive?

              If that is part of your workflow and you want to bring something back. It's very simple, just brush back from the original art work.

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              • #8
                Re: Frequency separation: Really non-destructive?

                As long as you have the original artwork there no need to worry about "destructive" anything you can always bring back. If you don't want to destroy pixels you just might consider not retouching too much and just dodge and burn (your favorite way).

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                • #9
                  Re: Frequency separation: Really non-destructive?

                  FWIW, any time you alter the values of an image, there's 'destruction' (data loss). IF the idea of non destructive editing is you can 'go back' to a previous state, well Save As is non destructive...

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                  • #10
                    Re: Frequency separation: Really non-destructive?

                    yes, andrew your right so let me correct what I said if you don't want to destroy pixels as much you just might consider not retouching as much and just dodge and burn.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Frequency separation: Really non-destructive?

                      I think many of you don't really use the expression "non-destructive" the same way I do. I'm not entirely sure of the true meaning, but here's what I mean by it:

                      Working non-destructively for me means that every major modification you make to the image can be turned on and off arbitrarily at any point, by using layers, smart objects, smart filters, paths, masks, adjustment layers, etc… This allows you to change your modifications at any point, regardless of when you did them, and independently of any other part of the image.

                      If I place a red piece of glass over a printed photo, I have not destroyed or changed the photo, I have merely altered its appearance temporarily. If I painted over the photo with red paint, then I would have destroyed information. The fact that you can always reprint the photo does not make it non-destructive. That's the difference.

                      It does NOT mean (again, to me) that, sure, you can undo or re-process your RAW. You can always do that, it doesn't count as non-destructive.

                      Why? Because when a client says "oh that's great, but could you not remove the eye bags?", then you simply go to the layer on which you did your blemish removals, and erase the eye-bag area. Copy and pasting back from your original image isn't non-destructive, it's fixing something you broke.

                      Say you have the base layer, your original file, and then you do some blemish correction on a new layer, and then you add in some hair from another image on a 3rd layer, and so on. You can always delete or modify individual layers without having to fiddle with affecting areas you don't want to, just because you didn't work non-destructively from the start. Directly modifying an important layer (such as the high frequency layer, which is effectively more than half the information content of your image) is not desirable since you cannot easily reconsider those modifications later. Sure there's always a way to fix things no matter what you did, but there's a reason for non-destructive methods.

                      By the way, anything related to the history brush or the history is irrelevant for non-destructive editing: if you're working on a PSD for weeks, you'll have long lost your initial history states. I'm not talking about fixing things that you messed up by accident, but I mean changing things that you or your client decided to change at a much later time.

                      This is more a problem from the point of view of how I like to work and what's best for the retoucher, rather than the final outcome. Some people work like me, and others only ever work on a single layer, and deliver the same final results. But when you ask me to change something, it may take me 1 click, while the other person might have to redo the whole image from the start just to make one tiny change…

                      Originally posted by andrewrodney View Post
                      FWIW, any time you alter the values of an image, there's 'destruction' (data loss). IF the idea of non destructive editing is you can 'go back' to a previous state, well Save As is non destructive...
                      Once again, that's not true. The idea is not to go back, and true non-destructive editing does NOT cause any data loss. Your original image is always there as your bottom layer - not as a backup, but as a functional, visible base layer - intact, and you build on top of it with other layers and filters. Destruction means loss, not temporary modification.
                      Last edited by baryon; 09-09-2013, 12:39 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Frequency separation: Really non-destructive?

                        Yes, I understood what you meant and the technique I posted above will allow you to treat the HF layer the same way you would treat say a D&B layer. With a D&B you can use a brush on the curve layer to paint more or less or turn the layer off. With the HF layer group you can also turn it on or off, you can continue to clone / heal on the clipped HF layer or paint on the mask to undo previous work. The Freq Split group however is blocking so what you want to do is place that group above you background layer and build everything on top of it. If you need to add another Freq Split layer group somewhere up the stack, then you no longer have a non destructive / non blocking workflow.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Frequency separation: Really non-destructive?

                          I work on only one jumped layer and on that layer is all the retouching and maybe another for the liquify that's it for the most part. The rest are silos adjustments a whole lot. That's the way i was learned that said I actually work in the industry full time as a retoucher anyone can go into my file a correct undo anything you can bring back hair, blemishes whatever you like. It's way more simpler and professional. But do it your way eventually you will work with less and less layers especially if you ever land a job at a shop.

                          Unless it's a comp that is a different story but for editorials and beauty it's not that serious.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Frequency separation: Really non-destructive?

                            I always begin with a duplicate layer. Depending on the image, and the instructions I get, that one duplicate may end up in a group with five other layers.

                            I separate adjustments based on the need and usually blend to a base layer using masks and/or blend modes/options.

                            Sometimes it is necessary to use CMD + Option + Shift + E to save the adjustments to a single layer, and save the layers to a group which is then turned off. That way if need be, I can always go back and make changes and re-generate a flat composite again.

                            The most important thing to do - know what you need to do and do it in logical steps.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Frequency separation: Really non-destructive?

                              Yes, again, it's important to say that HOW you do things is only up to you, and everyone should retouch the way they prefer. The great thing in Photoshop is that it allows so many different ways to do the same thing.

                              I'm really not saying that non-destructive work is better in any way, I'm just used to it and was wondering whether others who work like me have problems/solutions with frequency separation. Also, since I see that frequency separation is so efficient, I'm probably the one who needs to change the way I work to better accommodate this technique.

                              But there have been some very useful suggestions that pretty much solve the problem, thanks!

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