Retouching – Frequency Separation

Frequency separation is a technique used in retouching photographs that allows you to work on the color separate from the texture detail. What this means is that you can adjust the blotchiness or overall tonality of a patch of skin, for example, without losing the texture of that skin.

Essentially we create a High layer that has the detail elements, and a Low layer that handles the color. We can then bring in tools like the clone stamp, the Spot Healing Brush, and the Brush tool to affect each aspect of the image separately.

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Dramatic Family Photo Restoration

A dramatic restoration of an old damaged photograph


This is another image I found online and worked with as an exercise. It was as bad as any photograph I’ve ever seen, with missing corners, tears in the surface from creases and folds, stains, scratches, and dust spots. Some of the faces were completely obscured, and took some doing to recreate. To further complicate matters, the exposure it self was less than ideal, and the scan included glare from an area where the photo was rolled. This would definitely be a test.

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Class Photo Restoration

Restored Class Photo


Class Photo Resotoration - Original ImageClass Photo Resotoration - Original ImageThis is a good example of the limitations of photo restoration, and why having a good source image is vital. Although I could remove the cracks and scratches in the original, the fact that the source image was low resolution, and the original exposure had a lot of noise, there is not much more I can do to improve the quality of the original photograph. This is an image that I found online and used as an exercise. Click on the thumbnails to see the full image.

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Instructor Seminar Photo Restoration

1st World Instructors Seminar, Arnis-Kali-Eskrima - Cebu City, Philippines - August 8-9, 1987 - Photo Restoration


This was one of the first images I ever restored using Photoshop. The original was a 5″ x 7″ print that had seen better days. It was on glossy paper, had a yellowish cast, staple holes, wrinkles and creases and damaged corners. There were also visible defects in the exposure, surface scratches and other things that had to be corrected. Unfortunately, I don’t have a larger image for comparison, I returned the original many years ago.

The photo itself is of historic importance. The event that this commemorates took place on August 8-9 in 1987 in Cebu City, Philippines, and was instrumental in the creation of the World Ekrima Kali Arnis Federation (WEKAF), which was the first international sporting organization for the Filipino Martial Arts community (competitive stickfighting). One of my instructors is in this photo, and those who are familiar with the community will recognize many other significant instructors from a variety of systems and lineages.

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