Introduction to Frequency Separation includes FREE downloadable action

Introduction to Frequency Separation includes FREE downloadable action

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Free frequency separation action for photographers



Free Frequency separation action for photographers



Over the last 10 years, I have refined my editing (and shooting) process for both my client and competition work. I cull in Adobe Bridge, edit around 90% of my images in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and then, if needed, take the images into Photoshop to add a bit more punch and occasionally swap a head 🙂

I have heard the term Frequency separation discussed on editing blogs and sites, specifically in relation to high-end retouching of skin in the studio, so I decided to look further to see if there was a place for this within my process when editing real family photoshoots. The caveat being that I did not want to spend hours retouching skin for family photoshoots as I prefer a more natural-looking skin texture.

After lots of reading and experimenting with different methods the answer was yes –  there is a place for this within my workflow and I have now created my own frequency separation action which you can download for FREE at the bottom of this blog to try for yourself.

** NOTE – This is not a super technical Photoshop tutorial but more for photographers who would like to trial frequency separation as part of their real family editing workflow. That said I have come across some excellent detailed tutorials (free and paid for) and I have included details of all of these below should you want to go and learn more about this subject area ** 



What actually is frequency separation?

In its simplest terms, a frequency separation action breaks your image into 2 layers. These layers are:

1. Skin details such as pores, lines, acne, scars and stray hairs. These are typically called the high frequencies and in actions are shown on the high frequency layer

2. Colour, tones and skin transitions from light to dark are on the second layer and typically called low frequency or colour/ tones layer. 

By separating the image in this way you can remove blemishes and blend skin colour without losing overall skin texture. If done well it stops the subject from looking plastic and too heavily edited.

 What methods are used to create Frequency Separation actions?

There are numerous ways to break your images into the above-mentioned 2 layers. From my research, the high-frequency layer can be created with a high pass filter or subtract layer, and the low-frequency layer can be created with a blur layer, either Gaussian or Median blur.

If you would like to understand how to create these layers in Photoshop yourself I have found a number of videos which explain how and I have shared these at the bottom of this blog. Phlearn also offer more advanced training in this area and details can be found here



How can I use frequency separation as an outdoor family photographer?


For those of you that have had family photography editing training with me, you will know that I advocate getting the image right in camera first. I then suggest you use editing to add that extra wow to the shot in a time-effective way.

Frequency separation is traditionally used by high-end re-touchers and commercial photographers. They will potentially edit pixel by pixel to achieve the look they are after. After cloning, healing, blurring on the individual layers they may also go on to dodge and burn.

As a family photographer delivering up to 40 images on a shoot, I choose not to edit to this level of detail, but I have still found a number of great uses for frequency separation.

Below is a summary of how I use my action in different situations.  

Frequency separation for outdoor family shoots


  • To remove stray hairs across faces and also remove flyaway hairs that are very distracting.


  • To remove spots. Scratches and anything which is temporary on my clients skin


  • To even out any very significant difference in skin tone (including fake tan lines)

    Frequency separation for competition editing


    • To smooth out and colour transitions in the skin


    • To dodge and burn to give facial shape more dimension and shadow and light


    • To remove all blemishes whilst maintaining skin texture 



      Step by step how to use the free frequency separation action


      Below are some screen shots of how the action looks whilst you are using it. The final image is a before and after with approximately 5 minutes of editing on both the high and low layers.

      This image was taken on one of my photography meet ups in Surrey. This lovely young lady came along to the shoot with my friend Karen from KW Photography and the dress was supplied by Coralie from Photees who creates branded clothing for creatives. 


      Step 1 : Open your RAW file into Photoshop and run the action “ Frequency Separation Nina Mace Photography” 

      This will create 2 new layers – the first called High Texture and the second call low/ colour tones.

      At this stage it will appear as nothing has changed in your image.



      Step 2 : Switch off the background and low layers to reveal just the high texture layer. 

      Zoom in and clean up any blemishes, stray hairs using your preferred method.

      You can spot heal, clone, or use the patch tool.

      If you wish to see your progress you can keep turning the other 2 layers back on and off.




      This video show how I use the patch and clone tools to remove blemishes on the high frequency layer  



      Step 3 : Switch off the background and high layers to reveal just the low/ colours layer. 

      Now you can select an area (with the patch or selection tool) and add some additional blur using filter > blur > gaussian blur. This will even out any skin tones. 

      You can also use a colour brush or dodge and burn and this stage to disguise any differing skin tones. 



       This video shows how I use both patch, clone and blurring to even skin tone on the lower colour/ tone layer of the image 



      Step 4 : Select both the high and low layers and create a new group from the layers to compare before and after.

      You can now turn this on and off to see how happy you are with the level of retouching you have completed. 

      The before and after shown here took around 5 minutes and then I would then look to punch the colours and adding some pop to the subject in Photoshop. 


      The more time you spend on the image the bigger change you can create it is very much down to your personal taste.  

      If you would like more free photography training please join my Facebook Communities below

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      I hope you have found this blog post useful and this might give you an insight into Frequency Separation and how this can fit into your editing process whether it be for client shoots or competitions imagery.

      To understand Frequency separation in even more detail you can watch the 2 videos below and check out Phlearns tutorials.

      Finally, If you come across any other great blogs or videos please do let me know and I will add them to this blog.

      Sony A6000 review – my travel camera of choice

      Sony A6000 review – my travel camera of choice

      sony a6000 review – MY travel camera of choice

      Welcome to my latest blog! I am often asked which camera I use when travelling so I thought it would be a good time to review the Sony A6000 which I have used for the last two Summers.

      This year I also invested a Seafrog underwater housing unit and am excited to share some of the images I took!

      NOTE: This is NOT a super technical review of the camera but my thoughts on how easy and fun it is to use when on holiday for photographers and non photographers alike.  

      Why Sony and not Canon you ask? (As I am a Canon photographer through and through!)

      For those of you who know me as a professional photographer, you will know my kit of choice is the Canon. I shoot on a 5d  mark 3 and my favourite lenses are the 70-200 2.8, 135 and 85.

      **IF** I could fit my Canon into my backpack I would absolutely take this with me, but as we try to travel as light I needed another option.

      Cost was also a factor as I didn’t want to invest in something the same price as my main camera as I would be using this one much less often.

      Before  I owned this Sony I had a small Canon GX1 mark 2. I used it all throughout my trip to Thailand but found the ISO capability to be a little too limiting at night. This started my search for a new camera and I discovered the Sony a6000. 

      13 reasons I love the sony a6000 



      1. The weight. This camera is small and light and fits into the smallest of bags.  This meant I pretty much took it out every day on holiday to take photos. 


      2. The flip out screen – This means to take images low to the ground I do not have to lie down – I can just put the camera down and flip the screen  which is perfect for me and my bad back!


      3. The ISO capability – this little camera can shoot up to 24,500 ISO giving me great low light capability  


       4. The images are 24 megapixels which is more than adequate for the size of images I would want to print when I got home.    


      5. I can shoot in RAW or Jpeg  giving me more flexibility for sky recovery etc. Also to say that the dymanic range on this little camera is very impressive and it does a great job of exposing for the subjects and sky when shooting wide. 


       6. I can let the camera do a lot of the thinking – this means I can enjoy my holiday! Intelligent auto, auto and AV mode all work especially well and the camera is very smart when it comes to focusing.  This also means my kids and husband can use it in intelligent auto and take great images  


      7.. The focal length of the kit lens – when I am away on holiday I want to shoot much wider – I am looking more to tell the story of our holiday and not take portraits so I tend to use the standard kit lens. The camera comes with 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 which is the equivalent on a full frame camera to a focal range of about 24-75mm.   


      8. It has eye tracking technology! – you just have to turn this on in the camera the first time to use it. You can watch this Youtube video here to show you how to do it.  


      9. The video capability  – the video function is super smart and automatically refocuses. I am taking more and more video when  travelling now and have been impressed with how easy  this has been.   


      10. It has an on camera flash which I can pull back with my finger so I can feather or bounce it! I actually managed to take shots of my kids in front of the sunset using the on camera flash this year! 


      11. It has a built in panoramic mode. I have used this over and over again for beach scenes, in Ha Long bay etc so I can create panoramas for my wall when I get home. Examples are shown below.  


      12. It didn’t break the bank! It cost be £385 including the kit lens and that is all I needed for travelling. When I photograph on holiday I am trying to bring as much environment in as possible. I do own a longer focal length (70-300) which I picked up second hand on Ebay but I hardly ever use it and this time didn’t even take it on holiday.  


       13.  As it didn’t break the bank I could also afford to buy decent underwater housing so I could happily take it into the sea and swimming pool. 



      I have inclued lots of examples below taken on the sony A6000 from a number of different holidays and you can see how versatile it is. All images were shot in auto intelligent, AV (aperture priortity) or S (Shutter priority mode). In all cases I allowed the camera to make the focus decision. 

      low light capability   


      All of the images below were taken at very high ISO with the first 3 images being taken at the cameras maximum ISO level (24,500 ISO). The shot of my son and daughter in front of the sunset is straight out of camera – I have used the on camera flash and pulled it back a little bit with my finger so it feathers rather than pushing the light straight into their faces.

      For a small camera (and for the amount I paid for it) the ISO capability is very impressive 



      panoramic shooting examples  


      Whilst I am travelling I am looking to take images that remind me and my family of our experience and this is when I shoot in Panoramic mode. The camera does this automatically and stitches the images together. I used this a great deal when backpacking in Vietnam (if you would like to read about the backpacking trip you can visit my very extensive blog post here!)

      shooting in the sea and swimming pools  

      This Summer I decided to invest in a Seafrogs underwater housing kit so I could take the Sony into the sea and swimming pools. I paid approx £280 for the kit and was incredibly impressed with how well it worked.

      Firstly,  it meant that the camera floated – one of my worries in the sea is that I would drop it but this would never be the case.

      Secondly, I could change all of the settings, and turn the camera on and off whilst it was in the case.

      Finally, and probably most importantly, the case has an alarm! The minute it senses that any water has penetrated the case it emits a very loud noise. I wasn’t aware of this but my husband took the camera and Seafrog on a speedboat for the day and accidentally got a drop of water inside, he knew immediately to get the camera out. 

      Below are examples of images I took in the sea and in the swimming pool and all of them were shot in intelligent auto. The camera did an excellent job at deciding on where to focus which meant I could just concentrate on the composition and having fun! 

      macro and portraits with a longer focal length 

      I also managed to pick up a longer focal length 55-210mm from Ebay to take backpacking incase I needed to zoom into anything from a distance. I have to be honest I didn’t use this lens very often but I did test it on a butterfly on a flower next to us at dinner and for photographing some of the locals we had met (with their permission) 



      I hope you have found this blog post useful – if you have any questions regarding the Sony A6000 please feel free to comment below or drop me an email via the contact page. Thanks for reading! 

      about the author

      Nina Mace has is coming into her 10th year running a UK family photography business. Before she became a professional photographer she was a brand and marketing manager for 15 years. She was awarded Children, family & lifestyle photographer of the year by the Guild of professional photographers and was also voted professional trainer of the year by SWPP members in 2017.  She offers group and 1-2-1 training for photographers of all levels and not once does she ask the universe to help –  sadly its all hard graft and practice.

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