Assignment: Before & After / Tutorial: Frequency Separation

Today in my CCSF PHOTO class Intermediate Photoshop – my students and I explored the frequency separation technique as part of a lab module on retouching. This is part of a series of lab modules implemented to build the skills that they’ll need to complete the below creative assignment “Before and After”. With frequency separation – an image is separated into two spatial frequencies, so that image details can be edited independently. “There can be any number of frequencies in each image, and each frequency will contain certain information (based on the size of the details). Typically, we break down the information data in our images into high and low frequencies.” Source FStoppers.

Download the below image to follow along:

Mona Lisa Professor – my head in a cardboard cut out. Paris, France, 2008.


1. To become an advanced retouching artist.
2. To restore a historical image or other image and restore it back to emulate its original condition OR to choose a portrait from your portfolio and give it a “beauty makeover”. Pay careful attention to skin detail, tone and color.
3. To experiment more with producing imagery that employs the learned techniques of this module.
4. Study and view related images that are created in historical and contemporary contexts with like visual techniques.

Guidelines: Choose between repairing a historical image OR making a portrait more “glamorous”.

1. Choose an image that is need of extensive repair, scan the image for a minimum 8×10, 300ppi size using a flat bed or film scanner or use an existing digital camera file.

2. Using coloration, retouching tools, curves and masking, dodging & burning and other repair techniques to bring the image back to life again. Present the before and after images.

3. Provide a written paragraph with screen captures of your Photoshop layers describing the work and your process. Participate in the class critique and present your work.

Turn In: TOTAL, (2) 8x10s or larger
1. Output the before and after images as two separate 8x images. Show both the original and the digitally retouched version side by side.

I’ll show the work of many artists relevant to this project in class. Don’t miss these lectures.

In the spirit of Martina Lopez and Maggie Taylor, produce another image that re-contextualizes your photograph in a new scene, add yourself to the image etc. OR create a new background for the beauty portrait as well as a new stylized version using collage or other. (1) 8×10

STUDENT & PRO “Before & After” SAMPLES

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Tips and Tutorials for Old Images: 
Operation Photo Rescue
Replacing the background with paint

Tutorials for Skin and Beauty:
Carrie NYC (beauty retouching) 
Reducing Wrinkes (healing brush)
Colorizing with Selective Color

Professional Samples
Pixel Chick Studios (before/after)
Carrie NYC – (before/after)
Digital Retouch (Reader Gallery: glamour before/after, antique restoration or 1950s to present)
Barber Shop retouching

Grading Rubric (100pts)
– Followed guidelines and chose an image that needs extensive repair or makeover / use of retouching tools (30)
– Technical quality, retouching, color and tonal corrections, selections, burning dodging, output (30)
– Creative interpretation, uniqueness (30)
– Submitted on time, participated in class critiques (10)

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