Two Methods Of Skin Softening Compared

Discussion in 'Graphics Programs and Photo Gallery' started by smoke665, Nov 16, 2018.

  1. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    I shot this little angel last Christmas, decided to use it as a comparison of a couple of skin softening treatments I use. @ronlane I really wanted to include a side by side using frequency separation, but I guess in the process of transfer actions over from my old computer the action for that was lost, and I was to lazy to do another. LOL Disclaimer, these are not finished images, only examples of the processing that follows.

    On the left is the original untouched. In the center is the surface blur method. A layer was added using surface blur, black mask added, and a soft white brush was used to work the areas that needed softening. A method of sharpening was applied also utilizing the surface blur with a black mask and soft white brush to reveal the areas that needed softening. The last image on the right, used a Gaussian Blur for softening and a High Pass Filter for sharpening. In this case a mask was applied, and a soft black brush took away the effect. To me it seems that a black mask and white brush lets me see the changes more clearly.
    Untitled-5.jpg
    I prefer the surface blur method because of the fact that it retains the edges in the skin profile, which I think gives a slightly more realistic skin tone, but either method gives you the ability to brush in or away the effect, or go back in and adjust thanks to the smart filter option. Like all things PS, there are many ways to accomplish the same thing, I'm not saying these are better then anything else, just a couple I like. For anyone interested if you want a PS action for the above send me a PM, and I'll send you one.


     
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  2. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Interesting! Thanks for sharing.
     
  3. Braineack

    Braineack Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    the image on the right is everything i hate about skin retouching.

    The left image is the winner here.
     
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  4. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Thanks

    The left is the original untouched LOL What about the center???


    Further comment on the above examples. Notice the snowflakes on the cheek in the center image compared to the right. This is a good example of how surface blur can maintain edges while Gaussian blurs everything.

    Also, with the surface blur method, depending on the level of effect revealed, if you need more texture, it's possible to add a custom skin texture layer set to soft light, to give a more realistic look. I have both skin brushes and skin samples. The brushes give you a little more flexibility but the samples are faster.
     
  5. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    One last one, I found the action that used frequency separation to isolate the texture and Gaussian blur to smooth the skin. Even so notice the snowflake has still lost the sharpness.
    Untitled-6.jpg
     
  6. Braineack

    Braineack Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I think all skin smoothing looks fake and is mostly unnecessary.

    I'd prefer to spend my time spot-correcting the three imperfections on the skin than making the image look as though you smeared Vaseline on the lens.

    The last here is differently an improvement, imho, over the middle above.

    I think @DanOstergren does an amazing job at his skin retouching -- it still doesn't look real to me and is obviously retouched -- but he does an amazing job retaining the textures and making not look so plastic.



    I did this three years ago:

    upload_2018-11-16_13-4-19.png

    this is freq. separation. Removed a lot of my blemishes and imperfections, but doesn't look bloomy/glowing and could probably pass as untouched.

    The right-most shot you posted, look at the odd jpg artifacts/pattern it created.
     
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  7. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Thanks for sharing, it's always helpful to see a comparison of different techniques. I agree with everything @Braineack wrote above. I am amazed at what @DanOstergren can do with skin retouching, and yet there's something about that look that I don't care for. My preference is usually to just do some spot healing where needed, slightly reduce the clarity with the adjustment brush to soften/de-emphasize features as needed and otherwise stay away from skin smoothing.
     
  8. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    @Braineack as stated in the OP there is no right or wrong way when processing skin nor a required edit that skin be smoothed. The variety of texture, condition, and coloring varies greatly from person to person, so to limit yourself to only one method wouldn't be very smart. I only showed three examples of smoothing but that is by no means all there is. In particular I wanted to show how surface blur could smooth, yet leave sharp edges intact, where gausian blur softens all edges. (Snowflake on the cheek). I also stated that it was NOT a finished edit only an example of smoothing.

    The decision to smooth the skin is dependent on the subject, the skin and their preferences (barring any gross overkill). In your example above, the more swarthy look that includes pore detail, skin color variation, uneven texture & blemishes, might be acceptable on men. Women on the other hand spend $$$ on makeup that covers, shapes and enhances the face, so their acceptance of reality might be less. The photographer's job is to decide where that line falls. While the photographer may consider himself/herself to be an artist, art is in the eye of the beholder, and the person paying the bill.

    I agree that the conversion to plastic is not a preferred look, but just like spot healing the big zit on the chin, enhancing bone structure by dodging and burning, or using tone mapping to enhance skin coloring, smoothing is just another tool in the box, to be used wisely.
     
  9. vintagesnaps

    vintagesnaps Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I think a little goes a long way. With the smoothing you also lose the texture of the fine blond hairs along the hairline. I can see doing some of this for a portrait where someone wants imperfections smoothed, etc. but it doesn't seem necesssary with children. Although maybe this is just for practice. The middle one isn't so noticeable that it was edited but the third one in the row to the right seems to be getting too unnatural looking.
     
  10. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    This was a side by side comparison of two techniques, one using the surface blur filter and one using the Gaussian blur filter (the eyes and mouth were masked out on both). The surface blur filter will maintain luminosity while blurring the color, and preserve edge sharpness. The Gaussian blur filter, on the other hand pretty much blurs everything. As you noticed, the Gaussian blur doesn't look natural on it's own. To use it, you have to use a frequency layer to separate the texture see https://www.thephotoforum.com/attachments/untitled-6-jpg.165996/ a few posts up. Even with the use of the frequency separation, the texture edges are not as sharp (again referencing the snow flake on the cheek). I prefer the surface blur method as it is simpler and faster to apply for simple softening. However the Gaussian blur method with frequency separation puts the skin texture on a layer by itself that can be further edited, independently of the color. So it depends on the nature of the skin you are working with.

    Just like lucky adults, many kids have immaculate skin, but there's a lot that don't. Blotches, pebble textures caused by irritations, wind burn, pimples, rashes, the list goes on and on. Most of the Mom's I've been around don't want realities in a portrait of the their little angel.
     
  11. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I had some retouching to do this week and immediately thought to come back to this thread. I don't think anything changed for me, but it was interesting to try a few methods myself to see if I got similar results. Ultimately, I just don't like the look that comes with any noticeable skin smoothing for the type of photos I tend to take. I was pretty happy with the results I got using frequency separation methods, but the difference wasn't too significant from the current methods I use, and it added quite a bit of time when retouching more than just a few images. Of course this could just be my inexperience with retouching in PS, but still an interesting exercise. Thanks again for sharing, @smoke665!
     
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  12. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Glad you tried it, like all tools, it has its place. Again I lean toward using the surface blur on a layer as a smart filter, with a mask so I can go back and edit as needed, plus using the opacity to further adjust the layer. The secret is to apply just enough that you accomplish the task but not so much as to alter the image and look fake.
     

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