Photoshop/Camera Raw/Lightroom: Dedicated skin smoothing filter

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there are a ton of different possibilities for skin retouching including the dust&scratches filter which wasn't really designed for it and is super old, frequency seperating techniques that are convoluted or even, god forbid, gaussian blur.
I think it should be possible to develop a filter specifically for skin smoothing that would do a much better job at this and would be much easier to use than existing techniques. since it's a very very common problem I think such a filter would have a big impact on productivity and also ease of training for a broad set of photoshop users.
bonus points for making this an ACR filter :)
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M3 T

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Posted 5 years ago

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Steve Sprengel, Champion

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There are third-party Photoshop plug-ins that do a reasonable job of this, already: Portraiture is one: http://imagenomic.com/pt.aspx Are such plug-ins not useable for you?

As far as ACR doing such a thing, the issues are that ACR is a parametric editor where all edits are done on the fly and not actually stored in image pixels, and the second is that ACR doesn't have a masking system that can be refined by the user so apply adjustments to only certain areas.

The Adjustment Brush is the closest thing but the user must paint all the strokes, themselves, rather than being computed.

Auto-computed, user-refinable ability for adjustment brush areas of influence would be a good start, where I'd think you could ask LR to compute a brush area based on skin criteria and then make adjustments to the various brush parameters like smoothing and noise-reduction on that particular area.
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M3 T

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thanks for the quick reply! I understand that it might not be feasible as acr feature.

however in photoshop I think for a topic this central to photographers it's not enough to delegate that to third party plugins and call it a day. there were a ton of resizing plugins but you still decided to do it better out of the box in the latest version. there were a ton of noise reduction plugins but you fixed it in acr after a couple of versions anyway.

as a photoshop teacher I can tell you that it's always a difficult topic to teach because there still isn't an obvious way of doing it and it's something everyone wants to do. as a photographer I would appreciate a more focused and advanced tool for this myself. and seeing the wizardry of some of your filter developers with other new filters I'm just thinking there is still a lot of room for improvement and it might be worthwile considering it.
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Steve Sprengel, Champion

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Do you believe that Adobe could do a better job, or are you really just wanting such functionality for free rather than having to pay $200/seat for it?

There are two parts to portrait skin smoothing. One is the selection of exactly the skin, and the other is what to do to that selected area.

If I paid for an advanced Photoshop class I'd hope to learn how to do low-level things without the help of a dedicated plug-in, so then I can decide, for myself, if I want to spend the money for something that would save me time or not.
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M3 T

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Thanks again for the reply. I see your point and I agree that this can be expected from a class and absolutely is what I'm teaching them. Yes I do think Adobe could be a better job than those plugins do, not just ui wise but algorithm wise, but that's just a guess from seeing what manual frequency separation can do and imagining a filter around that premise (or maybe there are even better ways to tackle this, I'm by no means a filter guru).

Meanwhile the skin selection process isn't that much of an issue, as I see it, it's easy enough to mask changes with a layer mask.

I'm just thinking this problem has a lot of potential for a great Adobe developed filter. Having said that I can also understand if you have the feeling the status quo works well enough.
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hen Adobe added Export sharpening to Lightroom a few years back, which has now been added to ACR's Save Image, they did not invent this sharpening, despite having many different types of sharpening within Photoshop, they either bought or licensed a sharpening algorithms from Pixel Genius:

http://books.google.com/books?id=xvQy...

This is what makes me think the addition of a complex task to Photoshop such as portrait skin smoothing could follow the same route; however, if you look at the options in LR's EXport sharpening vs what PixelGenius PhotoKit sharpening has for options, LR's are very basic. This suggests that if Adobe included another product's Skin Smoothing, it wouldn't be as sophisticated as what the third-party provides, unless that third-party had gone out of business and Adobe just purchased all their technology.
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M3 T

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interesting, I didn't know that. it's beyond my technical knowledge if there is substantial room for improvement on existing filter plugins, so I guess your filter experts would be more qualified to assess which would be the more feasible route. I could imagine both ways.
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What do you tell your students, now, when they ask about skin smoothing? Do you teach them how to do it as best you can using built-in PS functions, or do you also review the various third-party portrait plug-ins and products, which do a lot more than just smooth the skin.
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M3 T

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the thing is that I have very little time in the environment I'm teaching. I have 4 hours to teach them everything they could possibly need for beauty / portrait retouching and their level is usually very low. so talking about skin smoothing I usually teach them to use the dust & scratches filter together with a layer mask, a soft brush and the opacity slider and call it a day. it works pretty well in most situations. and is easy enough to pick up.