GIMP 101

I want to talk about photo editing, but I feel like it’s been covered ad-naseum online, especially on blogs. So. I’m going to just say, if you haven’t discovered GIMP (the fully functioning free version of photoshop), then let me introduce to my friend The Download. The best part about GIMP is that Photoshop tutorials are easily followed in GIMP.

Here are my favorite photography & editing links:

I can’t use actions in GIMP (a drawback, but not really – it’s taught me how to do each step individually), but I do enjoy reading the blog sometimes. MCP Actions.

I routinely visit Burn, a fine art photography online journal.  I visit it especially when I’ve spent to much time on website’s where the baby eyes are over-sharpened and everyone’s skin looks AH-MAZING. It reminds me that there is more to photography than a perfect mommy blog portrait.

I love going through these links, not only for the extra blogging that most photographers seem to do these days, but also to get design and web layout ideas.

Alright, that being said, let me give you an overview of the easiest options in photo editing.

Here is my original image:

After finishing this whole thing, I found the next picture did not have his stupid toes cut off. I’m lazy and didn’t want to go back and re-do it all, so you will have to make due with my poor composition. Note, these will all be subtle changes to improve the processing of your digital photograph.
Auto Correct for White Balance:
Go to Colors–Auto–White Balance. This is super easy. Here is what the image look liked:
Color Balance Adjustment:
My camera processes photos with a very blue tint. This is super annoying to someone who loves a “warm” photo. Even sunsets look blueish. Go to Colors—Color Balance, and play with the controls.
Note that you can control the coloring of your highlights, midtones and shadows. These are the settings I used on this photo, but every single photo is different. Try it out and see if it helps. Here is the photo with color adjustment:
Hue and Saturation Adjustment:
Notice how that red shirt is like INSANE in the picture? We can tone that done a bit and bump up other colors to make it evenly gorgeous. Go to Colors—Hue and Saturation.
Here I clicked on the “red” and toned it down, then clicked on “blue” and bumped it up. Play around in here as it can control several different things. This is it’s most practical use.
Useful tool in so many ways, but this is a simple fix. Go to Colors-Levels.
Just scooch that far left triangle over until the picture looks “good”.
Curves is level’s friendly cousin. Curves is perhaps the most powerful tool in Photoshop/GIMP, but here we will use just a simple, glorious “S” curve. Go to Colors—Curves. When you open it, it will be a straight line. Change it to reflect an “S”, as shown:

Simple, glorious, wonderful…ahhh I’ll move on…here is the photo:

The overlay blending tool is my most used blending, especially in snowy winter and flash photography. Go to your “layers” palate and duplicate your original layer. Then select “Overlay” from the drop down menu. It took me a long time to figure out that was a drop down menu. HAHA.
This is a little intense, but you can lower the opacity. (See the above slider and how it is set on 100? Yeah, you can lower that). It’s pretty handy.
Unsharp Mask:
Finally, the patron saint of quick Photoshop’s digital fixin’s: the unsharp mask. Go to Filters—Enhance—Unsharp Mask. I usually run it between 2.0 and 3.8 for pictures, but experiment!
Here is the picture:
Now, in reality, I use several of these, some of these, none of these, or all of these for pictures. It just depends. Here is what I decided to do today:
I used Hue and Saturation adjustment, color balance, levels, curves, and the unsharp mask.
Next time: More flamboyant post processing on this same poorly composed image.

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  • Thanks to you I downloaded GIMP this afternoon! Haven’t had chance to play with it yet but I’m looking forward to it.