Friday, April 19, 2013

Photo Editing in Gimp

As promised here is a very untechnical "tutorial" of photo editing in Gimp.

Perhaps you're like me and would love to know the "ins" and "outs" of photo editing, but you just don't have the time.

Or you are the one who finds everything a bit too technical and advanced.

Either way you want to make your photos look the best . I hope the following tutorial will be of help to you all.

As I mentioned in a previous post that I was, up until now, editing my photos for my Etsy shop in both Picasa and Gimp. Now that I am discovering more about Gimp, I am finding that it may just be all I need to transform my images from okay to great.

Think of this as not so much of a tutorial, but rather, as a guideline on how to allow yourself to explore possibilities in photo editing. Programs can be intimidating with all the different functions, especially if you are not familiar with them. (Believe me I do not have a clue about half of what Gimp can do). Allow yourself to experiment with your photo (work on a copy so you can be fearless about messing up), and you will discover a very valuable tool.

Lets start with the original photo. Right off the bat you can see that the image itself is not very impressive. (I have gotten better at capturing my initial images and this is the most important step - take good pictures). Ideally you will want to start out with a picture that is the best you can take. The less need for photo editing the better. This is one of my first items that I photographed, and as you can see even a photo this dark can be transformed into beauty.

 Depending on the item, you really don't always need a lot of space to take your photo. Some of my items are simply placed on a piece of white paper on my desk. There are also many instructions on the internet for building your own light box if that suits your product and style better.

Open the image you want to enhance in Gimp. Gimp stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program and it is a wonderful free tool you really should take advantage of. Here I suggest you save a copy of it, so that if you don't like what your editing has created then you can trash it and start again.

Now, I play.

I basically use a few different functions to get my final result. These functions are all found under the "Colors" pull down menu at the top. What I tweak first depends on the image I am working on. Once you do this a few times you will start to get a feel for what you want to do first.

This particular image is a black and white...or rather black and blue. So I went straight to "Brightness and Contrast", found under the "Colors" heading. Please note that if you are doing a photo where you want to retain the vibrancy of your colours, then you will want to do this step later. If you increase the brightness too much, too soon then you can loose some of the pigment you want to enhance. As mentioned previously, the order of steps will depend on your photo. If you already start out with a great photo, then sometimes the brightness-contrast is all you need to do.

Next I adjust the "Colour Balance". (Useless note: I find it interesting the Gimp spells "colors" the American way on the menu title, yet spells "colour" the Bristish/Canadian way in the individual windows.)

Here you will find three different ranges which you can adjust; shadows, midtones and highlights. Note that what you think should be shadows, midtones and highlights might not always be so on the program, it is a computer after all. 

What I love about this part of Gimp is that there are sliders for each function. Make sure the "preview" button at the bottom left part of the window is checked and you can see your adjustments live. 

Go on, move the sliders back and forth and see what happens!

See I told you this wasn't going to be a technical tutorial. By playing with these sliders you will be able to adjust various aspects of the colouring of your photo. As you can see, my goal here was to take out the blue, but it won't happen all in one step. I often end up adjusting each one of the ranges at this point. As you can see the result is more yellowish now. But that's okay. We'll fix that in a second.

Next I go to "Hue-Saturation". This is where you can adjust specific colours on your photo. You can work your photo as a whole (when you click the "master" button in the middle), or each colour individually (click the colour). I prefer to work on each colour one at a time. Not all of these colours will necessarily be in your photo, so if you experiment with one colour, it might not do anything. Sometimes though these colours appear in surprising areas where you did not except them.

Adjusting the hue and saturation of a colour will change the colour completely, which is exactly what I wanted to do with the yellow. See? All gone.

You can also adjust colours in the "curves" window. But I usually use this step to make the final adjustments to the "value" of the photo (which is very similar to brightness and contrast). This graph makes it quite easy. Just grab a spot on the line and move it up or down (again make sure the "preview" box is checked) and watch what happens to your photo. To adjust colours, pull down the drop down menu next to "Channel", just on the top, right of the graph.

Finally I touch up any remaining spots with the paintbrush. This will be shadows on the very corner of the photo (which is sometimes the wood of my desk), or get rid of the little bit of shadow from the item. It is a personal preference to keep the shadow from the item itself, but in this case there was so little of if left from editing, that I wanted it gone. I use the feathered brush (or the fuzzy circle) for this. You don't want a hard edge to make the item look cut out.  

Lastly I attach my watermark to the finished photo. But that's a different tutorial in itself.

I hope you enjoyed this little "tutorial" and that it encourages you to get out and experiment with your own photos. Like I said, play, see what happens. There is a lot more that Gimp can do and you never know what you might discover!

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