Photography Development Using Gimp Day 1

Gimp has been on of my favorite free photo editing programs for some time. It is free, easy to work with, and powerful enough to fulfill most needs. Professional Digital Artists may find Gimp limited in some areas, when used for Photography development it is a great tool and asset. I find it’s features very comparable to Photoshop and in some ways easier to use. What it does lack in some ways it excels in others. Being a free product supported by the GNU community I feel it to be a great tool and application. I will share with you over the coming days how I use the Gimp to develop Photography.  While proceeding through this tutorial you see screenshots of the process and see the result on real life photographs I have taken and even have posted for sale as a print in some way.  I will also share in another series how I develop photography using Photoshop 7 Elements. I hope these tutorials benefit some of you out there.  The biggest difference I see between the two programs is that Gimp lacks in the ability to add IPTC tags to a photo such as Title, Description, Keywords, Location, etc.  while Photoshop has always had that feature.  If this feature were to be added to Gimp I probably would drop Photoshop all together.  Keep in mind there is a limit to every effect that can be applied to photo.  No matter what you can’t retrieve lost pixels, nor can you refocus a shot.  I will show some tricks to maximize your end result but there is only so much that can be done.

Gimp Installation And Color Profiles

As with any good graphics program the first step is installation of course and the second most important thing is configuring the color profiles.  Today our primary focus will be on the installation of Gimp on Windows Vista, Verifying the appropriate drivers for color management and installing the appropriate ICC Profiles into Gimp.  If any of this is not configured correctly than the colors you see on your screen will be considerably out of balance with the actual print.   Before I send a large project anywhere to be printed or sold I print a local 8×10 on Photo Glossy Paper to confirm I have achieved the optimal effects I was aiming for.

Obtaining ‘The Gimp’ is rather a simple project visit http://www.gimp.org.  As of the writing of this tutorial Gimp 2.6 is the latest version.  From the main page of the Gimp I wish to point out a few things before we begin our download.  Currently on this page is a link to documentation and the plug-in registry, these links could provide useful to you in the future you may wish to bookmark them for future use.  I will be referring to them from time to time and encourage the use of some plug-ins to aid in development.  For now lets start with the download.  Click the the nice big green download now button and select the version appropriate for your computer.  I don’t believe there is a 64 bit version available as of yet, however I have had no problems with the 32 bit program.  So those of you on 64 bit systems may need to make certain it runs in 32 compatibility mode.  When I was first introduced to gimp it was on a Linux computer and the program seems to be over 100 times better on Linux and I presume with Mac Os X or higher it would be every bit as solid.  Don’t mistake this difference as a weakness, I have found no problems running Gimp on Windows, it just seems to flow better in Linux.

After completing the download run the installer as you normally  would.  Open the downloaded file agree to the windows security prompts, agree to the license, and click install.  Very simple and straight forward.   Once the setup is complete you will be given the option to Launch Gimp and finish the installation.  Let’s not open Gimp at this time.  Remove the check from the box and click on finish.  There are a few things we need to verify before we continue.  The first thing we want to verify is that our Video Adapter, and Monitor are both installed correctly  and using the appropriate drivers.

If running Windows Vista or 7 you can verify this simply by opening the control panel ( Start | Control Panel )  -> Hardware and Sound -> Device Manager.  There are shortcuts available if you are computer savvy the bottom line is we want to verify the device manger lists the video card, and monitor by the correct name and model.  If not before continuing to gimp refer to your adapter and/or monitor manual to get the correct and latest drivers installed.  Doing this will ensure the most up to date color profiles are being used by your video card and monitor and will allow any image you work on in Gimp to  be at it’s most accurate representation.

After verifying your monitor and adapter is running correctly it is time to open the Gimp.  The initial interface may look familiar to those whom have used Photoshop or other graphics programs before.  As we start working on photos tomorrow I will dive into more detail on the use of the tools and other options right now I want to ensure Gimp is optimized for use. Click on Edit | Preferences.  This will bring up a preference window where you can set your number of undo’s, processors, amount of memory to be used etc.  If you are unsure what to use here leave it at the programs default.  If you notice slow performance in the future you reduce the number of undo’s and/or reduce the max amount of  memory to be used and reserved.  For now let’s focus our attention on Color Management listed on the left.  Once you click on Color Management ensure that your monitor profile is listed under Monitor Profile if not try to browse for it on your computer you may need to download a profile from the manufacturer and direct gimp to that profile.  The profile will have either .icc or .icm at the end of the filename.  While you can use gimp without this profile you will not achieve the most accurate color representation and it could be a source of frustration when your prints differ too greatly from those on your screen.  The other thing you want to keep in mind is that any photo or image you open that has an embedded color profile you will want to convert to gimps native color profile.  This is not only true of Gimp but also Photoshop.  This will ensure that your color representation in the program you are using is the closest to accurate you will get.

Play with Gimp for today and tomorrow we will go into more detail on opening a file, (including the more popular raw formats with DSLR’s).  If anyone notices a typo, problem or wishes to elaborate please feel free to do so.