Photography Development Using Gimp Day 2

Opening a file for Gimp is easy.  Right click on any standard image format ( JPG, PNG, TIF, GIF, etc… ) and select ‘Edit With Gimp’.Today our focus is on installing two plugins, opening our first photo, and performing some basic development.  I’ve included screenshots to aid in the visualality of it.  Follow along using your own photo keep in mind the values used for Gimp in this tutorial will vary from photo to photo and is not absolute.  The two plugins we will install are UfRaw and Wavelet Denoise.  These two plugins are very powerful and effective at what they do.

UfRaw ( http://ufraw.sourceforge.net/ )- is the Progam to open raw formated files including those from Nikon (.NEF) and Cannon DSLR’s.  Some of it’s features include Lens Correction and the ability to change some of the values.  The program will then open the file in Gimp when ready.  We will explore many features of this tool in the future for right now let’s focus on the basics.  Photos taken in Raw format allow for more development creativity than those taken with JPG.  JPG is a standard option on many cameras and it’s biggest problem is that every time a JPG image is opened and modified it losses data.  This loss may not be seen by the human eye but the data loss is present.  The more a JPG is opened and saved the more data is lost and the lower the quality of the image.  I encourage shooting in RAW format whenever possible.  There are other file formats that are available and we will explain and explore those formats shortly.  If your camera does not offer RAW format use TIF if available.  It is the next best thing to RAW and minimizes Data Loss.  After downloading install the program as per your system.  Windows users need to only run the application.

Wavelet Denoise – This plugin is available by searching through the Gimp Plugin Registry I introduced you to yesterday.  http://registry.gimp.org/node/4235 This plugin is all about removing noise in your photos, while attempting to minimize loss of sharpness.  It will soften images as it works.  I’ve yet to find a program or method to remove noise that doesn’t.  This plug-in comes in handy when taking photos at higher ISO Levels to compensate for low light conditions without the use of a tripod.  It is one of the best denoise tools I have found all together and the only free method I’ve come across that is as effective as it is.  This plug-in comes in a zip format you will need to unzip the file and move the contents to your .gimp directory.  For Windows Vista this shows up in the user folder.  I can get to it by clicking on the Start Bubble | Selecting My Name.

Opening a file for Gimp is easy.  Right click on any standard image format ( JPG, PNG, TIF, GIF, etc… ) and select ‘Edit With Gimp’.  Opening a RAW image is just as easy you will only be going to ‘Open With’ and selecting UFRaw.  Once the RAW File is open in UFRaw for now just click on the Gimp Logo Dog in the bottom right Corner to have the image sent straight to gimp.  We will explore the many features of UFRaw in the future for now let’s just KISS ( Keep It Simple Silly ).

Now we have an image open and in the Gimp.  All of the windows, tool bars, and dialogs are move-able.  Feel free to drag them around until you are comfortable.  The first thing to do which I feel is the most critical is to make a duplicate of the image you are working on and save it in a different location.  I use a folder called working to let me know what I’m working on then I move it to completed, published, etc…  To do this click on image in the main window that displays your image and select duplicate.  You can alternatively press CTRL+D to perform the same feat. When duplicating an image like this it is not saved anywhere so let’s save the image by going to File Save, and we will be saving it as a gimp file format, .xcf.  This format is gimp’s answer to photoshop .psd or photoimpact .ufo.  It is a lossless file format that allows to save your work and then return later to resume without any data loss.

For purposes of this Tutorial I will show you how to crop, adjust levels, adjust curves, and adjust the hue and saturation of an image to make it more vibrant.  Cropping will not be necessary in all photos.  The other three steps are present in almost all development that needs to be performed.  I will be walking you through how I took top image below to the final underneath it.

Original

Final After Development

This image didn’t require any cropping.  If you image does use Gimps Crop Tool   to crop out the desired section of your photograph.

Each step in this process I suggest you create what is called a new layer.  Working on a layer other than the main layer gives you the opportunity to ensure you have a place to go back to easily if your adjustments are not what you expected or desired.  Creating a new layer is simple.  In the Layers dialog right click on the ‘Background’ Layer and select Duplicate Layer.

Levels help adjust the intensity of your image.  Open Levels by going to colors | Levels.  There are three adjustments to levels.  They are shadows, highlights, and mid-tones.  They are represented by three arrows, Shadows being the left, mid-tones in the middle and highlights to the right.  By sliding these arrows you are adjusting the intensity of these areas on your photo.

After Levels Adjustment

As you can see after the Levels adjustment we have a bit more intense color in the photo.  We brought out a more vibrant image.

The next step is adjust curves.  Create a new layer as you did for the levels and open the curves dialog by going to Colors | Curves.  Small adjustments in all these steps have a huge impact on your final image.  Depending on the image you are working on determines the amount of adjustment that needs to be made.  The more you experiment with the values in all these steps the more you’ll understand the affect they have on your image.  Before long it will be second nature to hit the values you want spot on the first time.  Remember the whole reason for using layers is if you adjust too much or make a mistake you can easily delete that layer and start fresh without having to hit undo numerous times.

Curves Used For This Image

As long as preview is selected you can see the effect adjusting the curves has on your photo.  Typically you’ll have a shape similar to the one shown.

After Curve Adjustment

As Seen the curve adjustment just brought us one more step closer to our final image.  The last step in the process is Hue and Saturation.  This last step is difficult and critical, making to large of an adjustment will give your photo a surreal look and feel.  If that is your aim great, I personally prefer to keep it as realistic as possible, so my adjustments here are usually very small.  Create a new duplicate layer and access the Hue-Saturation controls through Colors | Hue-Saturation.  As you can see I only increased the saturation by a small amount.  Experiment and see what effect it has on your photo.

Hue-Saturation

Thus we have completed a basic development to reach our final image.  These steps are guidelines, there is no magic formula I can offer you that will work on all photos.  This process is a place for you to experiment, learn some basics in Gimp and obtain good results.  Don’t stop working on a photo until you have achieved the desired end result, don’t get frustrated or impatient.  I have had photos that take me as little as 20 minutes to develop and others that have taken upwards of 2 hours.  Each photo has it’s own personality and it’s entirely up to you how you want it portrayed.  Don’t stop until you have something you are proud to claim as your work.

Final After Development