I don’t pretend to be a photographer or graphics artist; I’m just a guy telling stories and adding a few pictures. I’m hardly a master of GIMP or any other kind of image editing software. I don’t have the interest to pursue it very far. My camera use doesn’t justify spending big bucks on really good equipment. The whole reason I bother with taking pictures and posting them here is to help you understand better some of the things I’d like to tell you, so I will try to make the most of what I have.
Aside from any skill and/or talent for pointing the camera and capturing the view, there are some things we can do to enhance the resulting images. Most of these less expensive cameras will leave you with images that need a little adjustment.
1. Cropping — So far the single biggest thing is cropping out extraneous material. For example, you’ll notice I trim the sky in most of my pictures. And most of my landscapes are long and narrow because the point of the shot is the road, for example. Play with the idea and don’t be afraid to undo such edits until you get what you want. GIMP offers a simple cutting tool. In the palette that usually opens on the right side, it’s the first tool in the upper-left corner. For most of us it’s simplest to start in one of the upper corners of our intended crop and drag to get what you want. If it’s not right, select “Edit” in the window menu of the image and the first item should be to undo whatever you did last. Once you have a box drawn that contains what you want, go to “Image” in the menu and select “Crop to selection.”
Save the image in the native GIMP format for now, and give it a meaningful name.
2. Light — Most cameras get this wrong. In the menu line, select “Colors” and then “Brightness-Contrast…” A small control window opens and you can move it so you see the results. As always, you can undo anything as previously discussed, or simply dismiss the changes with the “Cancel” button. With most digital camera images, I’ve found the image needs a little less brightness and a little more contrast. Move the sliders left for less and right for more. When you adjust them just a little as I described, you generally end up with richer colors and sharper details.
3. Other color controls — I’ve occasionally felt the need to adjust color balance and hue saturation. These are more difficult to explain and you’ll simply have to experiment, but it’s also an interesting way to customize and make it more artsy if you like.
4. Format — There are dozens of digital formats for images. While I like the way PNG turns out for handling, it’s fatter than JPEG (.jpg) so if storage size matters, stick with the latter. The native GIMP format is XCF and that’s fine for storage if you suspect you’ll need to mess with it again. You’ll find that GIMP can open a wide array of formats and can export to them, but you need to specifically look for the term “export” in the File menu when you want to save in the non-GIMP formats. It defaults to PNG exports, but if you keep using JPEG, it tends to remember that.
To be honest, I’ve spent more time trying figure out how to change images someone else created so I can adapt them for my own use — always with proper permission, of course. I’ve also had to do things like rotate images that were saved sideways (see “Image > Transform” or “Layer > Transform” in the menu). I just barely grasp how GIMP assigns layers, but I’ve been able to find tutorials that get me what I really thought I had to have.
The point is that GIMP does more than any of us individually will ever know and care about. The few simple adjustments outlined here can really make a big difference in helping others see what you see.