Sunday 29 March 2015

How to Edit Your Photos Professionally | part one

Hello! Today I thought I would make a post about editing your photos, whether it's for Instagram or for your blog, or just because you want to make them look a little better. You don't need a fancy camera for beautiful looking pictures (though it helps). I've taken some great shots with a camera phone and good lighting.

The first step to a good photo is, obviously, the original photograph. It's hard to make something out of a grainy, pixelated photo that you took in the dark. You don't need artificial lighting for a great photograph, in fact the best lighting you could ask for is natural light. I'm not a messiah of photography, but there's a lot less editing needed to make your photo a little nicer if it's got great lighting to begin with.

Now that we've got the basics down, let's jump into the actual editing. There is a lot you can do to make your photo better-looking, so don't worry too much about the original photo, as long as it's clear, in focus, and decently sharp.


Downloading Gimp 2.0

If you haven't heard of GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), it's a program that dates way back. Way way back. It isn't all that old, but when you consider how fast technology upgrades upon itself, late 90's is considered old in this case.

GIMP is a program that is basically Photoshop. It might not be as pretty or as flashy as Photoshop, coming from someone who has used Photoshop CS5 for years and years, but it does nearly everything PS does, and it's free.

You can download the program here, it is free, safe, and goes above and beyond any other free image manipulation program I've seen.

Now, once it's dowloaded it will be a bit daunting. Good image manipulation programs are full of symbols and buttons and it's difficult to get used to what everything does and how to use it, but you will. You don't even need to know everything GIMP is capable of, I am going to walk you through some of the best and most basic tools you should use for better image editing.


Brightness - Contrast - Saturation - Hue

These tools are some of the most basic photo editing tools you will ever use, and they are available in every image editing program or website you will come across. These tools are located under the Colours tab (pictured below).

These might be self explanatory to some, but not to others, so I will briefly explain what each one does for ease of understanding.
Brightness & Contrast
Brightness edits the level of light your image has. More often than not, whether you snapped your photo in plenty of natural light, photos will come out a little bit dark, and you want to brighten up your photo a little bit, so that's what this does. Contrast is in the same panel as brightness, because when you brighten up a photo you, in turn, lose some of its contrasting colours and it winds up looking washed out. Bringing up your contrast when you brighten your image will help significantly, just try to avoid doing too much as it will end up looking too over-processed.

Hue & Saturation
Hue is colour. If you find your colours a little bit dull, or too yellow, too blue, whatever, you can alter the hue of your photo to change that. Saturation goes hand in hand with hue in a way; it controls the intensity of the colour in your photo. The higher your saturation, the more 70's flower child your photo will look. The lower the saturation, the more black & white your photo will look.

We can ignore everything else in the 'Colors' tab for this post. You can play around with those if you'd like, but I don't consider the other options basic photo editing tools, so play around at your prerogative!



Layers are something that are very important to photo editing, and you will find that some layers are created automatically in your editing process, and some you should create yourself. The entire right-hand panel in GIMP is dedicated to your layers, and they are easy to get the hang of.

Layers are exactly what they sound like. They are layers to your photo. You will have a new layer every time you paste a photo onto your canvas, or when/if you decide to add text. They are important because having layers is useful to your process. Let's say you have a photo of some makeup products that you took for a blog post, and you'd like to add some text to it after you've edited it to your liking. Clicking the text tool will automatically create a new text layer for you, and this is handy because layers move individually.

In other words, you will have two layers in this scenario: Your background, and your text layer. Having a separate layer for your text enables you to move it around your background as you please, hide it, change its opacity, etc. without affecting your background. Make sense? We like layers!

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- TIPS ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1. Anytime you copy&paste an image onto a canvas in GIMP, it will automatically be a "floating selection" and it will look funny. Click the blank page image at the bottom left of your layers panel after you've pasted and it will create a layer for your pasted element. Now you can see it and edit it as you please.

2. Hover over any of your layers, and you will see two little 'boxes' to the left. Clicking the one on the far left (which will have an eyeball in it) will hide your layer. If you added something you aren't sure you like or not, hiding the layer and re-activating it will enable you to see the difference it would make if you either had the layer active, or didn't have it at all.


Editing layers

In continuation from the basics of layers, another important aspect to layers is editing them. Keep in mind that if you've got an image with multiple different layers, make sure you have the one you are trying to edit selected otherwise you'll get frustrated wondering why your editing skills aren't showing up at all!

Now under the Layer panel at the top, you will have a ton of options. The ones I think are the most important are the 'Transform' and the 'Scale Layer' options. Let's explore those further and ignore everything else in the tab right now.

Under the 'transform' option you've got your rotation options. You can flip your layer, mirror it, whatever you want. The 'arbitrary rotation' option allows you to rotate your image free-handedly! This is what you would use if you don't want to just flip your image 90°, you'd rather rotate it yourself.
Footnote: Under the 'Image' tab directly beside the 'Layer tab', you have those same options for Transform. The reason I'm not recommending this is because your entire canvas counts as your image, meaning everything will rotate at once. Remember what I said about layers? Keep it organized, flip only what you want!
The 'scale layer' option is what allows you to change the size of your layer. It sizes images in pixels, and automatically locks the width & height for your convenience (but you can turn this off by clicking the chain beside the numbers).


All about the left panel

This, in my opinion, is the most important part of this little 'tutorial', if you will. The entire left panel of GIMP if your best friend. I have included an image below with the important tools highlighted. There a ton there that you can learn about on your own, but the more important ones are what I will be talking about.

In order from the left of the top row to the right of the bottom-most row, we've got: 
Rectangular selection tool
Circular selection tool
Lasso tool
Magic Wand
These four are all you need to select different parts of your image, or of your layer. 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- SELECTION TOOLS ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The rectangular and circular selection tools are basic, you click and drag these and they will create a selection in that shape. You can then colour-in the selection, erase it, whatever you'd like.

The lasso tool allows you to freehandedly make a selection. If you've got a part of your image that you want to erase out, or copy and paste elsewhere, draw your lasso around it and it will create a selection.

Your magic wand tool is the most advanced out of the four. This tool allows you to click certain areas of your photo, and it will automatically select every part of the image, or layer, that is similar to it. This tool is most useful for removing backgrounds. Let's say you've got a picture of an object with a white background that you'd like to get rid of. Take your magic wand, select the background, and it will highlight all around the image, which you can then erase. (Protip: hold 'shift' to select multiple parts of the same image or layer)

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- DROPPER TOOL ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This tool allows you to 'colour-drop' any part of your image. Click the dropper, bring it over to any part of your image, and click again on a colour you'd like to imitate.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- SCALPEL / CROP TOOL --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This is fairly self-explanatory. Click and drag to crop your image!

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ TEXT TOOL ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This tool is a lot of fun. Your text tool will create a new layer every time you click on it and select a new area to put text in. Once you've clicked this tool, at the bottom of your panel you'll get options to edit your text. The size, colour, letter spacing, paragraph height, alignment, everything. Play around!
*Near the end of this blog post, I will refer you to a website where you can download custom fonts to use for your images & show you how to make them accessible in the program.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- PAINT TOOL & ERASER TOOL -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
These are easy! Painting and erasing. Much like your text tool, with your paint tool you can change the colour, the opacity, the brush type and everything. I will also show you how to download custom brushes to use, because sometimes the plain jane ones are not enough.


Custom fonts and brushes

A little earlier on in the post I mentioned pimping out your images even more with a few custom fonts and custom brushes! So let's get started on getting that down.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- CUSTOM FONTS -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
For the most part, GIMP's font selection is great. They've got all the serifs, sans-serifs and even quite a few fancy-hat fonts. But sometimes we want a little something else. So the best site to find fonts at is, it's a font database with an amazing selection of fonts to choose from. The great thing about the site (besides everything) is that they have their fonts categorized so it makes it easy for you to find what you're looking for.

If you find something you like, click the download button and and it will download in, most likely, a zipped file. Unzip it, and it will then be in a TrueType font format. All you have to do is drag this file into your 'Fonts' folder that exists in your computer somwhere (do a search for it), and it will from then on be available for you to use in GIMP. You do need to restart the program if you downloaded the font while it was open, however.
Protip: To make your fonts *pop* a little bit, Go under the Filters tab and find Light & Shadow > Drop Shadow... Here you can add a drop shadow to your text and this will make it stand out against anything in the background. It will add dimension to an otherwise 2D image.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- CUSTOM BRUSHES -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Moving on to brushes, there is no particular website that I will recommend for brush resources, and that's because most people create brushes for Photoshop, meaning they are in a format that is only usable with Photoshop. You can change this to make them usable for GIMP easily, however, so a quick google search will help you with that.

My favourite place to get custom brushes is from either Brusheezy or deviantArt. On dA, doing a quick search for 'Photohop brushes' will yield a ton of results. You can even narrow it down if you're looking for a type of brush in particular, like a splatter brush, or paint stroke brush.


Alright, I hope this post was helpful. I did my best to make it so. I will most likely make another part to this 'tutorial' (getting into the nitty gritty of more photo editing), but for now I hope you enjoyed the basics of photo manipulation.

Until next time, sunshine.

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