September 7, 2013

Using Gimp for photo editing

If you are a regular blogger, you must have sometimes felt the need to edit photos. If you realise the importance of photos and other types of images in blogs, you must be doing image editing quite a lot. Bloggers dealing in photography, fashion and food cannot do without regular image editing.


What is image editing?


Any modification in the original image that you receive from any source qualifies as 'editing'. The modification may be an extensive image manipulation or just resizing the image to the width of your blog's sidebar. And when we are talking about the image and its source, we are referring to all types of them: photos, scans, computer graphics in the form of drawings, cartoons etc, graphic animations which are not videos, and sophisticated mix of different forms.


Various image attributes


We have a number of posts on use of images on blogs. If you do not have good knowledge about how images work and what to consider while putting them on your blog, do visit these resources:

all image resources at one place
a post specifically on image editing for blogs


Using Gimp for image manipulation


We recently published a post on the best free image viewers; you can carry out a number of editing tasks using any of these excellent pieces of software. We'll talk here about Gimp, which is a great alternative to Photoshop - the industry standard.

You may ask, why Gimp and why not a simple software such as Irfanview? Well, if you use images rarely on the blog, you don't really need to go for Gimp as a lot of learning is needed before you can use it professionally. Simple editing such as cropping / resizing, increasing contrast and brightness, adding an effect such as twisting and adding smooth edges, converting into a web image, rotating the image, adding text, and converting format [e.g. from .tiff to .jpg] can be done using the software mentioned in the post mentioned above. Even stitching many images into one can be done through some such programs. But if you want advanced editing such as removing an irritating object from a scene, selectively changing contrast and brightness within an image, fine rotation, and so on, you need a professional image editor. Paint.net falls in between an image viewer and professional editors but Gimp is a truly professional program. It is as good as Photoshop and it is free.

The advantage of using a professional editor is that it preserves most of the original quality after repeated editing operations. Moreover, you can create a new image out of nothing or out of another image. You can thus create great computer graphics, which are pieces of art in themselves. Through them, you can present your thoughts, support the thought expressed in text, add mood to a poem, prepare an infographic out of graphs and images... You can also repair - so some extent - the scan of an old or poor-quality photo.


Some basics of Gimp before you take a decision whether to invest time in learning it


In professional image editors [including drawing, design and video editors], two important things are common-

One, they save images in their own formats which allow for 'lossless' editing of images. In Gimp, this format is .xcf and in Photoshop, .psd. Since these formats store data about each of the image's quality parameters and each step that you take, the files tend to become huge. So, you should use these software only on computers with good free space, processing speed and RAM. Gimp will run smoothly with at least 1GB RAM.
TajMahal-layer-image

Two, they work in 'layers'. Think of four transparent plastic sheets or layers shown in the image here. The lowermost sheet in yellow-green has Taj Mahal photo on it; the sheet above it, in blue-green, has the image of flying birds, the sheet above it - yellow - has 'Taj' written on it and the top pink sheet has ITB logo on it. If we put these four sheets one above the other, what you get is the composite image. In professional graphic editors, we can do all types of modifications on any layer without disturbing other layers. This allows for numerous possibilities of loss-less editing.

Coming back to Gimp, we support it not only because it comes free and has numerous professional features but also because it is an open source project. Such projects contribute greatly to the cooperative spirit of the www. You can see this link to have an overview of this program. There are many advanced manuals available on the web and there is a huge web community out there to help you with tricks, tips and trouble-shooting; to access these resources, you just have to type something like this on Google search-box: “How to create shiny buttons on Gimp?”