Work in Progress - writing this is taking longer than I had anticipated... Todo: Add pictures
One of the things that surprised me a lot while browsing My Opera's pictures is how little people seem
to care about how their pictures look online - most people seem to be more than content with simply connecting their camera to their computer and uploading whatever they shot straight into their My Opera profile. In this article, I hope to demonstrate visually what post-processing can do for you, even on a tight budget.
Photoshop is currently the undisputed king of photo manipulation software - even non-photographers talk of 'shopping' a photo when they mean retouching. However, being a student, a program that comes with a $649 pricetag is a bit too much for me. In this blogpost, we'll focus on a slightly cheaper alternative called The GIMP - a free and open source graphics package that admittedly can't do all the fancy stuff Photoshop can, but for me it often is enough.
Before you begin postprocessing, make sure you have your camera configured to take pictures in the highest resolution possible. Storage is fairly cheap these days, and high-quality pictures offer much more flexibility while working on them.
Step 1: Where to find it?
The GIMP project has its homepage on http://gimp.org
- you can find links on the bottom left of that site pointing to instructions on how to get it for various platforms. Assuming you're on the Windows OS, as most people are, you can go to http://gimp-win.sourceforge.net/stable.html
for a direct link.
You'll need to download and install two programs: The GTK Library and The GIMP itself (in that order). The GTK is a set of reusable components that can be used in various applications - the GIMP is just one of them.
Step 2: Cropping
Cropping is the act of removing parts on the outside of the picture. It allows you to bring into focus that which you want to direct attention to, and remove that which distracts. Drag a selection around the area of the image you'd like to preserve using the Rectangular Select tool, and crop using Image->Crop to selection.
Step 3: Adjust Levels
Digital cameras can only capture a very limited range of light values at the same time - the result of this is that a very bright object in your picture can cause the brightness of the rest of the picture to decrease, making it appear close-to-black. The Levels tool allows you to indicate which values should be used as reference point for absolute black and absolute white, bringing color back to areas that were previously too dark to distinguish properly. Of course, if an area was recorded as being totally black, no amount of levelling can help - information that was lost when taking the picture can not magically be brought back.