When I got my new DSLR earlier this year, it gave me the opportunity not just to learn how to take high quality photographs, but also develop some basic photo editing and manipulation skills. I learnt early on that modern photographers edit images as a matter of routine. In fact, those who refuse to do so, are on a fast track to obscurity. Nobody wants to buy unprocessed images and few come out pristine.
I was vaguely familiar with Paint.NET, a package I’d used to crop and resize photos for a while but aside from a bit of brightness/contrast changes and the occasional auto level that improved a photo, I didn’t need anything more than that. But as I started to develop my photography skills from this Spring, I started to find Paint.NET just a little inadequate. Most of the free user photo editing software users are split between Paint.NET and GIMP. Last night, I downloaded the latter.
The first thing I noticed is that GIMP has far more artistic filters than Paint.NET. Although some of them leave me scratching my head in confusion (not a single image I’ve applied the “Van Gogh” filter to has made the photo looking anything like the sort of painting Van Gogh would have produced), some are really useful. There is a Cubism filter, a photocopy, cartoon, and of course the usual suspects of blur, sharpen, pixelate, wave, liquify, and a variety of others. Some are amusing such as the “Predator” filter. Yes, that’s the Predator’s infrared thingy from the films. Here is an example – a street shot from St. Ives and the same image with the Predator filter applied.
I’m not sure what practical purpose this will serve, but it’s fun nonetheless.
A More Natural Approach to Colour and Saturation
Since getting my DSLR and realising that most photos come out ok at best, especially when it’s too bright or too cloudy (and especially while I’m still learning the relationship between the various settings and their impact on light and image depth and quality) I’ve tried to get to grips with brightness, contrast, lightness, saturation and hue. But there always seems to be something off with the saturation setting on Paint.NET. So far, GIMP’s results seem much more natural in that respect. Of course, there is no substitute for shooting in RAW and processing for problems before producing a JPEG, but it’s handy to be able to do so after the fact.
Due to a lack of experience with photo manipulation and having only used GIMP for about 24 hours at time of publishing, I don’t yet know what extra features I am going to need – especially while I am still working out what avenue of semi-professional photography I want to pursue in the long-term. I already know I don’t want to do events such as corporate promotion or weddings, but I may be interested in product photography as well as selling stock photos (which I already do) and photographic prints (which I hope to launch this Autumn). But seeing there are hundreds of plugins covering many aspects of photography is a big plus and I’m sure I will eventually download some. The customisation may never be a big feature of what I’ll need, but at the moment, the choice is a plus point.
That’s my first impression, anyway. Any hints or tips would be much appreciated!