First Impressions of GIMP Photo Editor

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.

More Filters

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.

Plug Ins

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!

Published by MG Mason Creative

I'm Matt, a freelance writer, writing mostly about education, early career recruitment, tech, B2B and professional services. Dabbling with landscape and nature photography too. For this content , please look at my main site linked below. I'm also a self-published author, creator of the quirky crime comedy book series Salmonweird. If that's what you're looking for, then good news! The village has its own website listed below.

7 thoughts on “First Impressions of GIMP Photo Editor

  1. Ah, the GIMP, all the fun and power of Photoshop without having to remortgage the house (or subscribe for the rest of your life).
    The only problem is the Interface is a lot less intuitive (and often more powerful) than others. It really takes some getting used too,but then you can achieve amazing results.
    There are some amazing plugins (that are often shareware where you can try it out and decide if it’s for you for free), but it can be difficult to find what you need. There are however at least a million articles online about “best plugins” or “best effects”.
    Personally though, so I prefer the old Photoshop interface to (and have largely stuck with it), but the GIMP is my second choice everytime.

    1. Thanks as ever, Chris. I have used an older version of Photoshop before now so I’ve found GIMP surprisingly easy to handle. It was Paint.NET I struggled to adapt to, surprisingly. I’m going to keep them both for now as they both have their uses, until I have a clear preference for one or the other. The beauty of GIMP is that there are (I’ve found) plugins for RAW files. That’s a definite advantage over Paint.NET already although I’m still using NX-D, the free Nikon app for my RAW editing.

      1. I remember when we had to have plugins for JPEG and RAW files were usually Targas not TIFFs with some proprietary encoding πŸ™‚

        I’ve never used Paint.NET, but have used many, many others over the years, before Photoshop became an industry standard, some were real hell to persuade to do anything useful. Compared to them GIMP is sweetness and light πŸ™‚

        The Free Apps that come with the camera are always a godsend when you start, but as soon as you progress they can start to hold you back. They never seem to have much support for anything beyond some basic colour-balance and a Gaussian blur in my experience πŸ™‚

      2. Yep, I’m finding that already – black/white balance, saturation. contrast, brightness and lightness but that’s all I need for now. A few months down the line when I start my course (I’ve signed up for one) it will be insufficient

  2. Ooh Good Luck with the course (years ago I used to teach Photoshop to Postgraduate artists and designers, so I know what’s involved). I think you’ll enjoy it, but there’s a lot to absorb πŸ˜€

  3. Hey Matt, a friend of mine who is still very much “in the biz” tells me all the cool Raw photography types are using Affinity’s Photo these days.
    Personally I haven’t tried it, but you may be able to watch or get a demo from
    Either way its not as expensive as PS, but is alledgedly a lot more intuitive and faster than GIMP, plus native Raw handling (for most types).

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