Photo Editing On The Cheap by Glenn Euloth

I love pho­tog­ra­phy and as much as I try to get the image right in cam­era when I press the shut­ter release there are just some times when you need adjust some over­ex­posed bits or pos­si­bly do some cus­tom edit­ing to cre­ate a minia­ture look or selec­tive colour­ing. What­ever the rea­son might be there will be times when you need to edit your images. A full out copy of Pho­to­shop is more than $500. Even Pho­to­shop Ele­ments clocks in at $100 or so which is not super expen­sive but still, if I have an extra $100 I’m putting it towards a new lens or maybe that new tri­pod that I need.

In my last blog for I wrote about Picasa. Picasa does a won­der­ful job of basic photo edit­ing, how­ever, it just doesn’t cut it for any­thing really detailed. When I need more detailed edit­ing capa­bil­i­ties I use Gimp. Gimp is a won­der­ful piece of soft­ware avail­able for free use for Win­dows and Mac users as well as the orig­i­nal Unix plat­form. A com­pan­ion prod­uct called ufRAW, also free, allows Gimp to open and edit RAW image files and since I shoot almost exclu­sively in RAW for­mat it was a nec­es­sary add-on.

Gimp will do a lot more than I am capa­ble of doing and I have still used it to do some amaz­ing things. Like Pho­to­shop it allows you to edit images using mul­ti­ple lay­ers, has many dif­fer­ent fil­ters and scripts that can change the look of your images (or parts of it) and also pro­vides many dif­fer­ent tools to work on your images. In this blog post I’ll edit an image and pro­vide some screen shots to give you an idea of the capa­bil­i­ties of this won­der­ful piece of soft­ware, how­ever, to really learn how to use it visit the tuto­ri­als page on the Gimp site.

In order to give you the broad­est tour pos­si­ble I will take an orig­i­nal image where I’ve done a fair bit of work on the image and walk you through the edit­ing steps that I took to get it the way I wanted. Some of you out there may be much bet­ter at photo edit­ing and so you will undoubt­edly see areas where I am doing some­thing wrong. Please feel free to com­ment below so I can learn more about how to do this stuff properly.

Let’s start with this pho­to­graph of a but­ter­fly. Here’s the JPEG ver­sion cre­ated by export­ing from Picasa with default set­tings. All things con­sid­ered it’s not a hor­ri­ble shot of the but­ter­fly but the com­po­si­tion is kind of blah and the butterfly’s cam­ou­flage makes it dif­fi­cult to see. Let’s open it in Gimp to see what we can do with this bor­ing image.

Butterfly on Tree

First up, since it’s a RAW and I have ufRAW installed it auto­mat­i­cally opens in ufRAW for me.  Here I can make adjust­ments to the RAW image before jump­ing into the Gimp edi­tor proper.  For this image I’m going to make a few adjust­ments here so I end up in Gimp with the basics already com­pleted.  This is the gen­eral process for me.

  1. From Picasa I right click and select Open in Gimp.
  2. It auto­mat­i­cally opens in ufRAW because it’s a RAW image.
  3. I’ve clipped a few high­lights 0.1% and so I adjust the black lev­els a touch to elim­i­nate those.
  4. I then adjust the curves to boost the over­all expo­sure to where I like the image.
  5. Using the crop/rotate/size adjust tab I select a pleas­ing crop which puts the but­ter­fly on an inter­sec­tion of thirds and gives him space to “fly into”.  Note the grid lines allow me to do this easily.
  6. Click­ing OK trans­fers the image into Gimp for fur­ther edit­ing where I adjust the colour lev­els and pump up the sat­u­ra­tion on this one to give that but­ter­fly a lit­tle more life.
  7. Next, I’m going to do some selec­tive colour­ing to really make him stand out.  So, I’ll dupli­cate the layer so I now have two butterflies.
  8. Change the top layer to B&W and cre­ate a layer mask that I paint through to expose the butterfly.
  9. I switched to the colour layer and added a touch of unsharp mask to sharpen up the image.
  10. Last, to fin­ish it off, I add a cou­ple of bor­ders, first white, then black and save as a JPEG.


6b  6c 


8b  8c 

9a  9b 

10a  10b

That’s it!  Here’s the result:

Butterfly Edited

Liv­ing in Hal­i­fax, Nova Sco­tia, Glenn Euloth enjoys trav­el­ling on the pho­to­graphic jour­ney.  Visit to join him on the trip or find him on our pho­tog­ra­phy forum under the nick­name of Iguanasan.

Managing Photos with Picasa by Glenn Euloth

I am a geek and I have been a geek for a long time. ‚So, when I first started man­ag­ing my dig­i­tal images I never thought I could trust a piece of soft­ware to look after the files on my com­puter. ‚I would use Win­dows Explorer to copy the files off of my cam­era and into a folder on my hard drive. ‚If I wanted to edit an image I would make a copy first and then edit the copy. ‚It worked great but it was very time consuming.

I tried the Kodak soft­ware that came with my first point and shoot but it was very slow and clunky and didn‚„t come with a decent image edi­tor so I gave up on it and went back to copy­ing files in Windows.

Google bought Picasa from Ide­alab in 2004, branded it, and started giv­ing it away as a free down­load. ‚The Google fan-boy that I am I decided to give it a try and it was instant soft­ware love. ‚I don‚„t know how much of it was Ide­alab and how much of it was Google but I found Picasa to be a won­der­ful piece of soft­ware that did every­thing I needed in a slick, easy to use package.

First up was image import. ‚I no longer had to launch two explorer win­dows, cre­ate a folder and copy the files from my SD card to the new folder. ‚Instead, insert­ing the SD card into my lap­top auto­mat­i­cally launches a win­dow that asks me if I want to import the files into Picasa. ‚All I have to do is click OK. ‚Picasa looks after the copy process and deletes all the images off the SD card after con­firm­ing the copy so I‚„m ready to go shoot­ing again.

Next is the easy edit­ing tools. ‚Once the image is in Picasa I can quickly nav­i­gate to an image and per­form a num­ber of easy edits.

Picasa soft­ware — Click to enlarge

  1. Red-eye removal
  2. Sat­u­ra­tion and sharpening
  3. Con­vert to black and white or sepia
  4. Crop to any dimen­sion or aspect ratio
  5. Facial recog­ni­tion
  6. Straighten the image
  7. Tag and Geotag
  8. And much, much more…

Not only do the edit tools work eas­ily and quickly but Picasa auto­mat­i­cally cre­ates a backup copy of the image and per­forms the edits on the copy so if you make a mis­take or if you want a copy of the orig­i­nal you can always find it or revert back.

I ran into a bit of prob­lem orga­niz­ing my images ini­tially as I was not using Picasa so I had cre­ated a 2009 folder and in it I cre­ated Jan­u­ary, Feb­ru­ary, March, etc. ‚After I started using Picasa I had a very sim­ple way to upload images to Pica­s­aWeb for shar­ing with just a click of a but­ton, how­ever, it used the folder name as the album name on Pica­s­aWeb. ‚This became a prob­lem when I started upload­ing ‚“Jan­u­ary‚ images from 2010 as they got put in the same album on PicasaWeb.

To solve this prob­lem I devel­oped the fol­low­ing strat­egy: ‚At the begin­ning of the month I cre­ate a folder in Picasa with the for­mat YYYY-MM (Mon­th­name), so for exam­ple I have 2011-01 (Jan­u­ary), 2011-02 (Feb­ru­ary), etc. ‚This allows me to store and man­age the images by date with­out wor­ry­ing about dupli­cates and when I want my hol­i­day pho­tos I can eas­ily search for ‚“December‚.

If you are not sure how to man­age your pho­tos or if the soft­ware you are using is awk­ward and not work­ing well for you then I highly rec­om­mend you‚down­load and install it. ‚At the very least you should check out the‚video. ‚Come back next month and I‚„ll talk about advanced image edit­ing with­out hav­ing to spend a lot of money on expen­sive software.

Liv­ing in Hal­i­fax, Nova Sco­tia, Glenn Euloth enjoys trav­el­ling on the pho­to­graphic jour­ney. ‚Visit‚ to join him on the trip or find him on our pho­tog­ra­phy forum under the nick­name of Iguanasan.