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Photography Basics – Editing your Photos

Updated on September 4, 2012

Hi and welcome!

If you just got here, don't forget to check the list of tutorials of this series.

In this lesson we will be talking about photo edition. You'll learn about color and horizon correction, dust removing, sharpening your pics and more.

First things first. You'll need software to edit your photos. There are many free applications for this and there are some that even work directly on your browser, but in this lesson we will be using Gimp, a free open source application that is very easy to use.

The top half of the photo lacked contrast. Increasing it on Gimp can make the photo more colorful.
The top half of the photo lacked contrast. Increasing it on Gimp can make the photo more colorful.

Color correction

Install Gimp and open your favorite photo there.

Let's start by giving it a little more color. Although we mix the different camera settings to get a perfect photo, they still come out of the camera with colors looking a bit dull (or maybe the weather was not really good, but we can fix that).

When you have you photo opened on Gimp, click on the Image tab and open the Brightness-Contrast option. If your photo looks a little dark, you should move the brightness slide to brighten up those dark spots, but be careful with the white spots, you don't want to ruin them.

It's a good thing to increase a bit of contrast on the photo, because they tend to lack some color strength.

Fixing horizon

One of the things you should always check on your photos is if the horizon is straight horizontal (unless it is purposely inclined). There is nothing worst that looking at a seascape photo with the horizon tilted.

To do this, open your image on Gimp and from the top ruler (if you don't have the rulers visible, go to View>Show Rulers) and bring a guide line down to the center of your horizon. Next click on the Rotate Tool (Ctrl+Shift+R by default) and rotate your photo until you achieve the desirable result. Press Rotate to finish the process. After you rotate the photo, pick the Crop Tool (Shift+C by default) and crop your picture to remove the transparency at the corners.

Removing dust spots

Sometimes your photos can come with some dust spots, or maybe you want to get rid of something distracting on the photo. There are a few tools on Gimp that can help you with this procedure.

Open up your photo in Gimp, zoom in on the spots you need to clean and select the stamp tool (C by default). Now the trick is hold down the CTRL key and click on a clean spot with the color that you want to cover the dust spot, then, letting go the CTRL, start painting over the spot and it with replace with the first color you've selected.

This can seems a bit complicated by explaining it, but when you try it, you will see it clear how it works. With experience, you can clean up bigger details, like a car, for example, that can be a distraction on the photo.

A little sharpening can offer your photos more details.
A little sharpening can offer your photos more details.

Sharpening

Although we work hard to get a great focus when shooting the photo, we might want to bring up and little more of the details, so the photo gets clearer.

Start by opening your photo on Gimp. Now on the application tabs, go to Filters>Enhance>Unsharp Mask. Move the slides to get more details focused on the photo, but don't push them too much, because it can give your photo an exagerated effect.

Check the differences in the photo on the right. The head of the chick on the bottom box looks a little more focused.


These are the basic photography editing tips that you should know.

When brightening up your photos, you should always pay attention to the white spots, because you don't want them to be fully white. If you need to get your photo darker, pay attention to the dark spots.

When taking a picture, leave some space around it for the possible cut you'll have to give it.

Don't save your edited photos over the original. It's better to make a copy before starting to edit them. I've lost good originals by being this distracted.


In the next lesson, we will take a look at the most common lenses type for your camera. Some are good for very specific kinds of photos, so learn well each lens before buying one.

We will also be checking the accessories like tripod, filters, flashes, etc.

If you haven't checked the previous tutorials, click here to get to the beginning.


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    • nakmeister profile image

      nakmeister 4 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      A good article, thanks. I will have to try out Gimp.