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GIMP FREE Photo Editing Software
Free Photo-Editing Software
GIMP is a free photo-editing tool similar to Adobe Photoshop, which can be used for anything from simple red-eye reduction, cropping and image size or file format changing to full professional photo retouching. GIMP was originally written for Linux, but is now available for Windows, Mac OSX and Unix computers too.
So before buying an expensive alternative read this and see if Gimp is suitable for you. Here is a review of this useful software and an explanation of how to download it and get more information.
What is Gimp?
GIMP is an acronym for "GNU Image Manipulation Program" and was written for UNIX or Linux computers, but now is also available for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. I would like to reiterate the word "free". This software is downloadable legally for free and has been developed and supported by the users of the program as part of the "GNU Project". I won't go into the history of this, but the philosophy behind the project is that "people should be free to use software in all the ways that are socially useful" to quote the GNU website:
Gimp is a photo-editing tool similar to Photoshop, which can be used for anything from simple red-eye reduction, cropping and image size or file format changing to full professional photo retouching.
Useful Reading - GIMP books
Why do I need photo-editing software?
Many digital cameras and film scanners come with some rudimentary form of photo-editing software, which may be sufficient for your needs, but if you need more control and features a more advanced tool would be required, for example Adobe Photoshop Elements, which is a cut-down version of the full professional Photoshop. If you were to buy Adobe Photoshop Elements it would cost you about Â£50 and the full professional version would cost in excess of Â£500 or alternatively Gimp could be downloaded for free. I have the latest version of Photoshop Elements on my Windows Vista PC and an old version on my old iMac, but rather than pay the full price for Photoshop for my new Apple macbook I opted for a free download of Gimp version 2.4.
GIMP has most of the same features as other professional and amateur photo-editing software including levels histograms for adjusting colours, contrast etc. retouching tools for removing or adding details on the picture, removing "red-eye", cloning objects and colours, fixing of photograph imperfections such as barrel distortion and perspective distortion. It also has tools for converting pictures to black and white and adjusting the picture and file size.
When retouching a photograph a wide range of different types of brush, pencil airbrush and clone tool can be chosen from the easy to use menu and of course text of any size can be added to the photograph. If the paintbrush you want doesn't exist a custom brush can also be made to your specification. You can zoom right in and see individual pixels for very fine retouching. There are also gradient and blending tools to speed up the process of making your work look natural and multiple selection tools of various shapes. Multiple layers and channels are also supported for more complex photo manipulation.
For me, the most useful tool available in GIMP is the levels tool, which is used to adjust the darkest and lightest areas of the picture and the overall brightness, which enhances the contrast and can transform a picture very easily and quickly. Many pictures will be improved by using this, the more complicated "curves" tool or one of the automatic tools provided in the "colors" menu. Here's an example from my Namibia safari web-site:
The crop tool is also essential for improving the composition of your picture and the "scale image" tool for changing the number of pixels. In the "filters" menu there are a large selection of filters that can be applied to the picture to blur, enhance, distort add noise etc. The most commonly used would probably be the Enhance->Red Eye Removal, Enhance->Sharpen or Enhance->Unsharp Mask options. The sharpen tools can be used to improve the edges of objects to give the effect of better focus with various parameters adjustable for the desired effect and amount of sharpening, but use with caution if you don't want everyone to look like they are wearing mascara.
The full range of GIMP's features is too huge to cover in detail here, and in addition to the standard features it is possible to write or download "plugins" and scripts for other specific tasks or customized operations, but there is a list of some of the basic features on the gimp website:
GIMP: Supported File Formats
Most picture file formats are supported including TIFF, GIF, PNG and JPEG and pictures of one format may be read in and written out in another format. If a lot of manipulation has been done to the file it can be written out in xcf format with all of the changes stored and any extra layers generated so work can be continued or undone in a later session, or the file may be flattened and written out as a small jpeg ready for printing or posting on a web-site.
The Canon Powershot G10 and G11 can output RAW (CR2) image files. I needed to upgrade to GIMP 2.6.7 to support the Canon G10 CR2 output. All versions of GIMP will however support the standard JPEG output from most compact cameras.
To get hold of this very useful program and install it you should go to the www.gimp.org website for instructions. The current released version is 2.4.7. GIMP is written for open source libraries, which come with Linux, so if you have a Linux operating system the installation is easy. If however you have an Apple Mac it is a little more complicated and it is only available for OS X 10.0 onwards. Apples are in fact based on a kind of Unix called Darwin, but you must ensure that the X11 windowing protocol is also installed before installing GIMP. The "Wilber loves Apple" web site guides you through the additional installation procedure:
I successfully installed this program on my apple macbook, with very little trouble, although it is not as straightforward as simply popping in an auto load CD. I have not installed this on a Windows PC, but this is possible and details are again given on the web site.
If you are likely to perform simple photo-editing of digital photos I would highly recommend downloading Gimp rather than pay for Adobe Photoshop Elements and if you want full professional functionality, but can't justify the full price of Photoshop I would also suggest Gimp as a good alternative.
Summary: It's free and it's got a funny name (and an amusing logo)
Advantages: It's free and it does everything a professional photographer could want
Disadvantages: It has so many features it could take a while to find your way around