Monday, November 5, 2012

Photo Editing with Gimp - Brightness and Contrast Using Layers

As I mentioned in the previous post, while the Brightness and Contrast dialog can be a great tool to improve your photos, sometimes it can make your photo look a little unnatural.  And sometimes it's hard to get it exactly right.  There is another way to help the brightness and contrast of your photo...

Layers.

Remember?  Way back here, we talked about layers and the general principles of using them for digital scrapbooking.  You can also use them for photo editing.  Cool, yes?

Let's again use the original photo I took of the sign at the Loveless Cafe in Nashville as an example. 


The blue of the sign and the red of the trees just next to it need some work to actually mirror what I saw when I was standing there.

To begin work, I drag the photo into my Gimp workspace.

In my Layers Dialog (to the right of the main workspace--if you don't see it, select the Menu options Windows and Recently Closed Docs, then select Channels, Paths, Undo, Layers - Brushes, Patterns, Gradients, I see my original photo as a layer, like this:


The first thing I need to do is duplicate that layer.  I right-click on Loveless_Cafe_Original.jpg in the Layers Dialog and select Duplicate Layer from the pop-up menu, like this:


I then see two layers in Layers Dialog, like this:


The top-most layer is highlighted and my photo doesn't look any different than it did when I just had one layer.  That's because we haven't updated the Mode yet.  In the Layers Dialog, just above the Opacity slider, is a drop-down menu for Mode, right here:


Presently, it says "Mode: Normal".  I click the drop-down arrow to the right and select Soft Light, like this:


Now I'm beginning to see a difference.  The original photo I took is a little bit darker and the colors are a bit deeper, like this:


It's definitely already improved over the original, but I'd like to give it a little more punch.  So I duplicate the top-most layer (if you select the one that's already changed to Soft Light, it will duplicate that setting and you won't have to reselect it) a few more times until I'm satisfied.

For this one, I end up with seven layers.  In the Layers Dialog, it looks like this:


And my photo looks like this:


Much better, yes?

Give it a shot on a photo of yours that's overexposed, or has colors that just don't stand out the way you had envisioned.   I'd love to see the before and after!

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