Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Photography: Layers in GIMP

The goal here was simple: to highlight a certain portion of a photograph with color while the rest stays black and white.  For this, I chose a picture of a butterfly.  In retrospect this is not the best choice because the butterfly is too dark to stand out well against a black and white background, but oh well.  It still worked.
The original photo.

To start, open the image you want to edit in GIMP using File -> Open.  Now go to Windows -> Dockable Dialogues -> Layers, or simply use the Ctrl-L command.  A window will pop up that shows your current image with the default name, probably "Background".  You can click in the eye icon to show or hide the layer.

Now you want to create a duplicate copy of your layer in black and white.  Left click on your layer to select, then right click and select the "Duplicate Layer" option.  A new layer should appear in the "Layers" window.  Click on the eye icon next to your original layer ("background") to hide it so you know you are looking at your new layer.

Next, use Picassa to make your new layer black and white.  An easy way to do this is to click to select your new layer in the "Layers" window, then select Colors -> Desaturate.  The default settings work, but feel free to play around with the settings to see what works.  Most changes can be undone with a simple "Ctrl-Z" if you make a mistake.

Now you have 2 layers: a color and a black and white copy of the same image.  Now you need to use something called a layer mask to hide the portion of the black and white image that you want to be in color.  So right click on the B&W layer in the Layers window and select "Add Layer Mask".  Keep the default setting for "white (full opacity)".

Now go to the Toolbox window (it should have been up the whole time, but if not, go to Windows -> Toolbox to see it) and select the paintbrush tool.  Use the menu in the toolbox to select a brush size and type (you probably want to start out with the big circle) and start painting your layer starting at the center of the area that you want to be in color.  If you have hidden the original image correctly (i.e. the eye icon is only shown next to the B&W layer), you should see a checkered pattern showing through your image as you paint.  Keep painting until all of the portion of the image that you want in color is gone.  Make thc brush size smaller and zoom in to get around the edges.

Now you're almost done.  Drag the B&W layer so it's above the original in the dialog box.  Make sure the "Mode" of each layer (visible in the Layers window) is "Normal".  Click the eye icon next to both to make them visible.  Viola!  Your color should be peeking through your B&W, giving the effect of color highlighting.
The new image using 3 layers.  The B&W is in "normal" mode and the other two are color layers with different qualities in "Overlay" mode to give a mixing feel.

Now, go to File -> Save As to save your image.  You can select whatever file type you want.  Say ok if GIMP complains about JPEG not understanding layers - the default action by GIMP gives you what you want.  The final product should be something like what is shown above.

In the image shown above, I got a little fancy and make the layers transparent by changing the "Mode" to "Overlay" for all the layers except the B&W, and I played with contrast color settings and mixed that with a layer where I applied an edge finding filter to make the image pop up.  SO obviously there is a lot more you can do, but you'll just have to play around and figure it out. :)

Let me know if this helped!

Photography: Before and After for Basic Editing in GIMP and Pisacca

After talking to my wife, I learned that she really liked the color settings on here friends new Canon DSLR.  We weren't sure if our Canon SD1000 would be able to produce colors like this, but I figured it was worth looking into.

I have messed around with Picassa a few times to do some basic editing, and I have also used some of the functions in GIMP to get a little fancy with my editing. Some example of what I found we could do are shown below.

Set 1:
The first image looks o.k., but a little dull.  By playing around with some settings in GIMP (mainly color saturation and contrast), I was able to create bit more appealing version in the second photo.  In the new photo, the water looks bluer, the plants look greener, and everything just pops a little bit more.


Set 2:
Again, the first image is quite nice, but the colors just look a lot nicer when saturation is boosted.

Set 3:
The angles looked nice when I took this picture, but the horizon is uneven and the colors just clash a bit too much.  Using the softglow filter in GIMP and messing with hue, I was able to make something a bit more interesting.

GIMP is certainly capable of much more than I have done here, but it's still neat that with just a few minutes of messing around you can turn decent photos into really nice photos.

Photography: Getting the most out of a point-and-shoot

Similar to the last post about fishing, this article will be an "information dump" with all of the interesting things I have found about photography while researching it in the last two days.

My wife and I were looking at a DSLR, and after thinking about it, I was simply not convinced that this camera was a great choice.  I had read many articles that talked about the wonderful photos that could be taken with point and shoots, so I knew there was untapped potential in our Canon SD1000 7.1MP Digital Elph.  Further, I knew the cost and size of the DSLR would make it annoying to tote around, and we would always be scared of it breaking.
Our current point-and-shoot.
Thus, I went in search of information on how to get the most out of our little point and shoot.

The first set of three articles are general information on why point-and-shoots are great, and techniques for getting the most of of them.
I like to take a lot of photos in macro setting (up close pictures with a wide aperture for a narrow focal plane resulting in a blurry background).  This article explains how to do it better.  The article also serves as a good into to aperture effects.

Night shooting is something we also wanted to try.  In particular, we want to shoot a nice night cityscape of Atlanta.  These articles have some great tips on how to get very good photos at night, including portraits, stills, and scenery shots.

Since we want to blow up our cityscape photo, I did a little research into what resolution camera we need to get a nice blown-up photo.  It turns out that matters very little.
And lastly, as inspiration, an article on cameras and why they don't matter very much.  This article contains many examples of beautiful photos taken with cheap or seemingly "obsolete" cameras.
And although cameras don't matter so much, to get my wife really going on photography here are some I picked out as great options.  It looks like the travel-zoom category of cameras is the place to look, since the DSLRs and even the micro 4/3 class are a bit big to carry around.