Monday, May 9, 2011

Gimp Tutorial - How to Use Gimp to do an HDR Photography inspired method of editing a black and white photo

I'll start this post with a quote:
Ted Grant once said: “When you photograph people in colour you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in B&W, you photograph their souls!"
Now, I don't know if that's true or not, I can't say I've ever seen a soul in a black and white photo, but I can't argue that there are definitely times where that pesky color gets in the way!

In this post, I'm going to show you how to use GIMP to take HDR-like methods, and use a photo's color (that's right, it's color) and adjust the levels of gray with it, in a very fine-tuned, and accurate way. Most importantly, using this method will allow you to make changes at later points in your edit that would normally be impossible otherwise.
Here's the original photo:

Here's the finished photo:

And HERE is what GIMP came up with when I simply clicked "Colors>>>Desaturate"

Note that some key areas lack the contrast obtained in my final version. Also note that this version is a lot more challenging to modify.
Step 1: How To use GIMP to create the HDR effect
Did you say HDR?
Close. This GIMP how to is HDR inspired. In case you don't know, HDR Photography is a unique method of photo-editing that is done by taking multiple versions of the same image, taking samples of each version, and putting it together to make a single unique shot. HDR Photography makes for some stunning images, but using it's concept in a black and white photograph can give us a lot of control.
Duplicate the background layer. Name the duplicated layer "Green."
click on Colors>>>levels

Adjust the levels of the red and blue channel all the way down, removing all red and blue information from the layer. Your photo should look like this:

There's 1/3 of our information.
Duplicate the background layer. Name the duplicated layer "Red"

Click on colors>>>levels

Adjust the levels of the blue and green all the way down, removing all green and blue information from the layer. My red layer looks like this:

There's the other third. Guess what's next?
Duplicate the background layer. Name the duplicated layer "Blue"

Click on colors>>>levels

Adjust the levels of the red and green all the way down, removing all green and red information from the layer. My blue layer looks like this:
And there's the final bits of info.
It doesn't matter what order these three layers are in, but it will change how your layer masks work. Try to move them in an order that works best for you. In this tutorial, my order of layers (from the bottom up) is Background, Red, Green, and then Blue.
Create a new layer. Fill the layer with black. Name the layer "Desaturate." Set desaturate's layer mode to "Saturation." Make sure the desaturate layer is the topmost layer. This will desaturate the image.

add a layer mask to the blue layer. Fill the blue layer mask with black. This will hide the blue layer, and will make your High Water sign show up again.

using the lasso tool, trace the striped tubing gating the road. Make sure you're still editing the blue layer mask, and fill your selection with white.

Your image should look something like this:

By masking off everything but the fence, we get the high-contrast the blue layer offers, without sacrificing information in other parts of the photo.

Add a layer mask to the green layer, filling it with white.
Select the skyline. Make sure you're editing the green layer mask, and fill it with black. This will darken the sky a bit.
Using the brush tool, mask off parts of the image with black or white. Alternate between black and white, slowly going over underexposed or overexposed parts of the image until you have adjusted the image to something you're happy with.
I ended up with this:
Remember, if you ever notice anything that you want to change about your photo at a later point, this method will make modifying it a lot easier.
What do you guys think? How would you have edited this photo? Do you think this is a viable method of editing a black and white photo?
Related Posts:
Layer Masks Using Gimp

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Gimp Tutorial - How to Use Gimp to Give a photo a retro or vintage look (and touching up bubbles!)

In this GIMP how to, we're going to do some basic curves adjustments to make this photo have a cool stylized retro-type look. All of these steps could also be done using photoshop as well.
What you will need:
A basic understanding of how to use gimp's curves tool
A basic understanding of how to use gimp's layers and using gimp's selection tools.
An Understanding On Layer Masks  (for the bubbles)
An Understanding On Layer Modes (Also for the bubbles)
Suggested Items:
Wacom Tablet (for editing the bubbles.)
My eBook on Layer Masks - This is an extensive, but short book that will help you get insanely good at layer masks.  If you get good at layer masks, you'll get good at Gimp.
Start with this:
End with this
Part 1: How to Use GIMP to Get the Retro Colors
Most of the effect for this photo is simply from adjusting the curves of each channel (the red, green, blue, and alpha channels) like so:
Note: To change which channel to adjust, select the channel from the channel drop-down. You can switch back and forth between channels. all of these curves adjustments should be done in ONE COMMAND, not a series of four commands.
After making the adjustment, your photo should look something like this:
This looks pretty cool, but we need to tone the contrast down a bit.
Next, do another curves adjustment like so:
My photo looks like this:
Not bad, now if only those bubbles didn't disappear in the process.
Part 2: How to use GIMP to Enhance the Bubbles
The bubbles seem to have disappeared in this photo. We're going to use a combination of selections, and soft brushes to put some pop back into them.
Create a new layer, name it "bubbles"
Now we will select the bubbles. Using the path tool, trace around the outer edge of each bubble.
One all of the bubbles have been outlined, right-click on the path in the path menu (located in the same window as the layers,) and click "path to selection."
Set your foreground and background to a lime green and hot pink.
using a fairly large and soft brush, carefully brush in a few spaces of pink, and green in each bubble, like so:
Now that we have added the color to the proper areas of the bubble, let's change some layer styles and adjust the opacity to make the bubbles look realistic.
Set the layer mode to Overlay
Duplicate the layer. Name the duplicated layer "bubblebrighten"
Set the duplicated layer mode to addition.
Adjust the opacity of both the "bubble" and "bubblebrighten" layer until you end up with something you're happy with. My opacity settings are set to 23 and 40 respectively, and they look like this:
Now that our bubbles are a little more visible, let's dramatize the photo a bit.
Part 3: How to Make the Final Touches
Create a new layer, name it "dramatize" set the layer mode to Overlay, and fill the layer with black.
Add a layer mask to the dramatize layer.
Using the blend tool, set the gradient mode to radial, and use a gradient that goes from black to white.
Create a gradient that goes from the center of the photo outward. Adjust the opacity of the layer to something you're happy with. Here is what I ended up with:
Did you like this? Please share it!

Wacom Tablet

In my Gimp Tutorials, I frequently use Wacom Tablets. Here is an awesome wacom tablet I recommend using.
A Wacom tablet will enhance your GIMP photo editing experience by offering a pressure-sensitive touch that translates to varying transparency when making brush strokes in GIMP.

Gimp Reference Manual

I highly recommend getting this Gimp book to use as a reference manual in conjunction with my tutorials. This book will explain how the tools I use work. My tutorials will give you practical applications for the tools shown in this book.