My favorite simple Gimp tricks

An overcast day is the worst sort of day for a photo guy.  The IR and the red tones are obliterated by the water vapor in the sky, and what’s left is a mono-tonish blue that uses only about a third of the pixels in your shiny new camera.  The result is often boring, but I’ll admit that creative photographers sometimes manage special photos in spite of the clouds and blue light.

In winter the same thing happens, except that the ground adds to the ho-hum atmosphere by adding the brown of last year’s dead vegetation.  On such days, I do the inside work, like gimping my photos.  Gimp is the famous Linux world graphics software, which these days is about all I need for editing jpeg photos.  I have some sort-of “go-to features” I use to fix up pictures.   I’ll list them in a most-used-first order of preference.

 1)  Auto white balance

We don’t always slow down enough to properly white balance our cameras, do we?  Sometimes, a photo seems hopelessly bland or off-color precisely because we didn’t set-up our kit correctly.   I’ve found that Gimp’s auto-white-balance feature manages to do a pretty good job of reigning in the off-color photo.  It’s accessible via:

  •   Top-menu –> Colors –> Auto –> White Balance

2) Exposure

We all have over-exposed our photos.  In earlier gimp times, I might simply lower the brightness or increase contrast to try to liven up a exposure deadened photo.  But, Gimp’s exposure control does the job in much the same way as the camera would (much superior technique).  It’s surprising how it acts just like the camera control, taking out the glare of overexposed spots while not effecting brightness and contrast too much.  It can be accessed via:

  • Top-menu –> Colors –> Exposure

It has two slider controls.  The first is “black level” – which I typically increase a little (maybe by 6 pts or so) – to give a photo more “punch”.  The second slider is the actual exposure control, which I may move either way depending upon the conditions (but more typically I’m increasing it a little (to add liveliness).

3) Brightness and contrast

The name implies what they’re used for, but these controls, in spite of being simple, are very often needed to tweak a photo.  They are two sliders on a dialog accessible via:

  • Top-menu –> Colors –> Brightness and Contrast


4,5, 6) Color Balance, Hue and saturation, and Color Curves

If the color is only a little off, I might use color balance or hue/saturation to fix the photo.  If the color situation is still pretty severe (even after auto-white-balance has been used) – then I try to use the color curves in order to adjust the colors.  The curve controls are available via:

  • Top-menu –> Colors –> Curves

I typically find myself looking a a histogram, and adjusting either the “C” tab or the individual color tabs to suit my tastes or to render the original photo scene more accurately.   My tendency is to touch the red color upwards slightly when facial skin tones seem to lack life and vitality, and to touch the blue curve downwards when too much LED light was used in the photo setting (and the balance was not perfect).   LED light sometimes necessitates the downward push of the green curve as well.

7) Artistic Filters

Of all the add-on special effects available with Gimp, I think I like the so-called Artistic Filters more than the others, and use them more often.   The “soft-glow” feature can give photos and interesting look, especially when applied to skin/facial elements of a photo.  If only the face needs to be given such treatment, simply use the rectangular selection tool (from the toolbox) to select the head and face before selecting the artistic filter from the filter menu, in order to apply the effect.  Most effects can be applied to specific areas by use of the rectangular, circular, and free-hand selection tools. The filters are accessible via:

Top-menu –> Filters –> Artistic –> Softglow

I could go on with more trick and tips, but it’s easier to point the reader to a real treasure trove of Gimp tricks that’s located on another site of photographer’s interest.  That site is :



Note: The Gimp software is supported by the folks at  This author and site has no offical relationship with Gimp – other than I do like to use their software!  It is free and open-source.

%d bloggers like this: