Making Photos More Interesting in the GIMP

Introduction: Making Photos More Interesting in the GIMP

I went on a hike recently and took a couple hundred pictures with my new camera. When I got back and imported them to my computer, there was a probem- they all looked the same and kind of flat (colorless), and I didn't want to use the foliage mode my camera has because it as less manual controls. This happens with any camera, and there's a free way to fix it. This instructable will make the colors pop out more in your photos.

The method I use is sort of like HDR, but less complicated, so it will be easy to follow for newbies, but it still yields great results.

Be warned, this tutorial is written for new GIMP users, so if you just want to know what I did and how I did it skip to step 3 and yes, I know it's very simple so don't bother telling me I'm a n00b and this isn't good.

Edit: I did this all on one monitor and I realize that it may look too dark/bright on yours.

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Step 1: Step 1: Download the GIMP and Install

First step: go to for windows- click Download Gimp 2.6.6
and for mac. Just click the link that says Gimp on OSX

When it downloads, click the installer on your desktop and follow the onscreen instructions.

Note- this tutorial is done on a machine running windows Vista, and I don't know if the mac Gimp is the same, although it probably is.

Another Note- gimp 2.6.6. crashed for me a while after I installed it on startup every time. Before you become angry and spam me with hate mail go here and click download gimp 2.6.5., which hasn't given me any problems.

Step 2: Step 2: Fire Up the GIMP and Open Your Image

Click the GIMP icon on your desktop after you've installed it, and open an image. If you have trouble with that, there are pictures below. However, if you do need help with that, or even worse, opening the GIMP, the rest of this instructable will be very hard, and I don't have the time to sit at my computer and help the computer illiterate all day.

Step 3: Step 3: Editing the Photo

Here is the original photo. A nice scene, but the colors are flat and it really doesn't capture the scene the way it was that day.

The first step in editing is to go to they layers tool box and click duplicate (pic 2) then select the new layer (background copy) and click: Colors>Brightness-Contrast and slide the contrast bar up to a point where the parts of the image that were black or darker in real life are the same in your picture. Below are my before and after pics, and you can see I chose a setting of +17 and used the trees as my guide. You may need to play with this for a while.

Step 4: Step 4: Editing the Photo, Cont.

The next step is to take the top (dark) layer and make it so only the dark parts of it affect the normal picture, so as to keep the bright parts from getting washed out.

To do this, make sure the dark layer is selected and change the layer properties. Click where it says "normal" and when the drop down menu appears, click "Darken Only" (pic 1)

Now change the opacity so that the light parts of the bottom image show through more. I set mine to 66%, but again the changes here are very subtle and may take a while to get right.

Image 3 is my picture so far.

Step 5: Step 5: Ramping Up the Saturation

This is where the picture starts to look better significantly

First go to Colors>Hue-Saturation, and the box in pic 2 will come up.

From here your on your own, because each picture is different. You can see the before and after below.

Note: in the picture master is selected, and this means that it ups the saturation on all colors. After I set my saturation to 50, I selected the red channel and lowed it because the red made the leaves to pronounced. Then I also upped the green and blue independently, to make the leaves and the river very colorful.

This was my first instructable and I hoped everyone liked it, and ideally, gets some use of it. The colors in your picture don't have to be as pronounced as mine, which can be achieved by playing with the saturation, which brings up my main point:


Thanks for reading!

And now for some self-promotion- to see more pics like this, and other types of art go to my deviantART page at

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5 Discussions


10 years ago

This is a great Instructable, but you need to add a main image of the final project to the intro step. Please do that and leave me a message when you have so that we can publish your work. Thanks!


Reply 10 years ago

I think I did it. Thanks.


10 years ago on Step 1

Ur forgetting about the people with a REAL OS, although, in some popular Linux Disro's, the GIMP comes built in.


Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

 I wouldn't think most beginner users of computers use linux, but I'll put the link up anyway if it makes you happy.