This could be the ideal way to explore the possibilities of the digital darkroom without breaking the bank. The GIMP is the GNU Image Manipulation Program. You can get it free and experiment with photo retouching, image composition, and image authoring. As well as photo editing the Gimp is also usefull for artists.
It is available for popular operating systems, in a variety of languages.
The Gimp rivals Adobe’s Photoshop products in capabilities and the tools have similar names and the way they are used. This similarity means that digital image processing skills learned using the Gimp are readily transferable to Photoshop programs. This makes the Gimp a suitable first step for those unsure about the value of advanced image processing software.
Here are some of the capabilities of the Gimp.
Rotate and crop:allows precise rotation of images in fractions of a degree, this s very useful for correcting slight camera tilts, particularly when there are objects viewers expect to be perfectly horizontal or vertical. The cropping function offers range of controls allowing the user to specify precise proportions of the crop areas and to drag the crop box around the image to accurately select the area to crop.
Levels:using a familiar histogram, the user can adjust the range of exposure levels so that the image uses the maximum range of exposure steps. As well as adjusting on overall exposure levels the individual Red, Green and Blue color components can be adjusted, allowing a means of color correction.
Curves:this is offers the familiar graphical curve interface for adjusting the relative intensity in dark, middle tone or whiter areas of the image. As with the levels tool, the curves tool can alter the overall image as well as the individual color channels.
Clone tool:this tool is ideal for fixing minor imperfections in an image, such as dust spots on the camera sensor. The clone tool rapidly copies a small area of the image to another part, using a range of brush types and sizes.
UnSharp Mask (USM):despite the name this is a powerful sharpening tool for digital images and allows more precise control of sharpening than the simple sharpen tool.
Resizing: this is a common operation and as well as basic resizing the Gimp offers control over image resolution during resizing operations.
Layers:this is a powerful feature for combining image elements to form combined images.
Naturally, this is only the tip of the shared capabilities of the Gimp and Adobe Photoshop.
While the Gimp has similar capabilities to Photoshop, the heavy weight program from Adobe in some cases has extra options in the tools and some of the tools are easier to use.
So while the Gimp might not be considered by busy photo professionals as a free offering it can provide an easy introduction to the world of advanced digital photographic processing.