Basic Macro Photography

Micro-Tutorial for the GIMP

The GIMP is a photo editor/manipulator. It's a free program that's similar in function to Photoshop. If you don't want to spend $500+ on Photoshop but you need a similar program, the GIMP will likely suit your needs. This tutorial will only cover a fraction of the features available. There are other tutorials on the internet that will cover most of the other features as well as some creative uses (artsy stuff) that I won't cover here. This page has more detailed installation information as well as a tutorial for the majority of the functions/tools.

Getting Started:
The first thing you must do is to download and install the program. You will need to download three parts (if you have broadband internet connection it will only take a few minutes). The GTK has to be installed before the program. If you want to download the help files (the largest of the three files), you can do that later.

The interface of this program differs from Photoshop in several ways. In most programs, the toolbar is part of the main program window or is docked to the main window. In the GIMP, the toolbar, the main window and the tool palletes are separate entities (this makes no sense to me but it's free and relatively powerful so I'll have to accept it). I STRONGLY recommend that you close all other programs when working with this program. When you open a file with the GIMP, you should place the main toolbox in the upper left corner of the screen. Resize the main window (with the image being edited) in the upper right corner of the screen. If you look at the Windows taskbar (at the bottom of the screen), you will see two buttons (assuming that you have no other programs open). One is for each part of the GIMP. If you open a different tool (like the curves tool), it will have it's own button. If any palletes are behind any of the other windows, they won't be visible and you'll have to click on its taskbar button to bring it to the front. When you open a new pallete/tool, you should move it off of the top of the main image pane. If you don't, it will drop behind the image window when you use the tool in the main window. If this happens, simply click on the appropriate button in the taskbar to bring it to the front.

A quick note... This program responds more slowly than Photoshop. When you perform certain operations, it will take several seconds for the changes to be applied. For example, if you make a selection, the dashed border of the selection will not appear instantly. It may take a few seconds depending on the speed of your computer.

When you open the GIMP, you will see this window. You can either drag a photo to the top of this window or you can use the FILE >> OPEN and navigate to the desired file. For me, it's easier to use Windows Explorer to get to the desired folder/file.

As you can see, there are many of the commonly used tools (hold the cursor over the tool for its name/function). Most of the tools I use are accessed through the main image window.

Below is the main image window. I've dragged the bottom of the window up to make all of it visible without scrolling. The various categories of tools and functions can be accessed via the toolbar selections at the top of the image. The bottom of the window shows the relative size of the image. The left field (gray in the image) shows the cursor position. You can select from several choices. If you choose inches (the rulers will change to inch increments), the size will be based on 72 pixels per inch.

The following links are the pages I have now. More will follow.

Image Cropping

Adjusting Levels

Using the Curves Tool


  • I'm not a professional photographer. If you have suggestions that will help me to improve this site, please email me.
  • You are free to use the images on this site for non-profit, educational purposes. If you want to use them for commercial projects, please contact me.

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