How to Create Stunning Landscape Photos in GIMP

Thursday, June 30, 2011  at 6:58 AM
Learn the basics of Multi-RAW processing.  Hint: You do not have to use RAW files, a type of image file, for this tutorial (I used JPGs!).  This technique is best used on a photo that needs to equalize or edit two different exposures.  I use this technique most when I have taken a photo of a beautiful sky, but the land portion is too dark.  If you try to edit the photo as a whole, it will be to the detriment of the sky portion, so that is where Multi-RAW processing steps in!  Welcome to the twelfth article in my Photography Editing in GIMP series!

Previous articles:

Article 1: Easy Photography Editing in GIMP
Article 2: How to Crop in GIMP
Article 3:  How to Control Saturation in GIMP
Article 4: How to Control Contrast and Lightness
Article 5: How to Change Color Photos into Black and White
Article 6: How to Level a Horizon
Article 7: How to Correct a Skewed Perspective in GIMP
Article 8: How to Square All of Your Corners in GIMP
Article 9: How to Adjust Curves in GIMP
Article 10: How to Adjust Color-Specific Saturation in GIMP
Article 11: How to Blur a Background in GIMP

These tutorials use the free photo-editing program GIMP.  I am not being paid to endorse GIMP--I just really like it!
Multi-Raw Processing 

Take your landscape photos from this:

Palouse Fields by Danalynn C


to this:

Palouse Fields by Danalynn C


Step 1: Open the photo in GIMP and open the Layers Dialogue box.  Right click on the layer in the Dialogue Box (it will be named Background) and select Duplicate Layer.

Palouse Fields by Danalynn C

Step 2: I highly recommend you name each layer something different at each point, to avoid confusion later on.  I named the bottom layer Land (I will be editing this one for the land) and the top layer Sky (I will be editing this one for the sky.

In this process, we will end up editing one photo so the land looks great, editing the other so the sky looks great, then combining the two photos.  By selecting the eye button in the Layers Dialogue box (it's the button that looks like an eye), you can control if you see a layer or not.  When you click on a layer, you are controlling it and you can edit it as a normal photo.

Click on the bottom layer, the one named Land, and edit it to make the Land look the best possible.  I adjusted Curves, Saturation and Contrast, and the sky ended up being washed out and dull--this is fine!  Then, click on the top layer, the one named Sky, and edit that to make the sky look the best possible.  I increased the saturation of the color blue.

Palouse Fields by Danalynn C

Step 3: Select the top layer, the one called Sky, right click and select Add Layer Mask.

Palouse Fields by Danalynn C

Step 4: Make sure your top layer with the layer mask is selected and that the eye button for the background layer is turned off (is not visible).  In the regular Toolbox, select the Gradient tool.  This is the one that looks like a small rectangle with a gradient in it.  Then, draw a line on the photo starting at where you want the layer to be the most transparent and ending at where you want it to be the most opaque.  This line represents the gradient--everything before where you started the line will be completely transparent, everything after you ended the line will be completely opaque.

On my project, I started my line at the bottom of the photo because I am controlling the Sky layer and I want to be able to see "through" the fields at the bottom of this photo and see the land-optimized Land layer beneath.  I drew my line up to the horizon, showing that this area will be getting more and more opaque.  Everything beyond the horizon (the sky) will be completely opaque in this layer, which is great because this is the sky-optimized layer so I do not want to see through it to the dull Land-layer's sky below.

Palouse Fields by Danalynn C

Step 5: This is what it will look like.  If you are having problems seeing this, check if the eye button is turned off for the background layer (the Sky layer).

Palouse Fields by Danalynn C

Step 6: Click the eye button for the background layer to turn it back on--your photo should look fairly complete as both layers are visible together at this point!

Palouse Fields by Danalynn C

Step 7: The last thing to do is to compress all of these layers into one finished photo!  Under the Image tab, select Flatten Image.

Palouse Fields by Danalynn C

Step 8: Save and enjoy your Multi-RAW processed photograph!

Palouse Fields by Danalynn C
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