I’ve never been a fan of photoshopping pictures of models, but there is something to be said about ensuring that a picture is true to the subject, and is presented well.  To that effect, I do a bit of editing to the photos I put up here, and today I’ll take you through this quick and painless process.

Here’s a picture of some of the first PP models I ever painted – a unit of Widowmakers. These are from about 4 years ago, as evidenced from the paint job and horrible photography.  However, it’s a good example to work with, so here it is:

Original Photo

It’s dark, the back guys are out of focus, and there’s stuff on the sides that take your attention off the models that the picture is actually trying to show.  Not all that great.

The photo editing software I use is GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), and it’s open-source and free to download and use.  You can get it here, on the official site:  It’s really lightweight, works quickly and it easily has most of the features of Photoshop that you’d pay loads of $$$ for.

Step 1: Start GIMP, Load Image

This part’s pretty obvious.  Once installed, you can right click an image and choose “Open in GIMP”, or just start GIMP and open a file like you do in any other program.

The GUI is fairly simple – three windows appear.  One is your toolbar, it has all the different tools that let you manipulate pictures.  Another has the list of layers, as well as a brush selection pad.  The big one is where the picture loads, and it also has the traditional File-Edit drop-down menus we’re all familiar with.

Once your picture is loaded, you should be looking at something like this:

Step 2: Crop

So, in my example photo, the subject is centered, which is good, but there’s some extra stuff on the sides, and lots of extra room on top.  That extra stuff makes the picture larger than it needs to be, which means the subject isn’t as large as it could be.  Time to crop the good stuff, and drop the bad stuff.

Grab the crop tool, it looks like the hobby knife.  Select the section you want to keep, and you’ll see the excess go dark, like so:

While in this state, you can drag around the borders and corners of that box until you’re happy with how it looks.  GIMP is nice and gives you really big handles you can click on to move the edges around.  When you;re happy, hit enter and poof, all the darkened areas are gone!

Step 3: Color Correction

When a picture is taken, the camera does it’s best to accurately represent what it sees.  But, what it sees may not be an accurate representation of the object.  This could be due to shadows, inadequate lighting, a cheap or bad camera, etc.  This color correction step attempts to reduce that misrepresentation.

So, open the Level Tool:  Colors -> Level…

This tool analyzes the pixel in the photo, and comes up with several tidbits of useful information.

Most of that I don’t care about.  I’m just trying to make the picture look as close to the model sitting on my desk as possible.

So, when the Levels Tool Dialogue pops up, I just hit the Auto-Correct button:

What this does is pretty cool.  It looks through all the pixels and picks out the one closest to pure white, and the one closest to pure black.  It then stretches those pixels until they actually are pure white and pure black.  Then, once it knows how it had to adjust those two pixels, it adjusts all the rest of the pixels in the picture accordingly.

So, if your picture is too dark, it won’t have to adjust the black much, but it will have to lighten the white pixel, so the entire picture gets lightened.  Likewise washed out pictures get more saturation.  If your picture’s too red, it knows that the picture is skewed red, and will reduce the red levels in the entire picture.  It’s awesome.

Click OK, and we’re almost done.

Step 4: Save-As

Always do your best to save the processed picture as a new file.  I don’t do this as often as I should, which is why I had to search so hard to find an unprocessed picture for this tutorial.  Saving as a new file uses space, sure, but it also makes sure you have the original in case you ever need it.

Here’s the original Photo:

Original Photo

And here’s the processed photo:

Final Photo

Now, it’s still not a great photo, but that’s due to how it was taken.  The final photo’s colors are closer to the actual models, and the models are bigger in the photo, despite the fact the photo takes up the same space on the screen.

Overall, the process takes about 30 seconds to a minute per photo, and it’s not a difficult thing to do at all.  I think it makes a world of difference in the quality of pictures, and when you’re trying to show off a model, what’s the point if you can’t actually see it?

This week is shaping up to be quite an interesting week.

Monday, while trying to fit a new media card reader into my 2 year old (custom built) PC, something went, terribly, horribly…  wrong.  Somewhere, something went “$&*^# this, I quit!” and Windows couldn’t find some magical driver and boot up.

Luckily, I’d built the system with this type of problem in mind.  My system has an ancient 40GB IDE Hard Drive (from the late 90s, I’m sure).  That’s what I keep my operating system on.  I have a pair of 200GB drives that I install large programs to (video games, mostly) as well as store all my music, videos, etc.
So, I yanked everything but the motherboard, took an old toothbrush to the accumulated dust, and cleaned everything.  I then re-assembled the guts of the PC, but left the storage drives unconnected.
A reformat and reinstall of Windows XP later, and I’m up and running.
All over a $7 media card reader.
I’ll reconnect the storage drives tonight, close up the system and I should be back in business.  This type of thing is something I should do once a year, so I don’t mind it.  I just wish it had been on my schedule, and not been a surprise.
Tuesday, at about 3, I got called into the boss’s office.  Yeah, I was a bit worried.  He tells me to go sit and then goes and fills up his coffee.  I’m wracking my brain for what I could have messed up.  Then, he closes the door when he comes back.
Oh, dear.
Then I find out, effective next month, I’m getting promoted!
So, I took Lyndsey out to dinner, had some beers and a steak, and Key Lime pie for dessert!  (Sweetwater Tavern has amazing Key Lime Pie)
I spent the rest of the evening downloading programs (Chrome, iTunes, GIMP, etc) and updating the PC while I chugged away on the snotling wagons.  They’ll be done by this weekend.  I’m pretty excited, and I’ll have photos tonight.

Oh, and Lyndsey was in an artistic mood and made me a new banner for the blog!  Tell us what you think!

Tomorrow  Wrath should arrive!!  I tried to set myself up for having it on time, but was out of stock, as was the LGS’s distributor.  My book shipped yesterday, so it should be here tomorrow.  3 weeks after release, but hey, I’ll finally have it and be able to dive into all the goodness.
Friday, well, is Friday, and kick starts a 3-day weekend.  w00t!

Pictures of the wagons tonight, and tomorrow I’ll be addressing Lost Hemisphere‘s Clash of the Titans painting challenge!

Transmission End.