Digital Photography Tweaks – Level

There are times when you take a picture, that the camera isn’t level, or the perspective of the background makes it look like the picture isn’t level. This is correctable in both PSP and GIMP. Take the picture below of my back deck. I took this to show how high the creek had gotten.

deck before

Your brain uses straight lines like the deck railing or the deck posts, that should appear as horizontal or vertical, and says this picture is leaning to the left. What you need to do is pick one of the straight lines, that is as close to the center of the image as possible, and make it horizontal or vertical. That will straighten out the picture.

In my experience, vertical lines are better than horizontal lines. Trees or posts that should stick straight up are less prone to perspective problems than horizontal lines like roof edges or deck rails. I used the deck post the thermometer is on to correct this picture. I manipulated the image until that post seemed to be straight up and down and the whole picture then looks much straighter. Keep in mind this image was taken with a wide-angle lens. The vertical lines will seem to lean away from the center even when the picture is perfectly level.


To accomplish this level adjustment in PSP you load the image into PSP in the Edit workspace and select the straighten tool. Notice I’ve circled the Edit workspace tab, the straighten tool, and pointed to the right end of the adjustment line. Click on the picture to display is full size.


You can simply drag the ends of the adjustment line so that the line is either aligned vertically or horizontally with the picture. I aligned it vertically with the deck post. Then you can click on the check mark in the tool bar and the image will adjust to level, based on the adjustment line. Note too that I have the check box for crop image checked. This will crop off the corners of the image that are rotated out of the rectangle of the image. I have all these controls indicated in the image below.


The final result is the second image from above. If I hadn’t had the crop image check box checked, the image would look like the one below, and you’d have to go back and crop off the areas that extend beyond a rectangle manually.


PSP allows you to easily correct the level of an image. Practice this and you’ll find you can make smaller adjustments until your satisfied with the result. PSP has an undo command, so you can back off changes and try again if you’re not satisfied. So does GIMP.

GIMP allows the same basic adjustment. I recommend using single-window mode in GIMP. Open the program, and in the Windows pull down menu, select Single-Window Mode. This will consolidate the separate GIMP windows into a single window, with menus at the top and tools on the left. Load the image you want to work with into GIMP.


GIMP doesn’t have a separate straighten tool. In order to align the deck post with the vertical, like we did with PSP, you need to have a vertical reference. In GIMP we’ll drag a vertical guideline from the ruler on the left side of the image, until it’s close to the deck post. Click the mouse on the left ruler and drag over into the image and you’ll see the guideline moving across. Drop it near the deck post as in the image below. I’ve added pointers to the ruler and the guideline.


Now select the rotate tool from the tools on the left. Most of the defaults are fine, but you need to select Crop with aspect from the Clipping menu. I’ve circled the rotate tool and the Clipping menu in the image below.


Now you click on the image itself and rotate it, by dragging until the deck post and the vertical guideline are parallel. At this point you click on the Rotate button in the Rotate window that popped up when you clicked, to complete the action. This will close the Rotate window and rotate the image.


However, notice the gray areas at the borders of the image. These need to be cropped off. I’ve pointed to two of the gray areas in the following image.


To crop these areas you click on the Image pull down menu and select Autocrop Image. The gray areas will disappear and you have a rotated clean rectangular image.


Saving the leveled image in GIMP is trickier than just saving the file. You have to export it as a jpg, or whatever format it was originally in. GIMP automatically reformats images to its idea of an image file when an image is opened or imported. Exporting your image is done by selecting Export… from the File pull down menu, and then following the prompts. Refer to GIMP documentation for more options on exporting.

Having to use more steps and export images are some if the reasons GIMP is less intuitive than PSP, but remember GIMP is free, and you can get the job done with a little more work.

Post any questions in comments and I’ll be glad to respond.



Digital Photography Tweaks – The Tools

There are lots of programs you can use to tweak your digital photos. Most digital cameras will come with some kind of photo editing program. The photo editor most people automatically think of is Adobe Photoshop. People use “photoshopping” as a generic term, because Photoshop the most well know photo editor. You can even buy Adobe Photoshop at Walmart, but it’s still $699.00. That’s not in my price range.

There are more affordable programs that can do the same kinds of manipulations to your pictures. Some are even free. I’m going to list two that I use, but there are many others. Just use a little google magic and you can find dozens.


The photo editor that I use the most is one I’ve used for many years. It’s Corel PaintShop Pro. PSP is up to version X6 now. One of the nice things about PSP is the price. It’s $39.99 right now. That is definitely in my price range.

Another full featured photo editor is GIMP. GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. GIMP is on version 2.8.2 now. The price of GIMP is even better, it’s free. Most people don’t find GIMP intuitive, but free can make up for a multitude of sins.


I’ll be going through the basic tweaks I mentioned in my last post, using examples from PSP and GIMP. The general principles will apply to whatever photo editor you want to use. If you have another editor you want tips on, you can google your questions, or let me know, and if the editor’s free, I’ll do what I can to help you out.

Meanwhile, there are online videos, for both PSP and GIMP, that can introduce you to the programs. That might help you decide what tools you want to use.


Digital Photography Tweaks – The Handful

Digital cameras have made photography much cheaper. I used to shoot two or three rolls of 35mm film on an outing. Then I’d take them to be developed and hope they turned out the way I’d expected when I snapped the pictures. I didn’t do a lot of bracketing or multiple shots, because it was expensive. I seldom did “doubles” when developing, because if you took a bad picture you just got two of it. I shot slides a lot because they were cheaper, and if you wanted prints later you could always have them made from slides. Photography was kind of an expensive hobby.

With a digital camera you can just shoot away. Battery power and the size of your memory card are your only limits. The first digital camera I got was a Sony Mavica that stored pictures on 3.5 inch floppy disks. These days I sometimes take hundreds of pictures on a given outing, and I don’t worry if I get the lighting just perfect or the framing exact. All that can be fixed later when you’re working with digital images.

When I dump pictures onto my computer there are a handful of basic things I adjust on almost all images I consider keepers. The order of these is important because of how many pixels there are to work with. I’ll explain why later. I scattered a couple of pairs of before and after images in here for illustration. The changes aren’t dramatic, but they’re affective. Click to enlarge and compare.

frozen smartweed

First is level. Sometimes it may seem like you have the camera perfectly level, but perspective makes the finished image look otherwise. That’s simple to adjust.

frozen smartweed

Second is cropping. It’s simple to adjust the framing of a picture by cropping out parts of an image that you don’t want or need. Just keep aspect ratio in mind. You can crop into some strange dimensions if you’re not careful.

Third is lighting. IMPORTANT: If an image is a little too dark it’s fairly easy to fix. If an image is too light you’re probably out of luck. Over exposure is hard to fix, so if you’re not sure, error on the side of under exposure.

rainy deck

Fourth is color. You can make your images pop if you perform some basic changes to the color saturation and balance. This is simple to do. Just make sure you don’t over do it. It’s easy to make an image look like a cartoon if you’re not careful.

rainy deck

Fifth is size. The camera I use most often generates images that are 4608×3456 pixels. That’s way too big to display on any screen I have at full size. Imagine an image that big on your phone. If you’re going to post a picture on Facebook, or just email it to friends and family, you need to shrink it some. This has the added benefit of significantly reducing the image file size. Nobody appreciates having a huge image attached to their email. I took a 4608×3456 pixel image down to 1280×960 pixels, and reduced the file size from 6.18 MB to 340 KB, with no other changes. That’s less than 6% of the size of the original file.

There are many other manipulations you can make to digital pictures, but this simple handful will significantly improve your finished images. If you’re not sure what tools to use or how to accomplish these adjustments, look for future posts and I’ll explain in detail.

One very important point to make. Never work directly on your original version of a digital photograph. I always make a copy first, and then make tweaks to the copy with a photo editor. This way if you make a mistake, you can always start over with the original. Original image files have all the information your camera was able to capture and save for you. Don’t do anything that will jeopardize that information. Especially editing those files directly.


Climate Change Boondoggle

Senator John Kerry (who served in Vietnam) got all worked up about climate change again yesterday. According to him, I’m a flat earther because I deny climate change. Nobody is denying climate change. That’s just how the libs start out. They begin by bending their opponents beliefs in the direction they want, or for those of us who like plain talk — lying.

I, and most people who can think for themselves, deny that humans have had a significant impact on global climate change. I live where a tropical ocean once existed millions of years ago. That’s climate change. The land less than an hour north of my place was covered by glaciers thousands of years ago. That’s climate change. A summer heat wave, even the worst in 50 years, is not climate change. That’s called seasonal change. 50 years ago it was worse or this wouldn’t be the worst drought in 50 years.

If 90 years from now, the ocean level has risen the predicted 2 feet or so, it will be because the earth’s temperature rises naturally. It won’t be because of humans and their annoying interference with nature. The ocean levels have risen an average of 4 feet a century since the last ice age. You can’t blame that on humans. Politicians should leave science to scientists.

The real problem is scientists who chase grant money at the cost of their integrity. If you want a grant, and your studies will prove what the politicians want them to, you have a better chance of getting that money. Maybe we should call these charlatans used science salesmen. Would you buy science from one? How about from a politician who pays the used science salesmen?


Picture Dump