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30 July 2013

GIMP Quickie No. 2 – Creatively Rescuing a Poor Photo

Original Photo

  • Shot with a hand-held camera at the Tulsa Zoo through dingy glass in low light.
  • Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • Lens: Canon Zoom Lens EF 70-200mm 1:2.8 L IS II USM
  • Settings: manual mode, f/5.6, 1/100 sec, ISO 800, 200mm, no flash
  • Image size: 5760 x 3840 px


Original Snowy Owl Photo
Original Snowy Owl Photo


Instruction Conventions

  • Layers are added at the top of the Layers list unless otherwise indicated.
  • The latest created layer is the active layer and the succeeding instructions operate on it unless otherwise indicated.


Step 1

  • Crop to taste. (I cropped this one to 1234 x 1346 px.)


Cropped Image
Cropped Image


Step 2

  • New Layer (Paper icon at bottom of Layers dialog)
  • Layer Fill Type White
  • OK
  • Layer Mode Soft light
  • Opacity 100%
  • Layers dialog > right-click > New from Visible


After brightening
After Brightening


Step 3

  • Duplicate the visible layer (from the end of Step 2)
  • Filters > Blur > Gaussian Blur
  • Blur Radius 11
  • Blur Method RLE
  • OK


Gaussian Blur 11
Gaussian Blur 11


Step 4

  • Layer Mode Grain extract
  • Layers dialog > right-click > New from Visible
  • Delete blurred layer.


Grain Extract
Grain Extract


  • Select grain layer.
  • Layer Mode Grain merge
  • Opacity 80%


Grain Merge 80%
Grain Merge 80%


Step 5

  • Duplicate the brightened layer from the end of Step 2 and move it to the top of the Layers list.
  • Layers dialog > right-click > Add Layer Mask
  • White (full opacity)
  • Add
  • Ellipse Select tool
  • Black foreground color
  • Create an oval selection around each eye and use the Bucket Fill tool to fill the selections with black.
  • CTRL+SHFT+A (to deselect)
  • Filters > Blur > Gaussian Blur
  • Blur Radius to taste, keep it small
  • OK

Layer Mask
Layer Mask

Sharp Eyes on Fuzzy Owl
Sharp Eyes on Fuzzy Owl


Step 6

  • New Layer (Paper icon at bottom of Layers dialog)
  • Transparency
  • OK
  • Ellipse Select tool
  • White foreground color
  • Create an oval selection around each eye and use the Bucket Fill tool to fill the selections with white.
  • CTRL+SHFT+A (to deselect)
  • Filters > Blur > Gaussian Blur
  • Blur Radius to taste
  • OK
  • Layer Mode Soft light

Highlights for Eyes
Highlights for Eyes
(Black used to show white areas. Black area is actually transparent.)

Bright Eyes
Bright Eyes


Step 7



No Background
No Background


Step 8

  • Create a textured background and move it below the cutout layer. (I used the method I describe in How to Create a Textured Background Using GIMP Filters.)
  • Select the cutout layer and blur (Blur / Sharpen tool) or smudge (Smudge tool) the edges around the owl to make it look like not such a sharp transition.


Textured Background
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