Tag Archives: GIMP

PTJ 97: Descent Into Casual Gaming and Tips for Better Throwback Photos

El Kaiser makes a difficult confession: he’s traded in his first person shooters for crushing candy and fuming feathered friends.

Throwback Thursdays on Twitter and Facebook have people digging through their old photo albums but if your old snapshots haven’t held up too well over the years J.D. has tips for how to spruce them up.

In the news the onslaught of the Electronic Entertainment Expo gets underway in Los Angeles; Apple unveils a new headphone standard;  Sony debuts its new PlayStation TV; Amazon integrates Audible audiobook lineup into the Kindle ebook app; Google gets into the satellite game by acquiring of Skybox Imaging; Netflix and Verizon continue their corporate slapfight; and Wired magazine dredges up old Star Trek misfires.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Throwback Throwdown

You’ve heard of the Facebook tradition of Throwback Thursday, right? That ol’ #TBT? If not, Throwback Thursday is the day you upload an old picture of yourself on your profile page to illustrate the passage of time (and your hairstyle history). The practice has sent a lot of people back to ancient photo albums, slide carousels and snapshot shoeboxes to dig out some of their less-embarrassing  pics to post.

As you may have noticed, however, old photos and slides often fade over time, or the color distorts to odd casts — especially if the original media hasn’t exactly been stored in archival conditions in the first place. Sure, maybe you can pass off the weirdness as an Instagram filter, but maybe you’d rather accept the challenge, clean up the photo and return it to a more reasonable representation of the original scene.

If you’ve got image-editing software on your computer, you can do your own color correction, fix blemishes and sharpen up those old snaps with relative ease. And really, who doesn’t have image-editing software on their computers these days?

For example, Windows users can grab Windows Photo Gallery (shown above) for free and Mac users have that copy of iPhoto that came with their computers. Cost-free, cross-platform options like Google’s Picasa (shown below) or the open-source GIMP also await.


Beyond those are the programs you pay for, like the industry-standard Adobe Photoshop, the home-user edition, Adobe Photoshop Elements, or any of the other third-party picture programs around for Windows or OS X. So you have the software if you want it.

[While there are also mobile scanning and image-editing apps out there, too, let’s focus on desktop solutions here. Let’s also assume you’ve used the scanning feature on your multifunction printer to convert that old analog media into a convenient set of pixels.]

Once you have scanned your old photos or 35mm slides and a good resolution on a freshly cleaned scanner bed, take a close look. If the colors are faded, the prints are ripped or cracked, or the slides have a weird pink cast, fire up your image editor and get to work:

If you’re rocking the full Adobe Photoshop, Adobe has a tutorial video that shows how to restore a damaged print. Also on the Adobe site: and Colin Smith’s No Stupid Questions show has some tips on touch-ups and working with channels in RGB files.

The Digital Camera World site has a photo-restoration guide as well. Those with the Adobe Photoshop Elements software designed for the home crowd can also find plenty of picture-restoration info around the Web and a tour of the more helpful Guided Edits tools in the latest version of the program.

If retouching (without quite knowing what you are doing yet) makes you nervous, make duplicates of your scanned photos and spend some time experimenting with your program’s color and repair tools. Many programs also include a “revert to original” option in there for your peace of mind.

Once you get the hang of it, you can make all your old pictures look a little bit better and there’s a bonus to all this: Aside from wowing your Facebook friends with your past history of synthetic fabrics, big hair, shoulder pads and other fashion choices of your era, you now have handy electronic copies of your fragile old analog media that you can store more easily and back up regularly. And remember, it’ll be much easier to eventually convert those files into holograms for your grandkids to laugh at if you’ve already got the pictures digitized.

Episode 55: Just Jammin’

This week we bring the jam! J.D. offers up alternatives to Photoshop as El Kaiser tries to find something decent to watch on Netflix and answers listener mail. In the news, the U.S. Emergency Alert System might be vulnerable to hackers; Google patches a 4 year old vulnerability in the Android mobile OS; bookseller Barnes & Noble get out of the tablet business; and the Mars rovers continue to do their thing on the Red Planet.

Photo Research

The new subscription-based Adobe Photoshop CC has upset some people. While those who use Adobe Photoshop professionally are probably going to stay with it because it’s the industry standard for pre-press and digital imaging work, others with lesser needs may be propelled to move to an alternative program.

The $100 Adobe Photoshop Elements will do for a lot of home users, you can also find free image-editing programs on the Web or maybe even right on your computer. So finding replacement software isn’t that hard — as long as it does all the things you used to be able to do in Photoshop. So how do you find out if a program does what you need it to do? Here are a few free alternatives and links to each one’s help guides and tutorial files so you can get an idea of just what it can (or cannot) do for you.

Also known as the GNU Image Manipulation Program, this powerful cross-platform image editor can do a lot of the same heavy lifting that Photoshop does. GIMP is cross-platform (Windows, Mac and Linux among them) and it can seem dense and complex. But there’s help, including a Frequently Asked Questions page, which answers a lot of basic queries and even has a bit of cheeky humor.

You can also find a user manual in both HTML and PDF formats, plus a whole section of illustrated tutorials for learning how to do specific things like creating icons, making animations, blending exposures or creating contrast masks. The program has online documentation in several different languages. GIMP comes with a built-in help system too. When you are in the program, press F1 for context-sensitive help.


If you simply must have a big old printed book, No Starch Press has a 676-page manual called The Book of GIMP for $50 and you can download a free sample chapter from the site. There’s also GIMP for Beginners, for $45 from Apress.

Google’s free photo program for Windows and Mac OS X can do more than some people give it credit for. Sure, it imports pictures off the camera, but it can also do photo-editing tasks like redeye reduction, cropping, straightening, simple retouching, color and contrast adjustments and includes a bunch of tints and filters. You can also do side-by-side editing to see how your changes are affecting the image. If you want to dig deeper into Picasa, check out Google’s Help Guide and well as the site’s pages for “how to” and troubleshooting.

This popular Web-and-mobile photo editor has a pretty sophisticated toolbox that can handle layers, masks, silos if you need more than the basic cropping and redeye reduction powers. Pixlr has mobile apps for Android and iOS and works well as an online editor. If you need help, check out the “community-powered support” on its site.

Windows Photo Gallery
This freebie from Microsoft has been around in some form for several versions (including Windows Vista) and now has tools like the panorama-maker and Photo Fuse, where you can combine the good parts of two bad photos into one decent image. While Windows 8 has a Photos app that doesn’t do much besides cropping and rotating, you can find more useful image-editing apps in the Windows Store.

Apple has been including iPhoto, its image organizer and editor, with Mac OS X since 2002 and the current version is iPhoto ’11. There are also mobile versions of the program for Apple’s iOS devices. Apple tutorials. The software’s sharing and printing features — including the ability to share directly to Facebook and Flickr or to make books, calendars and cards out of your pictures — are easy to grasp. iPhoto can do much more, though, including color adjustment, cropping, rotating, retouching and special effects. You can find video demonstrations on the Find Out How page for iPhoto ’11 and Aperture and Apple has an iPhoto support section of its site if you have specific questions you want to research. There’s also a Help guide built into the program.

These are just a few of the free photo-editing programs out there and plenty of other freebies (and some fine commercial software) can be found with a few quick Web searches. Just read up, make sure your new program can do all the stuff you used to do in Adobe Photoshop and ease on down the road.

Episode 46: A New Hope and a Helpful Hint

J.D. has a (Hopefully) Helpful Hint about offering remote computer assistance to trusted friends and family and Pedro celebrates the 30th anniversary of “Return of the Jedi” by sharing what the Star Wars films mean to him. In the news, the U.S. Senate approves the  Marketplace Fairness Act; more Google Glass(es) bans; Adobe changes their paradigm; and movie visual effects giant Ray Harryhausen dies at age 92.

Episode 42: False Starts and Tiny Antennas

They were created pre-Internet but are more popular than ever. J.D. gives us the lowdown on the ubiquitous animated GIF. In the news, NYC-based tech startup Aereo continues to ruffle the feathers of major television broadcasters; Sony announces cheaper and smaller Ultra HD TVs; Google removes thousands of apps from the Play Store; the U.S. Nave deploys the first laser weapon; and Facebook releases Home, their new front-end app for next generation Android devices.

Moving Pictures

They’ve been lurking in the background for years, but animated GIFs have had a comeback in popular culture lately. People use the format to create humorous Internet memes, low-resolution video clips of events like cool sports plays or their own mini-cartoons. Tumblrs are spilling over with animated GIFs, El Kaiser has created an excellent Pop Tech Jam GIF and BuzzFeed even had a list of favorites for 2012. (Like wildlife? Check out the Animal PerfectLoop site.)

Not bad for a file typet that’s been around since the Reagan administration. The GIF format was first introduced in 1987 by CompuServe. GIF itself stands for Graphics Interchange Format and some have argued how to pronounce the acronym. (The creators of the format have said they pronounce it like a certain peanut butter-brand chosen by choosy mothers, although some dictionaries support both pronunciations.)

Animated GIF files are generally smaller than the average video file and only support 256 colors. An animated GIF, which is a series of still pictures (frames) combined together to create action or motion, does not contain sound like most video formats do. Video files also typically have at least 24 frames per second or higher to create fluid motion in a wider range of colors. This small file size of the animated GIF and its compatibility led to their relative popularity in the early days of the Web when dial-up connections were too slow to handle streaming video (or much of anything else besides text).

Before you decide how you want to make your animated GIF file, you should select the images to use for the project, like a sequence of pictures of say, a hamster on its wheel or the best three seconds of a video clip. If you’re using still photos or illustrations, all the images used should be sized to the same dimensions. The fewer pictures used, the faster and choppier the animation will be in the final GIF file. Some basic animated GIF files just use four images. For more fluid, video-like motion, use more images in the sequence.

Recent versions of Adobe Photoshop Elements, a popular photo-editing program designed for home users, can make animated GIFs using the Layers feature. If you have one of these programs, you can use it to create animated GIFs:

You can also use snippets of video and convert the clip to an animated GIF. The How-To Geek site has instructions for converting bits of YouTube clips to animated GIFs here and the Switched blog has a tutorial on the same topic here.

Plenty of Web sites also offer simple GIF conversion. You upload a series of images (or a short video clip) and the site crunches your upload into a GIF for you. MakeaGIF and Gifninja are two sites that can handle the job.

Want to animate your GIFs on the go? Check out your app store for options. Gifboom is one such mobile app with iOS and Android versions available.

But really, the technical stuff isn’t so hard. The hard part of finding that perfect GIF-able moment, but when you do, you feel like this: