How to Make Beautiful Skies with GIMP
Do the skies in your photographs look somewhat "blah"? So long as you take your
photographs thoughtfully, you can make them pop with a few easy tweaks in GIMP,
the renowned open-source image editor. These tweaks are also a great introduction
to some of GIMP's more advanced features, such as layers, layer modes and layer
masks. Here's how to do it.
Getting It Right To Start With
1. You can make your job much, much easier (or, rather, not impossible) by
following a couple of steps when taking your photographs.
2. Use a graduated neutral density filter when taking your photos. Consider
getting one if you don't have one. A graduated neutral density filter blocks
out light in part of your photo; since skies are typically much brighter than
whatever is below them, this allows you to get a more consistent exposure
across your photo. But, if you don't have one, or you have no way of fitting
filters to your camera or lens, don't worry about it; see the next step.
3. Underexpose if you're not using a neutral density filter. This can be
by as much as a stop or two; anything that ensures that your sky does not go
pure white (or largely so). The lost detail in dark areas can often be
recovered later. Blown highlights (from an overexposed sky) can never be.
The opposite is often true of film cameras; even massive overexposure does not
result in blown highlights, but shadow detail is often impossible to recover.
This is part of the reason you should shoot at a slow ISO; recovering shadow
detail brings out noise. Also, the technique used here will bring out any noise
that is in the sky, too. If your photo is already noisy (as it will be at faster
ISO speeds), then the end result will be ugly.
Editing your Photo with GIMP
1. Open your image File | Open.