How to Enhance Old Photographs With GIMP

By Nick Flegg

The auto-levels tool adjusts the color of your image automatically.
i Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images

Old photographs can be zapped back to life using effects and filters such as cloning tools and color adjusters. Fixing the composition of your photo can even improve an image beyond the limits of the original. Gimp offers several tools that can help enhance your photos, many of which rely on personal taste and experimentation; however, removing blemishes and improving colors will almost always improve the quality of your images. While Gimp can attempt to adjust most filters automatically, it's often best to tweak each setting manually to get the very best results.

Composition Adjustments

Select the "Rotate" tool in the Gimp toolbox. Click within the photograph and drag with your mouse to adjust the alignment. Click the "Rotate" button when satisfied.

Select the "Crop" tool from the Gimp toolbox. Click inside your photo and drag with the mouse to adjust the image's size and shape. Click the "Crop" button when the image looks right.

Navigate to the "Edit" menu and select the "Undo" option if you need to go back a step and try again.

Repair Blemishes

Open your photo and select the Clone tool from the Gimp toolbox.

Choose a brush from the "Brush Selection" window. Select a small brush for precise edits or a larger brush for significant cloning.

Designate the area of the photograph you would like to clone by clicking on it with your mouse, while holding the control key (command for Mac users.) Release the control key when you have made your selection.

Paint over the blemishes in your photo, using the cloned area to retain consistency. Choose a new clone selection whenever necessary until all of the blemishes have been removed.

Adjusting the Color

Open the "Curves" tool by selecting the "Colors" menu and choosing "Curves."

Switch between channels by clicking on the "Channel" drop-down menu. Select the "Value" option to adjust the brightness levels, "Alpha" to adjust the opacity and "Red," "Green" and "Blue" to adjust color levels.

Adjust your image by clicking on the curves line and dragging with the mouse. Increase the strength of a value by dragging it upwards. Decrease the strength of a value by dragging it downwards.

Improve the color of your photo by increasing brightness of lighter colors and decreasing the brightness of darker colors.