This short tutorial is designed to help you learn basic processing of
underwater photos in Photoshop. The version of Photoshop used
here is Photoshop Elements version 7. However, you will find
great similarity in other versions. The reason for using the
"Elements" edition is based in price and simplicity. You can
for around $50.00 Compared to the Lightroom Edition which is
Photoshop Your Underwater Pictures?
Photoshop is more than a program. It has become a term used to
describe both a positive process and a questionable result. To
some people to "Photoshop" a picture means to "fake" an image. To
others it means to process a picture to it's true image. Sure,
you can superimpose a mermaid, but that's not what this lesson is
about. In actuality, if you were using film instead if digital
you would have the film processed. Professional photos whether
film or digital are even more individually meticulously processed for
color, tint, sharpness etc. To process your digital photos is
both appropriate and necessary.
Photoshop can process your photos to reflect the true underwater colors
and beauty. However, photoshop can't "make a silk purse out of a
sows ear", as the expression goes. It is essential to start with
good quality pictures. Having good lighting such as strobes is
necessary to incorporate into the data the foundational characteristics
that photoshop depends upon. The best images to work with are in
"RAW" format as they contain the most data. JPEGs are compressed
and the data is threrefore more limited. Most point and shoot
digitals only save in the JPEG format. However, some are
beginning to make the RAW format available just like thier DSLR
cousins. As memory space is no longer an issue I expect this
will become the norm in the next few years.
Processing with Photoshop
The image I am using here is from the Intova IC10 and is presented
here in the full size so you can also use it to practice.
the scary part you should ignore; Photoshop is a very powerful and
complex program that can take years to master.
Second, the good part; Photoshop has automatic
features that can do most of the work easily for you. So let's
get started and seize the magic.
This is a picture taken in Grand Turk 2010 with the Intova IC10, Taken
the automatic mode with
standard flash the picture ISO was 128, F2.9. Like most
underwater photos lacking sufficient
flash, the picture is almost completely blue. Right click
on the above picture and download it.
Use this picture to practice as we walk through the simple steps.
Step One: Open the picture in Photoshop (but you already knew that).
Step Two: In the "EDIT" tab Select "Quick"
Step Three: Move the Smartfix slider from left to right. You will
notice the instant improvement as this adjusts
light, contrast, color and tint and more.
Step Four: Watch as we do the
next step of "Auto Contrast." You will see the
picture become sharper with better definition.
Step Five: Next we will use "Auto Color" to help further restore
the natural colors which you would
see with proper lighting.
Step Six: Underwater the color temperature is "cool" which is part of
the reason for the blue effect.
We need to "warm" temperature slightly. Experiement with
different levels. Don't overdue processing.
Sometimes adjusting the tint warmer (to the right will also balance the
You can also go back and again "Auto Contrast" or "Auto Levels" under
"Lighting" and then alternate
again with "Auto Color" or adjusting the temperature. Experiment
with the processing.
Although you can and should experiment with all the
features, remember each time you process the
picture there is slight degradation in data. However,can always go back
and click the "RESET" button
just above the picture to start
over, or "Ctrl z" to undo the last step.
To save the picture, switch from "Quick" to "Full" and and click on the
"File" tab on top of the page,
select save as and you know the rest.
1. Of course always take the highest resolution photos.
2. Save a copy as a PSD or Photoshop document.
3. Also "save as" your preferred format JPEG etc. Unless you
need to create a reduced
size, save it in the maximum quality.
4. Save the file as a copy instead of overwriting your original.
Lets compare the current results
Before and After
The picture is significantly improved. However, it isn't
perfect. The right side of the picture needed more flash.
Of course, the processing time helps you analyze what is good, as well
as what can be improved.
I have since added double strobes to help in lighting. But I can
also see, when zoomed in, the picture
is more grainy than I would like. Locking the ISO at 100 would
also be a good thing to do. You may have
other ideas to share and of course I welcome them. I'm not
claiming to have all the answers just trying
to help the process along and inspire some others along the way.
Congratulations on processing your first image. Practice
these skills on a dozen or so pictures to get ready for the next lesson.