Jul 3, 2024
Tips for Editing Underwater Photography

Underwater photography presents unique challenges due to water’s filtering effect on light and color. Editing these photos requires specialized techniques to restore natural colors, enhance clarity, and bring out the beauty of underwater scenes. This guide explores essential tips and techniques to help you master editing for underwater photography.

Understanding the Challenges

  1. Color Distortion: Water absorbs and scatters light, causing color loss and shifting hues towards blue-green.
  2. Low Contrast: Underwater scenes often lack contrast due to diffused light and particles in the water.
  3. Backscatter: Particles and microorganisms in the water can cause unwanted specks and haze in photos.

Tips for Editing Underwater Photography

1. Correct White Balance

Adjust the white balance to counteract the blue-green tint caused by water. Use the white balance tool in your editing software or manually adjust temperature and tint sliders until natural colors are restored.

2. Enhance Contrast and Clarity

Increase contrast and clarity to add definition to underwater scenes. Use tools like contrast adjustments, clarity sliders, and selective sharpening to bring out details without over-processing.

3. Remove Backscatter

Use the spot healing brush or clone stamp tool to remove backscatter and unwanted particles from your photos. Work carefully to preserve the natural look of the underwater environment.

4. Adjust Exposure

Correct exposure to balance highlights and shadows. Underwater environments may have uneven lighting, so use exposure adjustments to recover details in darker areas and prevent overexposure in brighter parts.

5. Use Vibrancy and Saturation Sparingly

Increase vibrancy or saturation slightly to enhance colors without making them appear unnatural. Avoid excessive saturation, which can distort colors and make the photo look unrealistic.

6. Fine-Tune Levels and Curves

Adjust levels and curves to fine-tune tonal range and contrast. Use the histogram to guide adjustments and achieve a balanced distribution of tones in your underwater photos.

7. Sharpen Wisely

Apply sharpening selectively to enhance details without introducing noise. Use masking to apply sharpening only to areas with distinct edges, such as marine life or coral formations.

Workflow Tips

  • Shoot in RAW: RAW files retain more image data and provide greater flexibility during editing, especially for correcting white balance and exposure.
  • Use Presets: Develop or download presets tailored for underwater photography to streamline your editing process and maintain consistency across your photos.
  • Batch Process: Apply similar adjustments to a batch of underwater photos to save time and ensure uniformity in editing style.


Editing underwater photography requires a blend of technical skills and artistic judgment to overcome the challenges posed by water’s influence on light and color. By applying these tips and techniques, you can enhance the vibrancy, clarity, and natural beauty of your underwater shots. Experiment with different editing tools and workflows to develop your unique style and create captivating images that showcase the wonders of the underwater world.

Mastering underwater photography editing takes practice and patience, but with the right techniques and tools at your disposal, you can transform your underwater captures into stunning visual narratives that captivate and inspire.

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