Just a little bit of editing makes most pictures look so much better! I’m not an expert but I do like to play around with the pictures, so therefore in this blog, “An Underwater Photography Editing Guide for Dummies”, we’ll look at how I went from a green blurry picture to a proper underwater shot in just 5 steps!
Because I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on expensive photo editing programs I downloaded Gimp – an open source graphics editor that you can download for free. Initially I found Gimp a little bit more difficult to work with than Adobe, but it saves you a lot of money and it has all the same functions and possibly even more.
I chose to use an amazing manta ray picture taken around Nusa Lembongan to edit for this blog. Step by step I’ll explain to you what I did, how I did it and why.
By following these steps with your own underwater photography shots you’ll be able to produce images that will be the envy of your buddies!
Step 1: White Balance (go to: colours – auto – white balance).
White balance adjustment is the first step in photo editing. The white balance helps to remove unrealistic colour casts. The manta picture has a green hue; the filter removes this green colour and makes white objects white again.
Step 2: Noise Reduction (go to: filters – improve – noise reduction).
The noise reduction helps to remove the white dots in the picture. You can adjust the settings, making bigger or smaller dots disappear. If you have the settings wrong you’ll make the manta look blurry. As you can see in my picture I left some of the noise in there to keep the manta sharp enough. I’ll remove the last impurities manually in the final stages of the photo editing.
Step 3: Sharpen (go to: filters – improve – sharpen).
Sharpening makes the manta look sharper. Too much sharpening can make the picture look grainy so play around with the settings to get the right amount for your picture.
Step 4: Colour Balance (go to: colours – colour balance).
In this step of the photo editing we adjust the amount of green (vs. magenta), blue (vs. yellow) and red (vs. cyan) in the pictures. You can alter the amount of colours per light intensity. Play around with this because it depends on the picture. For the manta picture I added more red and yellow to the highlights to enhance the colour of the corals and sun respectively. I reduced the amount of green in the highlights. In the mid-tones I enhanced the amount of red to enhance the colours of the corals. I also added more blue to improve the water colour and in the shadows I added more blue to improve the colour of water again.
Step 5: retouch (button in left panel, or press H)
The final stage in the photo editing is to retouch. Retouching lets you manually repair noise in the picture. Use a large brush (select a brush in the right hand panel). Press control/command to set a clone close to the impurity you want to remove, and then click on the impurity to remove. Careful not to retouch too much or it can end up blurry or unnatural. Find your own balance according to the effect that you want and play around with the tool!
Lastly to save the picture you can export it to a picture file (export as).
Other things you can play around with are: saturation, brightness, contrast, black point etc.. There are endless functions in Gimp so experiment with it, see what works, make mistakes and compare edits side by side. Most importantly, have fun editing!
Are you planning your next diving trip to Indonesia? As one of the most impressive diving destinations on earth you’ll be wanting to take home some incredible images to remind you of your trip. Did you know that all Two Fish resorts and dive centres offer fresh water for cameras on the dive boats, have camera wash tanks, plenty of available sockets for charging – and our teams never get tired of looking at images from guests.
Where to Dive?
If you are interested in macro and critter photography, the Lembeh Strait in North Sulawesi is word famous for it’s underwater photography opportunities and it’s abundance of rare and unusual marine life. One of the photography highlights in Lembeh is the variety of frogfish species – find out more about frogfish in Lembeh here.
If however you are hoping to capture stunning manta ray images like this one, Nusa Lembongan should be on your bucket list. Other special photography opportunities at Two Fish resorts in Indonesia include macro and hammerheads in South Lombok; turtles and reefs in Gili Air; macro and big fish in Amed, Bali; and staggering walls, eagle rays and critters in the Bunaken Marine Park, North Sulawesi.
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