Editing an Underwater Photo in Camera Raw


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I pretty much have my editing process in Adobe Camera Raw down pat by this point. I've processed enough photos to know that my standard settings don't vary much. Perhaps an extra nudge here or there, but in general, I can edit photos with my eyes closed. I will tell you that each type of image does require its own angle though. While many use the same or similar settings, night shots require different adjustments that sunny landscapes. The same is true for winter shots and underwater scenes. So many images need a boost of contrast and clarity, but how much is another question all together.

Below, I'd like to walk through the process I'd use if I were editing an underwater scene. These are interesting types of photos because they have their own requirements. For instance, from what I've noticed out there, many underwater scenes come out far too green straight from the camera. To make them pop, we would need to cool down the temperature a bit. Also, I've found that underwater shots can handle more aggressive adjustments when it comes to how far the sliders should be pushed. While one might perceive these types of photos to look stellar without any editing at all, I'll demonstrate that they can actually look a lot better with some love from Camera Raw.

To begin, I'll go ahead and launch the demo image into Camera Raw. By the way, this is what the original looks like.


Because this type of photo is all about clarity and depth, I'll be a little heavy-handed when it comes to the sliders. I'll begin in the Basic panel and work from top to bottom, starting off with the Contrast slider. I reserve the Exposure and Temperature sliders for last. My goal is to make the fish in this image seem separated from their surroundings. In other words, I'd like to isolate them and to do that, I'll rely on the Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks sliders. I'll also use the Clarity and Dehaze sliders to my advantage.

I found that this particular image doesn't need any Exposure adjustment. When I added exposure, the image didn't appear as rich. Also, I pushed the Temperature slider to the left to change the greenish water to more of a blue. These are the settings I chose.


And this is the image after these changes.


Finally, for this photograph, I'll add some sharpening in the Detail panel as well as a slight Post Crop Vignette in the Effects panel. Let's see what this looks like now.


Okay, I'd say that looks pretty good. The cool part about editing this photo is that I can very easily copy the settings I just chose for this one image over to another similar image. To do this, I'll go into the folder where these images are located in Adobe Bridge, click on this fish photo to highlight it and then right-click on the thumbnail. Then, I'll roll my mouse pointer over the Develop settings menu item and then click on Copy Settings.

This is the original of the next image I'll work with.


After I copy the settings from the first image to this one, I'll have this look going on.


Pretty cool, right? At this point, if I thought I needed to change some of the colors, I could take advantage of the Split Toning and HSL Adjustments panels. For now though, I think this looks pretty good.

Please let me know if you have any questions about editing photos in Adobe Camera Raw. Thanks!