Easy Color Balancing of Underwater Pictures

In previous tips for underwater photography, we covered the importance of using flash to supply the color absorbed at depth. Sometimes you can’t use it, though. For example, in scenery type photos where there is nothing to get close to and use a flash. These pictures are going to be very blue, and its up to your camera mode to adjust the color balance, or you have to do it manually afterwards.

Manually color-balancing photos is a lengthy topic, and one we’ll get to someday. But today, I have a super-quick way for you to restore color that may work for a large number of pictures. Unfortunately, I only know how to do it in Adobe Photoshop, but other programs probably have comparable features.

Here’s the example photo we’ll be adjusting. The strong blues are easy to notice.
Before color balancing

Open the photo in Photoshop (make a copy first). Then select Image -> Adjustments -> Auto Color.
Photoshop menu

Voila! Using some simple algorithmic trickery, Photoshop can see that the image is predominantly blue and correct for this.
After color correction

Could the photo use some manual adjustments? Probably, but for the quick jobs not appearing in Scuba Diving Magazine, this will often do the trick.

If you know how to get the same effect in other programs, please post in the comments and I’ll update the article.

One Response to “Easy Color Balancing of Underwater Pictures”

  1. László Gömze Says:

    Well another quick and dirty fix I applied was using the picture editing functions of Picasa.
    You can only do this trick, if you find something on the picture that is white or neutrally gray.
    I know, it sounds like a tough call, but it is not. Plus, you realize it soon, that chosing points that are not quite neutrally gray produces images that are FAR BETTER than the original picture without any adjustments or (in my case) the adjustments I tried to do manually.
    If it sounds interesting for you, I can tell you more details. Let me know.
    But also, it is quite easy to find this function in Picasa.
    Kind regards,
    László

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