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Underwater Portrait Photo Editing: Before & After

Underwater portrait photo of woman sitting at the bottom, wearing a floating sheer white skirt, with sunbeams

The craft is in the capture, but the art is in the edit

A true beginning-to-end journey, the creative process doesn’t stop on photoshoot day. A lot of thought and care goes into the editing of your underwater art—but isn’t that the case for anything that is created to stand the test of time?

Here’s what went into this underwater portrait edit:

  1. Process the RAW file in Lightroom: this includes lens profile correction, basic white balance, and minor adjustments to exposure.
  2. Then, into Photoshop, where composite works happens. Here I took the bubble ring and the reflections from one image, and combined them with the pose from another image.
  3. Clean up distracting elements in the background: remove the pool’s contours, remove my lighting cables, remove the leaves that had strayed from my neighbour’s ponciana tree, remove any creases / stray threads / zippers from the garments.
  4. Dodge and Burn (aka Lighten and Darken): this is where I add light and shade to create depth and to draw your eye to the main points of interest in the image.
  5. Colour grading: fine tuning the water colour and the skin tones to match a mood.
  6. Crop: for this one I chose a 4:5 ratio.

On some underwater photographs I might add a bit more special sauce, and do more extensive retouching. But in this case I didn’t think it was needed.

Edit time: 3 hours

The video shows the “before” photos, straight out of the underwater camera.

The video also shows total number of frames shot for this particular setup. The photoshoot was at twilight, and it was a race against the clock to catch the fading light!

—Liz

Got something you’re itching to ask me about underwater photo editing, or about anything else? Let me know!




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