How I Improved the Quality of my Underwater Photos

I’ve mentioned before that I have an Olympus Stylist Tough 8010 for underwater photography.  While the photos have always been a great source of memories for me, they have never been great quality.  I worried that I had purchased the wrong underwater camera when I compared my photos to some of the photos published by others.

After a lot of research, I’ve discovered that editing is my best friend when it comes to underwater photography.  Most cameras (although I can’t speak for the ultra-expensive ones) will have a blue cast that severely impacts the quality of the photos and that is the crux of the problem.

I began experimenting on my own, but just couldn’t figure out what I should ‘fix’.  For somewhat better quality I relied on Photoshop Elements Auto Smart Fix tool.  It helped, but I still wasn’t impressed with the quality.

Then to my complete joy I stumbled across the blog Anywhere There’s Water and a post titled “Remove The Blue Cast From Your Photos”.  It was just what I needed.  I won’t go into the details because you can check out their post for those, however you will need Photoshop Elements (or you’ll have to translate the instructions into the editing software you use).

What I will say is that the results are amazing.  I’m still experimenting, but after just a few minutes I increased the quality of my photographs to a point that I’m MUCH happier with the results and now I know that purchasing my Olympus Stylist Tough 8010 was absolutely the right thing to do.

I’ll let a couple of the photos speak for themselves.  Below I’ve include the original image, the Photoshop Elements Auto Smart Fix image, and the final image based on Anywhere There’s Water advice.  Judge for yourself.

Snorkeling the Belize Barrier Reef

Here is one photo from each of the stops I snorkeled along the Belize Barrier Reef while on vacation there in January/February.  I’ll be posting more of these enhanced photos soon.

Near Tobacco Caye

I snorkeled this area as part of a snorkeling trip out of Hopkins.

Near Tobacco Caye - Original PhotoNear Tobacco Caye - Auto Smart Fix

Near Tobacco Caye - Blue Cast RemovedNotice that when the blue cast is removed that the blue color of this fish really stands out and that the over-all quality improves.

Coral Gardens

Coral Gardens was the first of three stops on a snorkeling trip with Raggamuffin Tours from Caye Caulker.  It’s a bit of a warm up for the next two stops.

Coral Gardens - Original ImageCoral Gardens - Auto Smart Fix

Coral Gardens - Blue Cast Removed In this photo, removing the blue cast really brought out the yellow in this fish’s fins and the green of the coral.

Shark/Ray Alley

Shark/Ray Alley was stop two where I visit the nurse sharks and Caribbean sting rays.  The quality of this photo suffers a little due to the lack of visibility caused by the sharks and rays.

Shark/Ray Alley - Original ImageShark/Ray Alley - Auto Smart Fix

Shark/Ray Alley - Blue Cast Removed

In the final image, you see a yellow-tailed snapper in the upper-right of this photo.  Because of the blue cast, you can barely notice it in the other photos.

Hol Chan

The third and final stop was Hol Chan.  This is one of the channels that boats can use to get through the reef.  The moray eel in this photo gave us quite a show and was one of the highlights of my trip.

Hol Chan - Original ImageHol Chan - Auto Smart Fix

Hol Chan - Blue Cast RemovedAgain, removing the blue cast from this photo really brought out the vibrant green color of this moray eel.

Final Thoughts

While I still don’t consider these photos amazing, I’m so much happier with the results.  I cannot thank Anywhere There’s Water enough for detailing this process.  I’m much less frustrated with my camera and photographic ability.  As for Photoshop Elements‘ Auto Smart Fix tool, I think it has its place and can be useful but in the case of underwater photography it seems to only be concerned with contrast.  It would be nice if there was an ‘underwater’ editing tool (and if there is and I just don’t know about it, please feel free to comment below…photography is a constant learning experience).

3 thoughts on “How I Improved the Quality of my Underwater Photos

  1. Pingback: Grand Park to Backdoor of Mount Rainier | Travel, Photography, and Other Fun Adventures

    • Thanks. I couldn’t be happier that I found the instructions. I think the results are pretty darn amazing.