Editing Ocean Photos

I have been receiving some emails and DMs lately regarding how I edit my ocean photography, so I have decided to write up a BLOG breaking down how I edit my shots using Adobe Lightroom. 

Firstly, I want to mention that I always shoot in raw format to create large flexible files. This allows me room to get really creative with the look I want for each image. 

My way of editing is not necessarily the correct way to do it, its just the way that I enjoy creating and I'm happy to share that with others that might be interested. 

I hope you enjoy it!


Image: "Salt"

Above is the RAW shot and below is my edit. 

There are some major differences between my under water edits and my normal edits. The first one is the "TEMPERATURE" of the image. Water images look better when the temperature is cooler in my opinion. For people shots or land shots, I make my images a lot warmer. 

In terms of "CONTRAST" I am a huge fan in high contrast for all of my photography. I just like the way it makes images pop and stand out. My contrast is quite often between +50 & +60.

Another major difference with editing my underwater shots is that I turn the "HIGHLIGHTS" up, when I rarely do this for model or lifestyle shots. The reason I like to do this for underwater shots is that it really brings out those underwater sunlight reflections and patterns as you can see in the before/after above. 

Moving down to the "CLARITY" adjustment, there is another massive difference between my underwater shots and my normal above water and lifestyle shots. Here I have the clarity bumped up massively, to recreate that beautiful clarity that was present on the day. In my normal shots, my clarity is almost always about -15 or so as I love the way this smooths out the image tones.

The "SATURATION" in my shots is almost always turned down to compensate for my contrast being turned up so high. I really dislike overly saturated shots at the moment so this balance is necessary. 

Above you can see my "TONE CURVE". I have adjusted this to a subtle 'S' shape to bring out the details of the image. I do often crush the blacks by lifting the first point up on the tone curve s but here I haven't done this much at all. I rarely lift this when shooting models either.


When editing ocean images there is no formula for creating the right colours. Use these toggles to create the colours that you feel brings out the artwork you envisioned when you took the photo! 

The last major editing difference with underwater ocean photography is the "SHARPENING". In nearly all of my other types of editing I don't like to sharpen an image much, if at all. I like contrasty shots but I don't love the look of high clarity or high sharpening usually. However, with underwater shots I bump my sharpening up a lot to increase the beautiful clarity that we like to see in the ocean. I don't believe this makes it unrealistic, this just makes the underwater scene look like it would if we had a diving mask on when swimming and taking the shot. 

Here is the finished product! All I did to finish off this image was take it over to photoshop to make it slightly brighter and take away the dust spot that was located on the far right. 

I hope you enjoyed reading about my editing process and it helps to get you thinking and gives you a few extra tips that might help in your own unique editing style. 

Amy. xx

Amy Markham3 Comments