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I've recently gotten into SCUBA diving, and am curious about shooting with available light underwater.

I've heard that when taking underwater photos with available light, an appropriate blue or green water filter should be used. I understand why they're necessary (to correct for lost red or violet/magenta light at depth). However, are comparable results achievable without filters by post-processing the RAW files after the fact (adjusting white-balance and hues)? Or will the results never be quite as good as with the appropriate filter?

Are there an A-B example photos out there? Same subject: processed RAW with filter vs. processed RAW without filter?


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up vote 7 down vote accepted

This is one of those rare cases with coloured filters where you really can't get comparable results by post processing the RAW files in most cases, as in order to get enough red light you'll have to increase the expsure to the point where you will end up totally overexposing the blue channel.

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Ah, makes sense about blowing certain color channels out to expose properly for others. Filters it is then! Thanks! – Mike Cialowicz Mar 22 '13 at 0:04

It depends on the water and depth. Blue water and 60 feet or less (on a sunny day) and you'll probably be able to correct for it shooting raw, deeper or green water, you'll either need a filter or much better, an underwater strobe. Underwater strobes are just about critical for getting good color while diving even with a camera that has a sensor mode designed for underwater shooting.

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I can highly recommend this. I had the experience of images taken by a Canon G10 with proper strobes being far better than those of superior cameras with less light. Our eyes adapt far too well underwater to the darkness to actually realize how little light there is. Proper strobes (1 in the center if you do only macro, 2 on the sides for anything else) will make a HUGE difference - no matter if you have RAW to compensate. – uncovery Mar 22 '13 at 4:34

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