Using Dehaze in new Adobe Lightroom CC

Brent Durand
Lightroom's new dehaze feature could mean big things for underwater photography - let's check it out


Using Dehaze in new Adobe Lightroom CC

Lightroom's new dehaze feature could mean big things for underwater photography - let's check it out

Text and Photos By Brent Durand




Adobe has released Creative Cloud 2015, with some performance as well as feature updates. If you're using Photoshop Creative Suite or a standard version of Lightroom, then these features are off-limits for the time being... and may be incentive to switch over to the Creative Cloud subscription.

Creative Cloud allows access to Adobe's full suite of products, and while there are some very cool updates across the board, we as underwater photographers will be primarily interested in Lightroom's new feature: Dehaze.

The new Dehaze feature does exactly what the name implies. It will increase or decrease the feeling of haze in your photos, whether from mist or particles in the water. For underwater photography, we are primarily interested in removing the reeling of haze in order to increase sharpness / clarity lost underwater.

Dehaze is comprised of a single slider, which is located in the "Effects" box at the bottom right colum of the Develop module. This is not the best placement for a feature meant to be used all the time, which may be better off in the Basic box, however when thought of as a combination of image property adjustments (as discussed below) it makes sense that it is categorized as an effect... similar to the photo filters available on your cell phone.


Dehaze is located in bottom of the Effects box in the Develop Module.



Using the Dehaze Feature

The most simple way to see the changes Dehaze makes to your image is to play with the slider. Move it all the way left (-100) to increase the haze effect and all the way to the right (100) to decrease the haze effect. In doing so, we notice that Dehaze applies a formula to change several of the image's properties. 

I'm not too savvy with Lightroom algorithms, however it appears that Dehaze adjusts the image saturation, sharpness, contrast and possibly noise reduction / smoothing.

Here are a few examples of Dehaze on photos from Bluewater Photo's La Paz trip in 2013. I didn't push the sliders too far to try and keep it realistic.


Before using the haze effect


Removing haze at amount of +19


Applying haze at amount of -19


Sea Lion with no haze effect applied


Sea Lion with haze at amount of +19


Sea Lion with no haze effect applied


Sea Lion with haze at amount of +19


Sea Lion crop with no haze effect applied


Sea Lion crop with haze at amount of +19



All photos shot with Canon 5D Mark III and Tokina 10-17mm in Aquatica A5D Mk III housing, in October 2013.




The new Dehaze feature in Adobe Lightroom is pretty cool. It will take some more experimenting to find preferences between increasing Dehaze versus adjustments of contrast, blacks, clarity, sharpening and saturation, however I do see this as something that will fit into my general editing presets.



Further Reading


About the Author

Brent Durand is a weekend wanderer, story teller and image-maker from California. Brent is editor of UWPG. Follow UWPG on Facebook for daily photos, tips & everything underwater photography. View more of Brent's work or follow his imagery through



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Lightroom for the Rest of Us

Scott Gietler
Scott's Easy Steps for Getting Photos Edited and Out There


Lightroom for the Rest of Us

Scott's Easy Steps for Getting Photos Edited and Out There

By Scott Gietler




I like to get my photos out there as quickly as possible. In fact, I try to be done with processing my photos within a day of returning from a trip.

Not everyone wants to sort through thousands of photos after a trip and spend hours editing them, so I've developed a system that everyone can use to make the process as easy as possible. I am using Adobe Lightroom 5, but these tips can be used with any of the recent versions.

My process is summed up with 4 simple words:



Click Image to Enlarge


#1 - Shoot in RAW + Jpeg

This way you can save a RAW file to edit, but immediately post the jpg online. Many new cameras have wifi so that you can post to Facebook as soon as you surface.


#2 - Quickly scan the jpegs on your laptop, jot down the 10 - 30 best photos

I like to quickly view a slideshow of my JPEG files, and then make a list of my favorite photos on a piece of paper or a notepad to keep track of the best ones. Although many photographers import all of their RAW files into lightroom, comparing them and deleting them, I find it faster to just import your best ones.


#3 - Copy those RAW files to a new directory

Put these best photos in their own directory so that they're very easy to find and import once you open Lightroom.


#4 - Open lightroom, import those 20 RAW files

Once Lightroom is open, simply click File and then Import and select the directory where you saved the 20 (or more, or less) of your best photos.



#5 - Edit each one in the develop tool

Click on the Develop module to begin editing your photos. I spend a minute or two editing each photo.



5A - Crop as needed

Cropping is quick and easy in Lightroom's Develop module. Each photo should be cropped if needed to achieve the optimal composition.




5B - Increase contrast, clarity, blacks, highlights, shadows

Underwater photos often can use a contrast boost, which can be achieved by adjusting the sliders for contrast, clarity, blacks, highlights and shadows.



5C - Use healing tool and adjustment brush as needed

If you have backscatter or other elements in your photo by accident, you can remove them with the healing tool. The healing tool can also remove distracting elements from the photo.

The adjustment brush can also be used to paint an area to make changes. In the screenshot below I've reduced the exposure by 4 stops and drawn different shapes to show how you have full freedom to paint in areas needing to be adjusted.



5D - Set star rating for each photo after editing

Lightroom allows you to rate your images to help find your favorites later on.


#6 - Export photos

Once done editing, it's time to export our photos as .jpg files. I like to save them in the same directory the RAW files are. 



6A - Set dimensions (e.g. - 1024 x 1024)

Make sure to set your photo dimensions for the size you will want to share. I usually export them at 2000 pixels wide for slideshows, or 1024 for facebook uploads or web sharing.


6B - Create watermark, use ALT 0169 for the copyright symbol; create left and right versions

If you're putting photos online, you may want to include a watermark. You can add the copyright symbol by holding down the alt key and typing 0169.


#7 - Upload to smugmug/flickr/facebook, etc...

Once your photos are exported with watermarks it's time to share! Time to let your friends know what you saw underwater. Facebook,, instagram and flickr are popular places for people to share their photos with others.


Want to learn lightroom?

Contact Scott Gietler by emailing for info on taking a lightroom class, either remotely, on a dive trip, or at Bluewater Photo in sunny Los Angeles, California.


About the Author

Scott Gietler is the owner of Bluewater Photo, Bluewater Travel and the Underwater Photography Guide. He enjoys helping others learn underwater photography online, in the store and during international photo trips he attends with customers.


Further Reading


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!



How to Choose a Memory Card

Brent Durand
Understanding Performance vs. Cost and What it Means for You


How to Choose a Memory Card

Understanding Performance vs. Cost and What it Means to You

Text and Photos By Brent Durand




Digital memory card shopping is one of the last tasks in putting together a new camera and underwater housing rig. Most photographers do not put a huge amount of thought into the process, however there is much to be gained by doing a little research before placing the order. What is SDHC? Why are there two speed classifications? Do I really need the fastest card on the market? How many gigs do I need?

This reference guide summarizes (and simplifies) the most important specs to consider when shopping for your next memory card.


Having the right memory card is very important, especially when shooting behavior. Finespotted Jawfish, La Paz, Mexico.


Types of Memory Cards

SD Cards

Secure Digital cards are used with all compact, mirrorless and most crop (DX) sensor DSLR cameras. They are smaller and thinner than CF cards. Most photographers currently look towards SDHC, which is a newer generation with higher storage capacities and faster processing speeds. SDXC cards are new in the market and cost-prohibitive for most, but look for these to become popular in coming years.


CF Cards

Compact Flash cards are significantly larger and stronger than SD cards and generally used with full frame (FX) sensor DSLRs and HD video cameras. These cards are tough, provide more data recovery options and perform well in less-than-ideal shooting conditions. They also cost significantly more than SD cards.


Micro SD Cards

These tiny memory cards have great capacity for their size and are used in GoPro cameras and often in cell phones.


Card Speeds Revealed

Aside from the storage capacity, speed (or transfer rate) is the most important factor in choosing a memory card.


Write Speed

Write speed is the speed at which memory card can write data from the camera buffer. For beginner still photographers it’s not much of a worry, however it becomes important for photographers who shoot many continuous frames per second or record HD video. If the card is too slow, the camera’s buffer memory will fill and stop recording. If the card is as fast or faster than the camera’s internal buffer, then the only limitation is the camera.


Read Speed

Read speed is the speed at which you can transfer images from the memory card to the computer. And unless you are shooting many images with critical deadlines, this is less important in selecting a card than the write speed.



Speed Ratings

This is where things get confusing and make it difficult to compare various memory cards. Speed classifications are constantly changing and transfer rates are getting faster, but it’s important to understand the differences in order to save money while maintaining the performance you need.


"X" rating

The “x” rating (i.e. 400x Speed) compares processing times to original recordable CDs (1x = 150 KB/s). This means that a card labeled 40x has a maximum speed of 6 MB/s and a card labeled 400x has a maximum speed of 60 MB/s. Lexar SD cards use the “x” system, SanDisk uses the MB/s system and Delkin uses both. Transcend, on the other hand, only includes the card’s Class rating on their labels (note: Lexar, SanDisk & Delkin also include Class).



The Class system was developed to help simplify card speed ratings. The memory card must meet a minimum processing speed in order to qualify for a particular class. Most new cards on the market are Class 10, which is designated as a 10 with a C around it. That said, a high-quality Class 6 card can also record HD video.



UDMA is another maximum speed classification labeled on many CF cards. UDMA 6 cards feature transfer rates up to 133 MB/s, while UDMA 7 cards feature transfer rates up to 167 MB/s.



UHS speed class can also be found on many SD cards. UHS 1 denotes a 10 MB/s minimum write speed while UHS 3 denotes a 30 MB/s minimum write speed. These are indicated by either a 1 or 3 inside a U.


To summarize, Class and UHS indicate minimum speeds whereas the “x” and UDMA ratings are maximum write speeds.



What Card is Right for Me?


Choosing a memory card does not need to be difficult. Here’s the best way to figure it out:

  • Look in your camera user manual and see what transfer rates are recommended for maximum speed and performance.
  • Determine what file size you need. Underwater photographers will benefit from larger capacities so that you do not need to open your housing to swap cards. It’s better to wait for a lens or battery change to do this. Different cameras record different amounts of data per photo, so it’s worthwhile to call the folks at Bluewater Photo to see what memory card size is best for you.
  • Once you know the minimum speed and capacity you’re looking for you can begin shopping based on price. Keep in mind that if you plan to upgrade cameras in the next year or two, you may want to plan ahead and get faster cards.



Schoolmaster Snapper tucked away from the current in Cozumel, Mexico.


Memory Card Tips


  • As you use your card it becomes fragmented, which reduces speed and capacity. Make sure to reformat your card frequently in order to keep performance optimal.
  • Never fill your card to maximum capacity. Always leave a little room in order to minimize risk of corruption.
  • Get a Fast Card Reader. There is no point to fast read speeds on a card if your card reader can’t keep up.
  • Buy from name brand and reputable dealer. These cards perform the fastest, have the least chance of corruption and more options for recovering data if the card does corrupt.



About the Author

Brent Durand is an avid California beach diver, photographer and writer dedicated to capturing unique underwater, ocean lifestyle and adventure images. Brent is editor-in-chief of the Underwater Photography Guide. Make sure to follow UWPG on Facebook for updates on everything underwater-photography.



Further Reading


Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!



Creating Videos with GoPro Studio 2.0

Brent Durand
Create a Video in 5 Minutes – Seriously…

Creating Videos with GoPro Studio 2.0

Create a Video in 5 Minutes – Seriously…

Text and Photos By Brent Durand




As underwater photographers, we build extensive archives of photos and videos. The trip ends and the daunting task of editing begins, often lasting for weeks after a long photo trip.  For photographers, creating an edited video can seem intimidating. Not only do you need to tell a compelling visual story, but there titles, transitions and music or narrative to add to the video. I’m a photographer (and savvy with computers, Lightroom, Photoshop, etc) but feel I’m not alone in saying that the intimidating part of creating a video is learning to use the editing software, especially if it's been a while since last opening it.

This completely changed once I tried the free GoPro Studio Edit Software. I was blown away after learning to use the software and putting together a video in 45 minutes. Next I put together a short timelapse to share on Instagram, which took about 5 minutes. This article is presented with the hope that more "closet video shooters" will be encouraged to start creating and sharing their own underwater videos.


GoPro Studio is designed to create a streamlined workflow.


About GoPro Studio Edit Software

GoPro Studio is designed to let non-pro video makers create stunning high-quality videos. The software is very intuitive, easy to use and creates a streamlined workflow. There are two ways to approach a new video.

  • Have a lot of big action and want to create a video that looks like a GoPro promo? No problem. Edit templates allow you to choose a favorite video template with preselected music, edit points, slow motion effects, titling and more. If a theme matches the video you have in mind then you’ll be sharing your video in just minutes.  Tip: make sure to shoot the highest framerate possible for slowmo.
  • Starting from scratch gives you full control of the editing process. Just click, drag and follow the suggested workflow. Got a timelapse to add to your video? All you need to do is import the photos and they’ll be instantly turned into a video. You select the playback speed (ie time spend on each frame) and it’s ready to go. Adding titles, music and transitions to the video is just as easy.


Choosing editing templates is easy.


Just one click to export your finished video.


Key Features

In addition to editing videos, GoPro Studio has three other standout features.


1.  Export video still frames at full resolution

  • Video is a much better tool that a still photo in many situations. Think about fast behavioral action, or a very fleeting moment with a subject. Being able to pull a full resolution photo from the video is really useful in this situation, and gives the photographer the best of both worlds (video & photo).


Export any frame as a still photo with a choice of quality levels.


2.  Advanced editing tools are built in

  • While working in the Edit module of GoPro Studio, users not only have the ability to make video edits like playback speed and transitions, but also adjust the picture appearance as well. This includes white balance, tonal adjustments like saturation and contrast, and framing/cropping of the picture.

Fine-tune white balance, picture tones and framing via slider adjustments.


3.  The software supports GoPro, Canon, Nikon and other constant frame rate H.264 mp4 and .mov formats

  • This means that you can edit your DSLR, mirrorless or compact camera video along with your GoPro video. This is really important if you’re working on filming one video with multiple cameras.



I'm writing this review because there are a lot of divers shooting underwater video, but not nearly enough of video being shared. I'm certainly one of those divers, but after recently "discovering" the Studio software I've made it a priority to start going through the folders of video clips to start making some movies. Hopefully you do too!



Featured Reviews


About the Author

Brent Durand is an avid California beach diver, photographer and writer dedicated to capturing unique underwater, ocean lifestyle and adventure images. Brent is editor-in-chief of the Underwater Photography Guide. Make sure to follow UWPG on Facebook for updates on everything underwater-photography.




Support the Underwater Photography Guide:

The Best Service & Prices on u/w Photo Gear


Visit Bluewater Photo & Video for all your underwater photography and video gear. Click, or call the team at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


The Best Pricing, Service & Expert Advice to Book your Dive Trips


Bluewater Travel is your full-service scuba travel agency. Let our expert advisers plan and book your next dive vacation. Run by divers, for divers.




5 Easy Steps To Process Your Underwater Photos

Michael Zeigler
Processing your underwater photos properly is just as important as pressing the shutter button. Here are 5 easy ways to do just that.

5 Easy Steps To Process Your Underwater Photos

Enhance your "keepers" and be able to find them later!

By Michael Zeigler




You've just returned home after an amazing trip abroad (or from your favorite local beach dive), and you've captured some "keepers." Awesome! For many of us underwater photographers, we can't wait to share, publish, or print our creations. Here I will walk you through the five basic steps I take after uploading my photos to my image editing software of choice, Lightroom. Many of these steps also apply to programs like Aperture, but for the purposes of this article I will focus on Lightroom 4. 


Step 1: Weeding Out the "Undesirables"

Yes, digital storage space is cheap these days, but what's the sense in keeping photos of "fish butts" or photos that are out of focus? There are times when I will keep a less-than-desirable photo for the purposes of instruction (e.g. what I could have done better), but for the vast majority of the time, those photos get purged. 

I review each photo, one by one, and flag all of the photos that are test shots, out of focus, have really poor lighting, etc. Then I'll select all of those photos, and delete them from my hard drive.


After importing my images, I flag all the "throw-away" images, select them all, and "Delete From Disk."


Step 2: Keywording

In my opinion, this is one of the most, if not the most, important step in processing your images. This is one of the most efficient ways of locating your images in your library. For example, if I'm looking for an image of a sponge and a diver, I simply type that into the search field, and voila, any images that have those two keywords, appear in a split second. No need to searching through folder after folder to find images. Sweet! 

In addition, should you ever submit your images to an agency or publication, they often require that all images are keyworded. Save yourself the future hassle and do it when you import.


An example of a key-worded image. I have a Keyword Set for "Diving," which helps speed up the process of commonly photographed subjects. Based on your image, Lightroom 4 will also display suggestions, which is nice. Thanks, Adobe!


Here are the items I always include in my keywording process:

  • Location: Specifically, the dive site. I have this set up as a hierarchy within LR4, so that the dive sites are included under the country of origin (e.g. United States > California > Catalina Island > Farnsworth Bank).
  • Critters: The main subject(s) in the photo.
  • Background subjects: For example, kelp, coral, diver, etc. Basically, I include any other identifiable item in the image.

I will typically highlight all similar photos in order to keyword them all at the same time since they have similar subjects. This really helps to speed up the process.

You can go as in-depth as you desire with this step. Obviously, the more all-inclusive you are, the easier it will be to find your images in the future. I recently went back through my catalog to include the scientific name for each entry. Yes, it was a bit daunting, but a glass of wine (or two) made the task a bit more manageable. 



Step 3: Identifying the Winners

Ok, so you've successfully deleted your fish butt shots and have keyworded all of your remaining underwater photos. Now it's time to focus on the photos you want to highlight and share. In this step, I review each photo again, and "flag" the photos I think are the best in the bunch. For example, if I have five shots of a mutton snapper, I will choose the one I think is the absolute best, and flag that one. 

Continue in this fashion for the remaining photos, then move on to Step 4.


Here are some of my "keepers" from my recent trip to Grand Cayman. I can easily find these again by clicking on the "white flag" filter in LR4.


Step 4: Cropping

Select one of your winning shots, click on the Development module, and start with cropping (if necessary). In the Development module of LR4, the cropping tool is the very first tool at the top. Adobe has organized the tools in the Development module in a way in which they think is the most practical approach to developing your images (and I happen to agree).

The way in which one crops an image can, in my opinion, make or break the composition. To learn more about this aspect of development, please read this article on composition.

As a general rule, I will maintain the original aspect ratio of the image. In my experience, things can go a bit "sideways" when you crop using custom aspect ratios. I encourage you to experiment, and see what works best for you. Also, be sure to reach out to your peers for feedback and constructive criticism.


By keeping the original aspect ratio, I can crop slightly in order to achieve the optimal (in my opinion) composition.


Step 5: Developing in the Digital Darkroom

Now comes the fun part. Since a vast majority of underwater photographers I know shoot RAW, I'm going to focus on developing that file type. For those of you that shoot JPG, the camera makes all of the following decisions for you, which, in some cases, is great.

As a standard process in Lightroom 4, I generally increase the following aspects for all of my underwater photos.

  • Contrast: One of the most important things you can do with your underwater photo is improve the contrast. Shooting through water tends to suck the contrast out of a photo. Simply move the contrast slider to the right until the photo looks good to your eye.
  • Clarity: Bumping up the clarity a bit helps enhance the detail in the image.
  • Vibrance: Helps the colors "pop" a bit.
  • Saturation: Self-explanatory. However, underwater photos tend to need a little help in this department, due to the water absorbing colors, especially if you weren't close enough to the subject.
  • Sharpening: When shooting JPG, the camera automatically adds sharpening to the photo. This is not the case when shooting RAW. But, be careful not to over-do it, or your photos will begin to look over-processed.


This is a the basic development panel for the image of the green sea turtle above.


*Bonus* Step 6: Exporting

So you've combed through all of your shots, added keywords, cropped (hopefully minimally) for the best composition, and developed your winning photos. Now it's time to export and share/print/publish! Based on what you're goal is, export the file size appropriate for the job. 


This is the export window in Lightroom 4. This figure shows my preset when exporting images to be shared on the web. Be sure to always include your copyright information!



About the Author

Michael Zeigler is a contributor, instructor, and trip leader for the Underwater Photography Guide and Bluewater Photo, as well as an AAUS Scientific Diver. Michael's underwater photography and blog can be seen at




Where to Buy

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


Removing Backscatter in Photoshop

Todd Winner
Tips on how to improve your underwater photography by removing backscatter and particles in Photoshop.

Removing Backscatter in Photoshop

Great tips on how to improve your final underwater images

By Todd Winner



We all try our best to get clean images that are free of backscatter using strobe positioning and proper buoyancy techniques. But, let's face it, all of us are plagued with unwanted objects in our images from time to time. Sometimes it is just a few specks of particles floating in the water column, but often it is much worse than that. Thankfully, Photoshop gives us a number of tools to solve these problems.


The original image was fairly clean, but had quite a bit of scatter in the top right area and on the kelp. See 100% crop for more detail.


This is the final image. I used the spot healing and healing brush to remove the large blemishes. I used content-aware and the patch tool to remove the strands of kelp from the top left area of the image and applied the dust and scratches filter with a mask to remove the small particles of backscatter.


New Layer

Sart by duplicating your background layer. An easy way to achieve this is to simply drag the background layer onto the new layer icon located at the bottom of your layer panel. It is a good idea to start a new layer any time you are making big adjustments. It's a simple way to see your before and after and it gives you many other options like blending modes, masking and opacity adjustments. 


Layers panel showing layers, masks icon and new layer icon.


Clone Stamp

The clone stamp is probably the most commonly used tool for removing unwanted objects, but it's the one I go to the least. It does exactly what the name implies; you copy, or “clone,” one small section of the image and stamp it, or “paste,” it into another portion of the image. The problem with this is that it is often very recognizable that you have cloned portions of your image. However it is still a useful tool, especially when retaining small details is important.


Spot Healing, Healing Brush and Patch Tool

These are my go-to tools for most of my backscatter removal. The spot healing brush is the fastest and most useful for removing small quantities of backscatter especially from backgrounds. You simply need to stamp or brush over the unwanted object and the tool will blend from surrounding pixels to keep the same luminance and texture. Because it blends with adjacent pixels, it is not the best tool for working around edges especially high contrast edges. For those kind of problems, the healing brush tool is a better option.  

The healing brush requires you to sample a portion of the image much like the clone stamp by Option / Alt + Clicking on the sample area and then clicking on the area that you want to conceal. Unlike the clone stamp, the healing brush keeps some of the luminance values from the new concealed area.  

The patch tool is not one of my personal favorites, but it can be useful for removing large blemishes. Simply draw around the unwanted section and click + drag it to another portion of the image that you want to conceal it with.  

All of these tools have adjustable options on the main menu bar, but the default options work well for most images.  


Content-Aware Fill (CS5 and higher)

If you have very large object that you want to remove, like your buddy's fin, the content-aware fill is a good option. Select the lasso tool and draw around the unwanted object. Once selected, push Control + Shift + Delete and the Fill box opens with Content-Aware and click OK. Content-Aware does a good job of sampling other portions of your image and creating detail patterns, but it often picks areas that aren't what you desire. Unfortunately, there is no way to control this. Maybe in CS-6 they will add more control.  For the time being, resampling the area multiple times and combining content-aware with some of the other tools can give you excellent results.  


Dust and Scratch Filter

If you have a background with a lot of backscatter, the dust and scratch filter is a powerful remedy. It does not work well on large blemishes, but it is perfect for lots of tiny particles.  There are a number of ways to use this tool, but I like to apply the filter to a entire layer and paint the blemishes away. Start by making a copy of the background layer, then apply the Dust & Scratches filter located under noise in the Filter pulldown. There are two sliders in the filter. Start by moving them to their smallest positions. Increase the radius slider until the small particles are concealed. This will soften your entire image, but you can recover much of the detail by increasing the threshold. Use the smallest increments that conceal the blemishes and don't get too concerned with the detail as we are going to paint in the effect. Next, add a mask to the layer by option + click on the add vector mask icon at the bottom of your layers panel. This will give you a mask filled with black over the entire layer. Now select your brush tool and white as your painting color and simply paint away the unwanted backscatter with an appropriate sized brush.  


100% crop of the top right area of the original image.


100% crop of the top right area of the final image after applying the cleanup techniques.


Remember that all of these tools have lots of parameters that you can change to help you to achieve your desired effect. For more information, contact Bluewater Photo for one of our Lightroom / Photoshop classes: or see


Further reading


Support the Underwater Photography Guide

Please support the Underwater Photography Guide by purchasing your underwater photography gear through our sister site, Bluewater Photo & Video. Click, or call them at (310) 633-5052 for expert advice!


How to Register Your Images

Bonnie Pelnar
Bonnie shares important information about how to protect your images by registering them with the Copyright Office.

How to Register Your Images with the Copyright Office

Part 4 in a series on Copyright

By Bonnie Pelnar



The Copyright Office is an office of record, a place where claims to copyright are registered and where documents relating to copyright may be recorded when the requirements of the copyright law are met. The Copyright Office furnishes information about the provisions of the copyright law and the procedures for making a registration, explains the operations and practices of the Copyright Office, and reports on facts found in the public records of the Office.


Registration is not difficult, but might be a bit confusing the first time. Read the instructions and samples they offer on the site. Once you've done it a couple of times the process is quite simple.

You can get all the information you need on the U.S. Copyright Office website at Since copyright applies to much more than just the photos and video we capture, you'll need to weed out what doesn't apply to your needs.


The Application & Filing Fee

An application for copyright registration contains three essential elements: a completed application form, a nonrefundable filing fee, and copies of the work being registered and deposited with the Copyright Office. The cost for registration can be between $35 and $65 depending on how you do it.

The simplest way is to register is by using the eCO Online System on the US Copyright Office website. The cost is only $35 and offers faster processing time, online status tracking, secure online payment, and the ability to submit your images electronically. The online option can be used under certain conditions, such as for unpublished work, work published only electronically, and published works submitted in a group. There are other restrictions, so be sure to read the instructions carefully.

Another option for registering basic claims is the fill-in Form CO. Using 2-d barcode scanning technology, the Office can process these forms much faster and more efficiently than paper forms completed manually. Simply complete Form CO on your personal computer, print it out, and mail it along with a check or money order and your deposit.

Paper versions of Form VA (visual arts works) are still available also. They are not available on the Copyright Office website; however, staff will send them to you by postal mail upon request.



Submitting Images

There are also several ways you can submit your images with the application. Using the eCO Online System you may upload images for submission, or send them after you submit the application on CD, DVD, or as prints. There is a list of acceptable file types on the Copyright website.

You may register your images as a "collection" using one application form and one fee if the collection is made up of unpublished works by the same author and owned by the same claimant; or the collection is made up of multiple published works contained in the same unit of publication (for example, personal website, Facebook, SmugMug, Sport Diver Magazine) and owned by the same claimant.


TIP: If you are using the online upload, have all your images resized to a suitable upload size, with file names organized before you begin the registration online. You don't need a high resolution sample of every image you submit. You can upload zipped files containing groups of images. You are given 60 minutes to upload images one line at a time, and times out at 30 minutes, so you'll want to use common sense to create realistic file sizes for upload.


How Long Will the Application Process Take?

The time needed to process an application varies depending on the amount of material the office is receiving and the method of application. Using the eCO system is fastest, taking about 3 months to process. If you choose alternative registration, don't be surprised if you don't hear anything from the copyright office for as long as a year from the time you send in your application.

Copyright registration is effective on the date the Copyright Office receives all required elements in acceptable form, regardless of how long it takes to process the application and mail the certificate of registration.



Bonnie Pelnar is an underwater photographer, producer, presenter, designer, teacher, and marketer for the dive and travel industry for over 16 years. She conducts photography workshops at tropical destinations around the world. You can read more about her work, her workshops, and her photo tours at She is also a judge in this year's prestigious Ocean Art Photo Competition.



Further Reading


Why You Should Register Your Images

Bonnie Pelnar
In this third installment on Copyright, Bonnie explains why you should register your images with the Copyright Office.

Why Register Your Images with the Copyright Office?

Part 3 in a series on Copyright

By Bonnie Pelnar



Copyright exists from the moment the work is created, but registration with the copyright office is optional. It is not a legal requirement. Delaying registration will limit the amount of damages that could be awarded to you if you did sue someone for infringement.



Reasons you might want to register your images are:

• It creates a public record that establishes you as the copyright owner and eliminates the burden of proof if someone else claims your work as their own.
• Registration gives you powerful ammunition against an infringer.
• Registration is required if you intend to file a lawsuit for infringement.
• Your registration certificate is evidence of the validity of your copyright.
• You can collect statutory damages and ask for attorney fees.




To file a copyright infringement lawsuit is very, very expensive. You must retain an attorney to file the suit in Federal Court, because copyright is enforced by Federal Law. Hopefully you'll never need to do this.

Most copyright cases are settled between the photographer and the infringer. A settlement could mean anything from an apology to a payment of thousands of dollars in lieu of expensive legal action. I'll offer some suggestions on how to determine the value of a photo and collect fair settlements in a upcoming articles.

Even if you never have to hire an attorney, having registered your images with the copyright office gives you a lot more power when trying to negotiate a settlement, because the consequences to the infringer are much greater than if you did not register your images.

There are also benefits to having registered your images before or very soon after you publish them. If you registered within three months of publication or before an infringement occurs, winning a copyright lawsuit could result in statutory damages of up to $150,000 plus attorney's fees, even if your actual damages are minimal. If you have published them and not registered them, you cannot collect statutory damages.



Registering does not stop people from stealing your images but it does give you a lot more negotiation power if someone worth going after does infringe your copyright.

Say for example, that you just got back from an epic trip to Guadalupe Island and came back with hundreds of outstanding great white shark pictures. Before you rush home to post them to your website, you take the time and pay the $35 to upload that batch of images to register them with the copyright office. At this point they are "unpublished" works. From the time your submission is received at the copyright office, you are officially registered and now you can start the process of showing off.

Even though you took the time to register the images and put a copyright notice on each image, and used java scripts and other electronic means to deter the download of the image, your favorite great white shark images show up on some website promoting their new line of shark fin soup. Are you angry yet? How you proceed at this point could make the difference between a big settlement or you getting nothing at all.

In upcoming articles I'll share with you what has worked for me and what has blown up. For the time being you might want to start organizing the images you plan to register with the copyright office.


Bonnie Pelnar is an underwater photographer, producer, presenter, designer, teacher, and marketeer for the dive and travel industry for over 16 years. She conducts photography workshops at tropical destinations around the world. You can read more about her work, her workshops, and her photo tours at


Further Reading


Lessons on Copyright

Bonnie Pelnar
Bonnie Pelnar shares important information about copyright, and what it means to you. This is the first part in a series.

Lessons on Copyright

The first installment in a series on Copyright

By Bonnie Pelnar



There are few things more infuriating than discovering that someone used your photography without asking you, giving you credit, or paying you money. Even though a digital image is not something you can hold in your hand, the offense feels no less significant than if someone stole your bike right from under your nose. You feel violated.

Whether you're a professional, enthusiastic amateur or even a novice with a happy snappy, copyright is something you should understand before you ever pick up a camera. Copyright is ownership. With this ownership comes the power of distribution and presentation. This is the "right to copy."

We all know how powerful images can be. The right image can be worth tens-of-thousands of dollars, or it could be worth nothing if you don't protect what you own.


What is copyright?

Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, is a right protected in the U.S. Constitution and granted for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.

Copyright of a photograph is obtained the moment you click the shutter. Even if you've used someone else's camera, the photos you took belong to you.




Before the internet we would make prints and enlargements of the our best shots and entertain our friends with slide shows at our photo club, but the original slide or negative remained securely in our possession. Things were pretty cut and dry and unless you submitted them to a stock agency or sold them as a print, the chances of someone stealing and reprinting your image was pretty slim.

Scanners, digital cameras and the internet has changed everything! Not only are images much easier to share, they are also much simpler to steal.


GIve us your images

Being the show-offs most of us photographers are, we immediately want to share our images with friends, whether it be on Facebook, via email or on our personal websites. Technology makes this even simpler to do with cell phones and cameras that upload and post instantly to the social media networks, totally by-passing our computers. This does not diminish your copyright, but it does make it a lot harder to protect. You're images are now "out there" and you risk losing control over who uses them and how. They are also technically "published", and this does affect how you proceed in the copyright registration of those images.

We've also seen a rise in online photo contests that encourage you to submit your images with promises of big prizes, sometimes with consequences that you may not totally understand until it is too late.

Too often new photographers consider it a compliment when someone likes their image enough to post it on their Facebook page, forum post or website. I often hear comments like "I don't do it for the money anyway" but they may not realize the impact this has on the bigger picture.

In my series of upcoming articles I'm going to discuss copyright from the viewpoint of the photographer, the infringer, the buyer, and the seller. I am not a lawyer, so if you need legal advice do consult an attorney. I'm simply sharing what has worked for me when trying to protect what I create with this ever changing technology.

I hope these articles will raise your awareness of why copyright knowledge is so important to you and give you a better understanding of how you can protect your assets.



Coming soon - part II of the Copyight series

Future articles will include:

• The difference between copyright, trademark and patent
• Why you should register your images with the copyright office
• How to register your images with the copyright office
• Giving away copyright, losing copyright, public domain
• What's an image worth?
• Tips on protecting your images
• What to do when someone steals your images


Bonnie Pelnar is an underwater photographer, producer, presenter, designer, teacher, and marketer for the dive and travel industry for over 16 years. She conducts photography workshops at tropical destinations around the world. You can read more about her work, her workshops, and her photo tours at


Further reading

Copyright, Trademark and Patent – The Difference

Bonnie Pelnar
Bonnie Pelnar explains the difference between Copyright, Trademark and Patent in part 2 of a series

Copyright, Trademark and Patent – What's the Difference?

Part 2 in a series on Copyright

By Bonnie Pelnar



When discussing copyright and intellectual property rights, it's difficult to not bring up trademarks and patents. Although they offer similar types of protection, the purpose and application is different.

By the way, if you missed part one of this series, you can read it here first.

If you're a photographer you'll want to protect your images by enforcing your copyright. If you decide to name your company "Getty Images" you'll likely run into some trademark issues, but if you invent a cool little photo gadget that does something so unique that you decide to mass produce and sell it, then you'll need to know more about patent protection.

If you register your images with the copyright office under your company name (for example, Under Watercolours) this protects the images under copyright law, but the name "Under Watercolours" is not protected unless you've applied for a trademark.



Copyright protects an original artistic or literary work. Since this includes photography, it is the part I'll elaborate on in future ramblings.

Copyright applies to anything you "author" or create, such as a drawing, a painting, a graphic, an illustration, a song, a book, or an article like this one. Since I wrote this article, I retain copyright to it, but I am giving the owner of this website permission to publish it. To own copyright to anything, it is not necessary that it be published.

For photography, copyright is established the minute you click the shutter. You created it. You own it. You determine who gets to use your photos and how.

Whether you decide to register your photos with the US Copyright office depends on many things. You do not lose your copyright by not registering an image with the copyright office.

Copyrights are registered by the Copyright Office of the US Library of Congress. The process is fairly simple and inexpensive, but enforcing copyright is anything but simple. The better you understand the basics of copyright, the more successful you'll be in protecting your images and cashing in when they are used without your permission. I'll talk more about that later.





A trademark is a single or combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes you from someone else in a particular market. A service mark is the same, but distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product. They are often referred to as a 'mark' or 'trademark' regardless.

You can establish your company name and draw up a logo without ever giving thought to registering is as a trademark. Of course you cannot copy someone else's name or logo, but you can use a name or logo if you feel it is original and unique in your market and the geographical area you are selling in. Finding possible conflicts is much simpler today than it was before the internet was around. Coming up with a unique name like "Bonnie Pelnar Photography" is simple for me, because I'm the only Bonnie Pelnar in the world, but if you're name is Steve Jones you might run into some conflicts. Conflicts don't prohibit you from using the name, but the gray area might quickly turn into black and white if the other person using a similar name feels threatened by your use of the same name.

The purpose of registering your trademark is to prevent confusion in the marketplace about who or where where a product or service is coming from.

Registering a trademark is not mandatory. You can establish rights in a mark based on use of the mark in commerce, without a registration. However, owning a federal trademark registration provides several advantages including the right to use the ® symbol after your logo. If you ever needed to protect your trademark because you discovered someone was using a logo or name a little too similar to yours, you would need to have that trademark registered before your could bring an action against the offender.

You can use TM or SM after your logo without registering, but you don't get the added muscle of the statement an ® makes.





Patent protects an invention. So if you come up with a unique device that does something different than anything else in existence, or better than similar devices, you may want to apply for a patent.

U.S. patent grants are effective only within the United States, U.S. territories, and U.S. possessions. Obtaining a U.S. patent gives you the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention in the United States or importing the invention into the United States.

Registering with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office does not give you legal assistance. If someone steals your image, you cannot call the U.S. Copyright Office to report it. You need to initiate the legal process in a Federal Court using lawyers and lots of money. However, there are huge advantages to registering to protect yourself. Potential infringers will know that you have every intention of protecting what is rightfully yours.



Coming soon..

Part 3: Why you should copyright your photos


Bonnie Pelnar is an underwater photographer, producer, presenter, designer, teacher, and marketeer for the dive and travel industry for over 16 years. She conducts photography workshops at tropical destinations around the world. You can read more about her work, her workshops, and her photo tours at She is also a judge in this year's prestigious Ocean Art Photo Competition.


Further Reading


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