I attribute the phrase “dial-a-blue” to Berkley White, shooter extraordinaire and owner of Backscatter Underwater Photo and Video. I first heard White use the phrase to describe a specific shooting technique, but I’ve since discovered many cool ways to also dial-a-blue during the editing process. In this tutorial, I make use of the massively powerful Hue, Saturation and Luminance (HSL) panel in the Develop module in Lightroom 5 to dial in the color of the water.
HOW TO MAKE BASIC WATER-COLOR ADJUSTMENTS:
For this tutorial, you’ll start with the Hue tab, but in real life you can use the panels in any order, and you don’t have to use all three.
1. Open the HSL panel and click on Hue.
2. Activate the Targeted Adjustment Tool (TAT), and click and drag up or down in the part of your image you'd like to change. The TAT icon will temporarily disappear as you drag, and you'll see at least one Hue slider moving in concert with your cursor. Lightroom is analyzing the pixels under the cursor, and adjusting each color accordingly.
3. Next, select Saturation. The TAT should still be active, so click and drag to change the intensity of the water color. Easy does it.
4. Finally, select Luminance, and click and drag with the TAT to adjust the lightness or darkness of the water.
5. Deactivate the TAT by clicking on it again in the panel.
6. Check out a before and after of your work. The panel switch toggles the effect of just a single panel. The forward-slash key "/" displays your image from the very beginning, and "Y" displays a side-by-side comparison.
It’s important to remember that even though each slider in the HSL panel represents a single color, the sliders are still making global (whole image) adjustments. If you move a blue slider, it affects everything blue in your shot, including blue fish, blue coral, blue tunicate, your buddy’s blue fins ... you get the picture.
Lightroom Tip: HSL Panel
Hue sliders affect the purity of individual colors in your photo. For instance, moving the blue Hue slider to the left shifts all blues in the image toward aqua, and sliding it to the right shifts them toward purple.
Saturation sliders affect the intensity of individual colors in your photo. A saturated color is vivid; desaturated colors appear faded. Too much saturation looks hokey and obliterates detail, so resist the urge to oversaturate.
Luminance sliders affect the lightness or darkness of individual colors in your photo. These sliders can be particularly useful if you want to enhance sun rays or dappled light.
The HSL panel can be transformed into a powerful local tool via Smart Objects, Smart Filters and layer masks in Photoshop CC.
1. Select an image in Lightroom, and go to Photo > Edit In > Open as Smart Object. Photoshop will open, and you'll see a tiny icon at the bottom right of the layer thumbnail.
2. Go to Filter > Camera Raw Filter. Camera Raw will open. Make changes in the HSL panel, and click OK. Your image will reflect the changes globally. By painting in black on the Smart Filter layer mask, you can hide the HSL changes wherever you don't want them applied.
Bonus Tip: Dial-A-Blue Recipes
There are specific to certain scenarios, and they don't work in every instance, but OMG – it rocks when they do!
In the Hue panel, slide the purple slider to the left toward blue, and/or slide magenta to the left toward purple.
In the Saturation panel, desaturate magenta by sliding left, and saturate blue and/or purple by sliding right.
In the Luminance panel, move both the blue and purple sliders to the left to darken them.
Unwanted Ambient Light:
In the Hue panel, nudge aqua a little to the right toward blue, and/or green a bit to the left toward yellow.
In the Saturation panel, desaturate aqua by sliding to the left. Be careful not to go too far or parts of your shot will appear flat.
In the Luminance panel, slide the aqua slider toward the right to add pop.
Dial-A-Green For Cold-Water Shooters:
In the Hue panel, slide aqua to the left, toward green.
In the Saturation panel, saturate aqua by sliding right.
In the Luminance panel, lighten aqua by sliding right.
Erin Quigley is an Adobe ACE certified digital-imaging consultant and an award-winning shooter. For more info >>GoAskErin.com provides custom tutorials and one-on-one instruction for the underwater photographic community.
For more post-production editing tips and techniques, visit Erin's Post-Production Tutorials in the Underwater Photography section of our website.
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