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Free & Easy Underwater Image Editing with GIMP

Before and after GIMP images

Bottom Line: Looking for a cheap and easy software fix for your imperfect digital underwater images? Give GIMP a try.

GIMP, the Gnu Image Manipulation Program


Those of us at ATA/BAR DIVERS have been called many things of the years, but none of us have ever been accused of being underwater photographers. Sure, we love our little GoPro® cameras and underwater lights, but our rigs—and general photographic knowledge—pale in comparison to some of the set-ups regularly seen on dive outings.


While we may know our place in the true underwater photographers’ world, it does not keep us from trying to find that perfect shot, in spite of our underpowered equipment. Recently on a dive at Anacapa Island, a Garibaldi, with its unusual and almost human-like lips, took a fancy to us and our GoPro® camera and Underwater Kinetics lights. The water conditions were good but not perfect, and to add additional injury to this photo was the floating string that attaches the Polar Pro® Switchblade 2.0 macro lens to the camera housing, which enabled the close-up photo of this golden fish with its funky lips.


The photo seemed salvageable but I needed help from an image editing program to deal with the lens twine and the so-called backscatter, which is basically the illumination of particulate (floating bits of junk) in the water by camera or natural lighting. Off to the internet we went, looking for a solution that didn’t have a deep learning curve.


One diver blogged about GIMP, the Gnu Image Manipulation Program. The price was right (free but donations gladly accepted) and it did exactly what was needed to correct backscatter, errant twine and other image imperfections.


GIMP is an open source project that has been around since 1996. It is as easy—or as challenging—a program as you want to make it. We quickly found that the Healing Tool was magical and a favorite in dealing with imperfections, followed by the Clone Tool. Beyond managing image imperfections, the available tools are seemingly endless, but one you might want to examine closely  is Color Management. If you find your red lens overpowers ambient light underwater, you can quickly try to tweak colors by using the multiple tools found under the Colors dropdown menu. The list of available tools could go on, but it won’t.


If you are an avid (but uneducated) underwater photographer who is not willing to spend gobs of money or months of time learning a top-end image editing program, but want some great results for no investment, download a free copy of GIMP today. You should have visible results within minutes!

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