UW Photos
SPUD:Scuba Picture
'Uv' the Day
Flower Gardens
Trip Reports
Photo Instruction
Equipment & Film
5 Ways to Improve
Composition 101
The Very Basics
Lenses & Apertures
Exposure 101
Using Strobes
Diving with a Camera
Special Techniques
Evaluating Photographs
Camera Maintenance
The Digital Photographer
Equipment Appendices
Glossary & Index
Recommended Reading
Message Board
Other Resources
Wallpaper Images
Site Map
Search This Site:

Composition 101

Composition is easily the most paradoxical skill in photography in general, and underwater photography in specific. It's tough to teach, tough to learn, and yet some people just understand it effortlessly. But most of all, your choice of composition will affect your end results as much, if not more, than your "technical" choices. Indeed, the best camera in the world can do all the technical stuff (exposure, strobe control, etc.) for you, but a poorly composed picture will still be a bad one. Conversely, some of the best amateur underwater pictures I've ever seen were shot with snapshot cameras like the Ikelite Aquashot. Why were they so good? Not for technical excellence, to be sure, but rather because the photographer composed a beautiful picture.

Sadly, most new photographers concentrate their efforts on the technical side of photography. Worse still, they make the (frequently bad) assumption that a better camera will fix their problems.

Let me lay it on the line: if you're not happy with your pictures, keep the gear you have now, and work on your composition. If you reach the point that you can point to specific technical features which are holding back further improvement, then that is the time to consider an upgrade.

Having said all of that, I now have a tough task ahead of me: trying to teach you what little I know about composition without embarassing myself. Why is it such a tough task? Because composition is a very personal and artistic endeavor, which makes it hard to teach. Sure, there are a few rules, but once we blow through the rules, the only thing I can do is tell you my philosophy on the matter, show you a bunch of pictures along with my comments, and maybe give you some other resources to chase down. Let me state right away that you need to cruise over to Amazon right now and order a copy of Jim Church's Essential Guide to Composition. This is hands-down the best source of composition information you'll find.

In the mean time, here's what little I know on the subject, broken into what I think are coherent chunks.

  1. The Very Basics: Three rules for improving your composition
  2. Of Lenses and Apertures: How your lens and your composition affect each other
  3. Smile! Working with people in your pictures
  4. Tools for Composition: Features and effects you can use in your pictures
  5. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Some examples of composition

About | UW Photos | Scuba Picture Uv the Day | Flower Gardens | Aquashot | Trip Reports | RSDiver | Photo Instruction | News | Desktop/Screensaver Images | Site Map