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