10 Composition Techniques

Composition. This is a term you hear a lot thrown around in the photography sector, but what does it mean? Well, technically it means the difference between a good photo and a great photo. But let’s define the term first.

Composition: (noun) the nature of something’s ingredients or constituents; the way in which a whole or mixture is made up.

When dealing with art, a picture in this case, the composition can actually take your photo from good to great. While some people swear that a great photo is created by the camera, some of that really comes from the photographer knowing what they are doing. I’ve seen great photos taken by “crappy” cameras (not my words but other peoples).

10 Composition Techniques

  1. Rule of Thirds. Make sure you know the rule of thirds. Divide your picture up into thirds both up and down and side to side. Pictures tend to look better if the focal point isn’t dead in the middle but hits one of those points where the lines cross in the rule of thirds.
    Rule of Thirds - Morey Eel coming out of coral in Cozumel
  2. Cropping. If all else fails, get that once in a lifetime shot and then go back and crop later. Ideally, you should crop as you take the picture. See the picture you want through the lens of your camera, but sometimes, for instance, a shark rolling on the bottom of the ocean floor, doesn’t allow you to get in close. Get the shot and post edit in a photoshop type software later. There are both free and paid versions available.
    Cropping. Zooming in on a Shark rolling on the ocean floor.
  3. Fill the Frame. You are taking a picture of a shark, a turtle, a fish, some coral, make it fill the shot. Let your viewer know what they are supposed to be focusing on. Again, if you can’t do it while underwater, do it in post editing. Taking photos underwater is a little different than taking photos on land.
    Fill the Frame - with a crab
  4. Use Frames. Frames also help that viewer focus in on what you’re photographing. The fish sometimes hang out under coral heads. Use that to your advantage.
    Use Frames - A crab coming out of a shell
  5. Leading Lines. Leading lines are also a great way to tell your viewer focus on that. Usually, the lines lead to the subject of the photo, but sometimes they can actually lead away if you’re trying to tell a different story. The story could be, I saw this but then I headed on and saw … (fill in the blank).
    Leading lines - What is Grady doing to Clamente's tank?
  6. Watch the background. If you are taking a photo of a fellow diver, watch that they don’t have weird things growing out of their head or their side or their arms, etc. Weird things growing out of places tend to distract from the actual story of the photograph. You may be taking a picture of a famous diver and if they have something growing out of their head, people will focus on that horn out of the top of the head instead of that famous diver you saw.
    Watch the Background - weird things coming out of places they shouldn't.
  7. Create depth. Photography is two dimensional, so to create depth place items in the foreground, the middle ground, and the background. Another way to create depth is to obscure one item with another. That depth helps the viewer see the items in the photo as dimensional versus a flat picture.
    Creating depth - a foreground, middle ground, and background
  8. Viewpoint. Anyone can take a straight on shot. So get above, below, behind, etc. Use your imagination and think outside the box. Try lighting from behind if you have a dive buddy that will hold your light for you. Try new things is the point.
  9. Patterns. Patterns in coral can be fun. Remember, if your friends don’t dive, they are living through you. Maybe your photos can cause them to want to take classes and dive too. You want to give them the best photo possible to look at.
    Patterns - coral
  10. Experimentation. Remember, not every picture will be a masterpiece. In film cameras, the rule was 1-2 photos out of every 25 on the roll would be worth it. Take many of the same and don’t be afraid to try new things. The worst thing that can happen is it didn’t turn out and then you have a reason to go back and try, try again.
    Experimentation - shooting a turtle from underneath

And when all else fails, throw all the rules out the window and get the shot!

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