Top tips for underwater photography – Part 3 – Framing pictures


Part 3 of our Top Tips for Underwater Photography looks at framing pictures for the best results. This follows on from Part 1 – the Rule of Thirds, and Part 2 – Eye Contact, some of the Top Tips we learned from internationally renowned photographer Kip Evans during our Red Sea voyage aboard blue o two’s M/Y Blue Melody last year.

The first two chapters are all about fitting the most pleasing parts of the image into the best place for viewing. The best way to make both of these things work is to make sure your picture is framed correctly. 

Lisa with Paralenz

The frame is filled, the picture is simple with only a few elements, there is a central theme and the model is highlighted against the empty blue sea

Framing pictures is important for two reasons. The first is quite obvious: we want the subject of our picture to actually be in the picture! What’s also important when it comes to framing pictures is removing all of the other things that we don’t want to see.

Too much information in a photograph reduces the impact of what we want to be the focus of the shot. For example, in the picture below we have a great photo of a shark, but the impact is reduced because there are hundreds of fish surrounding it. The vibrant coral in the background is beautiful, but it reduces the presence of the shark itself.

Keep it Simple

Too many Elements

This is a doctored stock photograph but it shows how too many elements is confusing

Having too many elements in the frame is confusing. That doesn’t mean you need to make pictures where there is nothing else in the background, but having fewer individual elements will make the subject of the picture stand out more. The picture above is a doctored stock photograph where somebody has tried to pile as many cool critters into the frame as possible. It might make for a good wall mural, but not a very good single shot. Simple shots are often the most dramatic.

Have a Central Theme

The central theme of a picture affects which elements need to be in the frame. For example – do you want to take a picture of the beautiful coral reef that has a turtle sitting on it, or a picture of the turtle sitting on a beautiful coral reef? If the theme is ‘a coral reef in all its glory’, then you will need to be further away, framing the coral reef and perhaps the play of sunbeams and shadows underwater. If the theme of the picture is ‘resting turtle’ then you need to be much closer and angle your shot so the turtle stands out more than the reef does.

Negative Space

Paralenz and Oceanic Whitetip

Paralenz CEO Martin Holmberg watches a shark approaching. Even though the shark is small and quite far away, negative space and the rule of thirds draw our attention to the ‘story’

Negative space is a shorter way of saying ‘the part of the picture that has nothing else in it’. When it comes to framing pictures, negative space can be used to focus the viewer’s attention on a particular subject. For example, if the central theme of your picture is going to be that turtle, getting as much blue water behind its outline will shift focus to the animal. Combining negative space with the Rule of Thirds can dramatically enhance the picture.

Framing Pictures with the Paralenz

Paralenz Mounted in Tray

Martin demonstrates the use of a camera tray to keep the Paralenz level

The most common criticism of the Paralenz action camera is that it doesn’t have a viewfinder. The wide field of vision means that you will capture whatever you point it at, but some people find the resulting picture is at an angle. That’s easy enough to rotate and crop with even the most basic photo editing software, but getting it right in the first place is often desirable. Two of the best options for framing your pictures with a Paralenz are the 3rd person viewer and a camera tray.

Paralenz 3rd Person Viewer

Paralenz 3rd Person Viewer

Paralenz 3rd Person Viewer (L) and ball mount (R)

The Paralenz 3rd Person Viewer has a wide range of uses. It can be mounted behind you to film yourself during a dive, or can be used as a ‘selfie stick’. It’s very useful for getting close to critters without disturbing them. It also helps to keep the Paralenz level when framing pictures. The two floats either side of the camera make it much easier to keep the camera horizontal when you want it to be.

Camera Tray

A ball-and-tripod mounting kit is available from the Paralenz Online Store. This allows the Paralenz to be mounted on any standard camera tray. Doing so not only allows you to keep the camera level at all times, but the space between the arms of the tray effectively becomes your ‘frame’. Trays and screw clamps can be bought quite inexpensively from underwater camera specialists and online through Amazon.

Why not give it a try and post the results on our Paralenz facebook page? We’d love to see your attempts at photo composition and editing!

Coming soon – Top Tips with Kip Part 4: Video Wizardry




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