Underwater Composition: Fill the Frame

Part III in a great series of underwater composition tutorials
By Scott Gietler

Composition: Fill the Frame

Part III in a series of underwater composition tutorials

By Scott Gietler


underwater composition tutorial for underwater photography



No matter how long you have been doing underwater photography, composition is always something than can improved upon. In my previous two articles focusing on underwater composition, I featured the techniques of face-on composition, and diagonal composition. Today we look at a simple yet effective technique that I call "fill the frame".

In "fill the frame", we aim to get all or the majority of the subject within the frame of the photo. This can be very difficult for new photographers, as they generally do not get close enough to the subject, or leave distracting backgrounds in the corners. When trying this technique, carefully check the corners of your photo to make sure that you are filling the frame as much as humanly possible.

In the example photo above, the underwater photographer gets very close to a group of small soft corals to "fill the frame" with the subject, creating a beautifully artistic shot. Here are some more situations where "filling the frame" creates a dynamic composition and interesting image:

underwater photography composition fill the frame
Close up of a large anemone, taken from directly above, taken in Lembeh, Indonesia. When there is symmetry like this, take advantage of it by allowing the leading lines to lead to the center of the image.


underwater photography composition fill the frame

Close up of gorgonian polyps, taken at Catalina Island. I stopped down to F29 to get enough depth of field to get most of the polyps in focus.


underwater photography composition fill the frame
Moon snail closeup, taken in Southern California.


underwater photography composition fill the frame
Crocodile fish eyes, taken while diving Bali. The rule "get low, get close" works well here.


underwater photography composition fill the frame
Schooling juvenile catfish, taken with the Nikon 105mm VR lens, Anilao, Philippines. I took dozens of shots until I took one that had fish completely fill the frame. These fish will feed and swim slowly in a dependable direction.


"Fill the frame" - final thoughts

As you can see, "fill the frame" can work well with a diverse range of photography subjects. The key is not to have too much, if any, of the distracting background in the photo, which is always easier said than done. Once you find the right subject, incorporate other techniques like golden spiral, rule of thirds, "face-on", leading lines, and diagonal lines for a great composition!


About the Author

Scott GietlerScott is the creator of the Underwater Photography Guide and owner of Bluewater Photo Store. An avid marine naturalist, Scott is the author of the Field Guide to Southern California Marine Life. He was the LAUPS photographer of the year for 2009, and his photos have appeared in magazines, coffee table & marine life books, museums, galleries and aquariums throughout California. He enjoys teaching underwater photography locally on a regular basis.


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