Composition for the TC System

Deciding what goes where in a photograph is called composition, and good composition is key to taking great pictures. Essentially it's an editing process. We alone decide what to leave in and what to leave out of the frame. Those elements we leave in we have to decide whereabouts to place them within the frame. There are no hard and fast rules;a good composition is one that is simply 'pleasing to the eye'.

Land-based photographers have a much easier time with composition than underwater shooters. On land we experiment with composition and try all the tips, techniques and guiding principles we've learnt. Underwater however there is a major difference!

The problem underwater is developing the concentration necessary to apply these guidelines. Remembering that scuba diving is classed as a hazardous sport, the ability to concentrate on the viewfinder, i.e. what to leave in, what to leave out, can often be challenging. I have dived with many competent photographers who have a sound working knowledge of compositional technique but once submerged and diving on scuba, simple compositional guidelines disappear into thin air.

Composition for the TC system is not about compositional technique — that comes later in Chapter 9.

How the TC (Think and Consider) system works is concerned with how to apply compositional guidelines underwater.

• Initially we have to remember what those simple compositional guidelines are.

• Next, we have to determine how can we educate ourselves to apply them underwater.

• Discussing them over a beer with your photo friends is fine but thinking and applying this underwater is the main issue!

When coaching, my intention first and foremost is to enable students to think of as many compositional guidelines as possible. I'm not concerned how well they apply those guidelines, as long as they are remembered.

When the mindset is working towards this aim, then we can begin to look at the decision making process of what goes where, what to leave out of the frame and how to balance the elements.

This type of mindful consideration of composition underwater will improve the chance of getting what you want in-camera without extra work in Photoshop.

When my concentration is heightened and I am in 'the zone', I am able to imagine that the image is being projected onto a screen in a darkened room.

I ask myself, do I like what I have taken? And, more importantly, how can I improve on it?

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