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Underwater Photography Essentials: Part 5



Tips, ideas and advice for budding underwater photographers

by Nick Robertson-Brown FRPS

Part 5: Composition – Baseline

When considering how to compose your image, it is important to consider the part of the picture that supports the subject – this is known as the baseline. Unless you are going to black out your background, the baseline will put the subject into perspective and this is particularly important in underwater photography, as many of the subjects are not animals or artefacts that are known to everybody.

Apart from super close-up macro shots, it often pays to present the subject in its environment and it is nearly always the case that the image will work better if you get the whole subject and baseline into the frame. There are times, of course, when this is difficult as you may not have the right lens on your camera, and changing lenses underwater is obviously not an option. You could of course change the angle or distance that you are shooting from to bring the whole subject into frame, but the more water there is between your camera and the subject, the less detail and light will be in your image.

It can sometimes be difficult to get the baseline set correctly and you may often find there is too much negative space either in the foreground or background, or even both. Whilst your subject may create a pleasing image, very often the subject itself can be lost in the environment. It is a case of balancing the subject against its environment, and the best way to do this is to capture several images of the same subject from different angles or by moving closer or further away. Modern cameras, with high ISOs and dynamic range, allow you to crop the image far more so than you would have done just a few years ago. However, less cropping will give better resolution so it is always best to take the image as you would want to present it. In many ways it is like telling a story; if you close in on the image too much, then you may miss out on showing why the subject is doing what it is.

Take a look at these images. The first one shows a diver with a torch, but there is no baseline, and therefore, there is no story. You cannot see what the diver is looking at or shining their torch on.


In the second image, the barrel sponge provides a baseline and also begins to tell the story. The diver is not simply hanging in midwater but shining a torch on to a subject.


The third image gives an even wider view of the reef the diver is exploring. Now it is a matter of personal taste and what story you are trying to tell.


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Nick bookDo you want to learn more? You can pick up a copy of Nick’s book “Underwater Photography Art & Techniques” by clicking here. For a signed copy, click here.

Underwater Photography Courses

Contact Nick for information on the Frogfish Photography Complete Underwater Photography Award, designed for 1:1 and small group sessions to improve your underwater photography at your pace.underwater photography

           |  | +44 (0)161 9177101


Ocean Art 2020 Winners Announced!



Ocean Art Contest Announces the Best Underwater Photos of the Year

The prestigious Ocean Art Underwater Photo Competition, organized by the Underwater Photography Guide, has announced the best underwater photos this year with its 2020 winners. Despite global travel restrictions and the challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, the 9th annual competition attracted an extremely high caliber of photos from oceans around the world. Underwater explorers captured photos locally, in select destinations currently open to travel, or revisited their archives to bring us some eye-catching photography. This unique assortment of photos could not have been possible without the help of our generous sponsors who have all had to navigate a changing travel and dive industry. Many of these same sponsors helped the Ocean Art competition raise money earlier in this year to raise money to donate to the WHO and CDC in their fight against Covid-19. These photos showcase the perseverance of underwater artistry amidst the adversity of the times.

All the winning photos can be seen at the Underwater Photography Guide at

The Best of Show is a once-in-a-lifetime moment of an octopus taking a selfie with the photographer and his curious family in the background. The photo was captured by photographer Gaetano Dario Gargiulo close to his home in the tide pools of Kamay Botany Bay National Park, New South Wales, Australia.  Other extraordinary winners include astonishing scenes of animal behavior, images that bring hope for the next generation of sea creatures, displays of ingenious photographic technique, and conservation scenes that reflect on not just the need to conserve our planet, but our species as well. The judges evaluated thousands of entries from 80 countries before selecting the final set of images as Ocean Art winners.

Ocean Art 2020 judges included prestigious underwater photographers Tony Wu, Mark Strickland, and Marty Snyderman.

Over $45,000 in prizes have be awarded, making the Ocean Art prize value among the highest in the world.

Ocean Art prizes are provided by some of the world’s top scuba diving resorts, liveaboard dive yachts, and underwater photo gear manufacturers. Grand prizes include a choice of 7 or 8 nights for two aboard the Coralia Liveaboard in Raja Ampat or Komodo, a 7 night liveaboard trip on the M.V. Bilikili in the Solomon Islands, a 7-night dive package with Villa Markisa, a 7 night dive package at Siladen Resort & Spa in Bunaken, a 12 night Passport to Paradise with Murex Dive Resorts and Lembeh Resort to three different Indonesian destinations, a 5-night dive vacation with AquaMarine Diving Bali & Ramayana Candidasa, a 7-night dive vacation at Atlantis Philippines Dive Resorts, and a variety of gift certificates from Bluewater Photo and Bluewater Travel. Premium travel prizes are provided by Volivoli Beach Resort (Fiji), Crystal Blue Dive Resort (Philippines), and Solitude Liveaboards & Resorts (Philippines and Indonesia). Premium gear prizes are provided by Sea & Sea and Ikelite. 12 different categories ensure a competitive contest for all levels and disciplines of underwater photography.

The photographic ingenuity from competitors is getting better every year – making judging very difficult and demonstrating that the winning images are some of the best in the world. Bluewater Photo and Bluewater Travel owner and Underwater Photography Guide publisher, Scott Gietler commented, “The Ocean Art team was thrilled to see that so many photographers were able to get out, dive, and immerse themselves in photography this year. The Best of Show was especially impressive. My only concern is that the octopus should get its share of the prize, as it did assist in taking the shot!” 

For more information, please visit 

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Gear Reviews

Gear Review: SeaLife SportDiver housing for iPhone (Watch Video)



In a video shot exclusively for, Jeff Goodman reviews the SeaLife SportDiver housing for Apple’s iPhone, used with the Sea Dragon 2500 Light.

For more information about Sealife Underwater Cameras visit the website by clicking here

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Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email to book your spot!

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