Rembrandt Lighting

What is the difference between a snapshot and a masterpiece in photography? This is a question that is often asked but is often already answered. Even though some opinions may differ, there is one very correct statement: It is all about the light.

Aspect Ratios

The original image (top left) comes in a 3:2 aspect ratio. There is perhaps a bit too much negative space, one might say. A change of the aspect ratio to 4:3 (in postproduction, by cropping) decreases that negative space. Cropped to the lovely “old school” ratio, the 5:4 aspect ratio makes the image look a bit more classy, whilst the aspect ratios of 7:6, and lastly, 1:1, might be a bit too “tight.” Photos by Rico Besserdich.

The aspect ratio of an image often has a noticeable effect on the visual impact and thus can be considered a powerful tool of image composition. Some aspect ratios might nowadays be considered common, some might be considered “old school,” and what may be common today could be old school tomorrow.


To isolate specific parts of an object always works well in abstract photography, underwater and above.

Abstract underwater photography—some may whisper, oh that’s “art”; others may shout, it’s “foolish and completely pointless!” while mourning the downfall of “real” photography. Some may stare at abstract images, unable to understand what they are seeing, because the perceived image does not match their expectations.

Composing Images Underwater: A Practical Guide

Color and contrast: When shooting colorful things, try to isolate them, avoiding color overload in the image. Photo by Rico Besserdich.

There are plenty of books, magazine articles and blogposts about underwater photography, each providing the keen underwater photographer with valuable knowledge, leaving almost no question unanswered. However, there might be one remaining question: How many of these tips, tricks and techniques can we remember when diving with our cameras?

Geometric Shapes: Tools for Image Composition

The eye of a pufferfish—a perfect circle. Photo by Rico Besserdich.

Today’s underwater photography is pretty much subject-oriented. Let’s take it as a fact—and there is nothing bad about this fact. Those who dive without an underwater camera like to describe what they have seen underwater, and those with a camera do exactly the same, but with the added advantage of providing visual proof: an underwater photograph.


What is Composition? In its most basic definition, composition is the arrangement of elements and their relationship to one another within an image. It is composition—as well as lighting—that is the primary tool with which photographers put themselves into an image and emphasize the subject(s) in the frame.