Six of the best

One of the greatest tests of any photographer's skill is to produce a good portfolio of work. The British Society of Underwater Photographers (BSoUP) recognised this long ago by introducing special competitions for the best six slides from a beginner, the best selection of six taken in British waters, the best set taken anywhere in the world and the best portfolio of work on a specific theme.

All the slides in each portfolio are shown simultaneously by a bank of projectors and the audience votes for their favourite three having seen all the entries at least twice. Apart from being a technical triumph if all the projectors perform efficiently, this type of competition demands special skills from the photographers. It is not enough to produce one really eye-catching shot, or even six stunning pictures.

They all have to 'work' together. In the case of the BSoUP competitions, each portfolio is usually shown on a giant screen for about six seconds. In this brief moment the selection of slides has to grab the audience's attention. They have to be eye-catching and generally pleasing, the colours in harmony and the shapes balanced. Remember, if six slides are shown over a period of six seconds the audience has less than a second in which to examine each one after their first impression of the entry.

Diver with nets on the Mystique, Cornwall

Charles Hood, winner of this year's Best of British portfolio competition with the set here, has clear ideas of how to assemble a winning selection. He says: 'First and foremost, the portfolio must be eye-catching. It must also contain a mixture of photographs, from wide-angle to close-ups



Group of yellow jewel anemones with purple tentacles

Each one must be punchy, simple and make a statement in its own right. Macro shots do not work in this competition, they are usually too confusing to work out in such a short time. 'You must also pay attention to the colours of the subjects. This is difficult in British waters because they are not as colourful as tropical seas, but greens, yellows and reds mix well.'



Juvenile grey seal

Malcolm Hey, who won the prize for the best portfolio by a beginner in 1996, worked out that there were 84 different combinations of layout in which the six slides could be projected. This allows for the fact that they are shown in two rows of three, and that each slide can be shown as a horizontal or a vertical.


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