Q. What's going on? I send my film in for processing and the pictures come back clipped. Not the negatives, but the prints. Sometimes the sides are clipped and sometimes the top or bottom is clipped. What have I done wrong?

A. Nothing's wrong that can't be corrected easily. You just need to make a few adjustments in your shooting.

I have always preached that the photographer must compose in the eyepiece of the camera. But he must also make sure that he leaves a small amount of cropping space -- on the side if shooting horizontals or on top or bottom for vertical shots.

Most modern processing equipment will give back almost all of the negative area; maybe just a tiny bit less. But be aware that 35mm is not an ideal format.

When enlarged to standard sizes -- 3x5, 5x7, 8x10 -- something has to give. The complete image doesn't fit. The ratio of film size to print size is incorrect.

Happily, Eastman Kodak has gone to an 8x12 format that helps get all your image in the print.

UNDERWATER WAYS

Q. I am getting into scuba diving. I have taken lessons and expect to spend my vacation time this year, and probably for the next several years, in the Florida Keys. Please advise me on underwater camera equipment.

A. When you talk about underwater photography, you must talk Nikonos. It is state of the art, simple to use and extremely versatile. It's safe and secure down to 160 feet, and can use through-the-lense flash. It also takes interchangeable lenses.

The current Nikonos is the fifth generation model of this camera and is better then ever. Every serious underwater photographer I've spoken to uses it.

There are others, of course, such as the Hanimex. This is a fixed-focus job that seems well made, and costs about $200. But I would buy the Nikonos were I getting into underwater photography. You should be able to get one for just under $400, and it will last and last and last.

Carl Kramer, former director of photography for The Washington Post, will try to answer your photography questions in his column, but cannot reply individually. Send your questions to: Carl Kramer, c/o Weekend, The Washington Post, 1150 15th Street NW, Washington DC 20071.

SEASIDE SNAPS -- Here's an opportunity to win kudos and prizes for your best shot of a Maryland beach. It's the "Capture an Ocean Memory" photo contest sponsored by the Ocean City Art League and the Worcester County Arts Council, in conjunction with the Saltwater Festival held on Labor Day weekend. Prizes include a weekend in Ocean City, camera equipment and a fishing trip. And, of course, the winning photos will be displayed during the festival.

The contest's categories are People, Sea and Bay and Nighttime. Contestants can submit up to six entries no smaller than 8ix10i, three in color and three in black and white; the photos should be mounted or matted but not framed, with total dimensions not exceeding 18ix24i. Entries must be received by August 25. Send entries and $5 check to: Art League of Ocean City, Box 23, Ocean City, MD 21842. Call 301/641-8789 or 301/641-2583 for entry forms and information.