With cameras becoming more affordable and a decent point and shoot on every smartphone, capturing those important moments has never been easier. But that doesn’t mean we’re not prone to making some basic photography mistakes. There’s nothing worse than trying to capture a family member speeding round a triathlon course, only to catch blurs and shapes. Perhaps you’re trying to snap your latest holiday adventure but don’t have the right waterproof equipment or end up with endless overexposed shots. If you’re hoping to improve your outdoor photography, we’ve got some great tips for you.

Matt Porteous is an award winning photographer in sports and travel, capturing emotion and spectacular movement in every image. We caught up with to Matt to gain insight into the way he works with the great outdoors and some advice on how best to capture underwater imagery.


We can imagine there’s a lot of elements to take into consideration when taking underwater photographs. What advice do you have for anyone that wants to give it a try?

There’s a whole different world to underwater photography, but the main thing is to get everything in focus and when you’re under the water, make sure you’re not over exposing the light. It took me a while to understand the settings that I needed in order to do this, but the one thing I learnt was that you shouldn’t be afraid to push your ISO.

You also need to be able to understand your subject and the movements they’re making under the water. Make sure you’re always shooting on AI-SERVO so that your camera is continuously tracking the subject that’s moving. I would also suggest taking a short freediving course; just so you can learn how to hold your breath for longer and help you feel more confident staying under water.


man taking photo of sharks in an underwater cage


Do you find that the natural lighting is enough for your photographs or do you prefer to use extra kit like strobes?

I use strobes sometimes but as soon as you start adding them then it’s a whole different world. Indoor pools are good for strobes because you can have more directional light and you can darken the background. Whereas if you’re in the ocean you want to just use natural light.

Midday sun is the best time of day to have really clear imagery or shoot in the evening to make the most of golden light. The great thing about shooting underwater is that any time of day works well as you’ll get different colour tones throughout the day. It just depends on what style of shot you’re after.


three sharks swimming underwater with the sun shining through


What do you need to consider when capturing an action shot of a swimmer?

You need to consider whether you’re going to freeze the action completely or if you’re going to give a bit of movement to the shot. You have to move your ISO and your aperture and you want a shutter speed underwater of at least 250.


woman swimming under a wave with fish around her


Can you emulate these technical settings on an iPhone or do you need specialised kit?

Yes, you can set it up on your iPhone, as you can get cases now that will allow your phone to go underwater to a certain depth. Just like on a GoPro, you can use the burst mode so it will take a series of photos. You don’t need to get any external apps either, you can just use the in-phone camera.


man taking photo underwater


What common mistakes do you see when it comes to taking sports or travel photographs?

Nowadays everyone is just trying to copy trends. Whereas I think you should just look for the interesting things when you’re travelling, not what everyone else is taking photos of. Look for something different, not for something that everyone else is doing. It’s all becoming the same now. If you want to take an interesting shot, create your own style and forget about the latest trend.


What advice would you give to someone to guide them on taking a more interesting outdoor or beach shot?

Firstly, always think about the rule of thirds when it comes to composing your image. Reflections are a great element to look for on a beach, and get down as low as you can. The lower you get the better the reflection looks.


woman walking on a beach with blue sky next to a tree


And finally, do you have any beginners tips to help people improve their photography?

Research other photographers and look at what other photographers are doing. Understand your style and then take what you’ve learnt and make it your own. Understand how images are taken. Analyse the image and look at what time of day they’re shooting to get that specific light, is it natural or artificial? And just keep shooting every day. It’s only with practice that you’re going to better yourself.


You can follow Matt’s adventure through his social channels on Instagram and Facebook. Alternatively, view the stunning collection of underwater photographs Matt and his team at Studio M have taken or through Ocean Culture on their website or Instagram.


Matt Porteous swimming underwater in scuba diving goggles