GoPro’s are amazing cameras that deliver crystal clear HD video at a relatively affordable price point. They allow us to shoot video and images with new angles and perspectives. Strap it to your head, take it on your next scuba- or skydive or take it with you on your family holiday. The possibilities are endless.
While being a GoPro user (and avid fan) over the last few years, I have come to learn a lot about them. Now, if you are someone who is starting out with a GoPro, the following tips will help you learn some of the things that took me a while to figure out before you even begin. These are the things I wish someone had told me about my GoPro before I started.
Know your camera
You want to know where to access camera settings, how to quickly switch between shooting video and images, how to change your frame rate, your angle of view etc. You don’t want to miss out on a great shot or miss the moment because you are messing around with settings or shoot on the wrong setting and the footage is totally unusable. Know what each button on your GoPro does (there aren’t too many at least), and practice shooting at home. Practising at home allows you to figure out what each setting does to your shot, in the comfort of your own home, without missing that great shot.
The first thing you definitely need to get is a handheld device to hold your GoPro. Holding the small camera between your thumb and index finger is only going to result in shaky, unwatchable footage. Get a handgrip or an extendable monopod (the kids these days are calling them selfie sticks). The benefit of an extendable monopod is that you can use it as a normal handgrip for most shots and when it’s time to take a selfie, you can extend it and turn it around to face you. Secondly, you need something that is quite easy to attach to almost anything, like a “jaws flex clamp with a gooseneck”. This handy little accessory allows you to attach your GoPro to just about anything, which is what you should be doing!
Attach your GoPro to everything
The beauty of a GoPro is its size and the fact that you can mount it to (almost) anything! Use that to your advantage and capture unique and different shots, from a perspective that no one else has. For example, people have strapped a GoPro to absolutely anything like their own head, a pelican, a whiskey bottle at a party, a skateboard, a dog or their guitar at a concert. Be different, capture something unique.
Spot metering vs using normal metering
When the spot metering is turned off, your GoPro will calculate the exposure of the shot based on the average light in the whole scene. When spot metering is turned on, your GoPro will calculate the exposure by the small spot in the centre, which is basically wherever you are pointing the camera. You might be thinking, “When would I need to use this feature?” If you are filming from within a dark space and pointing the camera at a bright scene. For example, filming the outdoors from within a car, you don’t want it to appear as bright white light in your shot. Using spot metering will make the inside of the car darker and will expose correctly for the outdoors.
Use the timelapse function
GoPro cameras have a neat little time-lapse feature that allows you to take an image in intervals of 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30 or 60 seconds. So, set your GoPro up on a tripod and leave it there for a while to capture stunning time-lapses. It’s great for capturing a sunset, boats moving in and out of the harbour, a behind the scenes shot of a concert stage set up or a road trip facing the inside of the car. It’s very easy to put those still images together into a video using QuickTime or video editing software.
Gunther’s Profoto Studio Set-up Fitness Shoot – Timelapse taken with GoPro
Use higher frame rates
This is one of my favourite things to do with a GoPro, especially when shooting footage with a lot of action. If you own the GoPro Hero 4 Black edition, you can shoot up to 120fps (frames per second) in 1080p mode. This is amazing! What this means is, you can effectively slow your footage down to 20% speed without any jerky side effects. You can slow the footage down beautifully when you are editing your footage and for action shots this setting is perfect, but remember not to shoot everything at the highest frame rate all the time. It takes up more space on your memory card, meaning you shoot less per card. Aim for quality over quantity.
Use Protune mode
Protune mode allows you to change various settings (provided you have the GoPro Hero4) but all GoPro cameras that have a Protune mode allows you to choose a flat colour profile. By turning Protune mode on, you get a very neutral colour profile, which is great if you are editing it with footage from other cameras or if you want to have more control in the editing stage when you colour grade your footage. If you are the kind of person who doesn’t want to fiddle with colour settings when you put an edit together, then leave the setting off. But to have more control in editing to get the exact look you want, rather turn it on.
Don’t shoot shaky footage
Shaky footage will (9 times out of 10) look bad and distract your viewers terribly. Footage that is very shaky is extremely distracting to your viewers and it takes away from that awesome shot or that epic thing you did. Shaky footage can work in certain situations, when the shakiness is used to emphasise a point, for example, showing how hard you hit that tree on your downhill mountain bike. When your bike hits that tree and you do two flips before hitting the ground, that shake will really emphasise the amount of dirt you ate, but it doesn’t work well with everything. If you take a shot of an incredible sunset on an island and your footage is shaking all over the place, suddenly the island doesn’t look so peaceful anymore. Make sure you mount your GoPro in the best way possible to avoid camera shake.
Learn how to edit your footage
Did you hit record and shoot your entire morning of surfing or your entire afternoon of skating and now you have hours of raw footage? No one wants to watch hours just to see that one big wave or that one trick you nailed. Edit your footage into a shorter, more interesting video. You can pick all the bits and put it together with a really good piece of music and transform your footage into something captivating and fun to watch. There are tons of video editing software options out there (some free and some paid). Try GoPro Studio’s free version for Mac or Windows, or maybe try something more advanced like Adobe Premiere Pro CC (which you can get for a small monthly fee).
Invest in Accessories. But which ones?
This question is a “how-long-is-a-piece-of-string’ type of question. Everyone uses their GoPro’s to shoot different things like mountain biking, skiing, scuba diving, family holidays, running on the beach with their dog, taking it to a party or documenting their travels around the world. So naturally, everyone’s needs are different. Having said that, we would recommend investing in accessories you would get the most use out of.
If your GoPro does not have an LCD screen on the back, that would be an absolute must! The LCD BacPac helps you frame your shot as you shoot instead of shooting and hoping for the best, or relying on the smartphone app. Let’s be honest, when shooting most things, there isn’t time to connect your phone to your GoPro to check your framing. Using an LCD BacPac also allows you to change settings by touching the back of the screen, which is much faster than pressing the buttons.
A stabilising gimbal is a slightly more expensive accessory but well worth the money spent. It allows you to get rid of shaky footage and it opens up a million different creative possibilities when shooting. By using small motors, a gimbal will counteract any shaky movements when handholding a GoPro and your footage will look beautifully cinematic.
Another important item that you will want to invest in (although not a very exciting purchase) is a carry case for your GoPro and it’s accessories. You will want your GoPro, batteries, charger, LCD screen, etc in a safe place while you move around shooting awesome footage.
If you have any questions regarding your GoPro, leave them in the comments below and I’ll be happy to help.