GoPro cameras have changed our world forever. They have allowed glimpses into some of the most inaccessible places humans dare to venture: from the barrel of a huge wave in Hawaii, to a bumper view of the Daytona 500 race car, to a BASE jumper’s point of view leaping from a tall building. These are images that until recently haven't been readily available because the specialized equipment needed was out of reach to all but a select few. Now for a couple hundred dollars you can have your own personal adventure camera. Even if you aren't out there risking life and limb, there are so many fun things to do with your GoPro. Let your kids take it to the swimming pool for underwater selfies, or mount it on your dog and see what happens. Really, your creativity is the only thing holding your back. With all these cool tools to help capture your vision, it’s a pretty exciting time to be a photographer.
Here are a few tips and tricks to help you take your GoPro images to the next level. Use these as a starting point and then go wild with experimentation. You will discover that you can capture an abundance of still images and videos of the amazing things that are going on around you all the time.
1) One of the best features of the GoPro is its small size, incredible durability and ability to be put most anywhere. There are tons of mounts available for nearly any structure or surface and you can even make your own. Here are a few mounting ideas that have worked well for me. Put a GoPro on a really long pole to get a poor man’s drone look. Use an adhesive mount (or suction cup) to mount you camera on the outside of your car. Use the GoPro Jaws Flex Clam and mount it on a tree limb or side of a ferry boat. Go for a ride with the GoPro mounted to the handle bars of your bike.
2) Gopro 4 and older users ditch the case (unless you are in a situation where the camera might get wet, I use the case for most of my kayaking images). I use the GoPro Frame to eliminate the waterproof housing while still allowing me to use all the cool mounts. You will see improved image quality by eliminating the extra layer of glass between the camera and the world. Just be a little more careful as the camera is a little more fragile without is armored housing.
Use the time lapse mode for action packed still images. This is my favorite mode to capture still images in a fast moving environment. By setting the camera to take a shot every half second, you will ensure you get the best images at the peak of action. I use this mode while whitewater kayaking (with my waterproof housing attached, of course) with the camera mounted on my paddle blade. Sure I get lots of images of bubbles, but I find there is almost always one or two great images of something I couldn't have gotten any other way. Having a higher capacity memory card is a must when shooting in time lapse mode.
4) Use the rear LCD screen to set up shots. I always check the back of the camera to make sure I’m happy with the composition of my scene. If you are going crazy with creative compositions, you might not be able to see the LCD because your camera may in some unimaginable location. Don’t fret, just switch on the wi-fi on your camera and use your phone to compose your image, change camera settings and trigger the shutter. I use this a lot when the camera is mounted on a vehicle and I’m whizzing down the road in the passengers seat.
5) When shooting video, try using the faster frame rates and higher resolution settings. Faster frame rates give you the option to do slow motion and can give you more freedom when editing clips together. Everyone knows that everything looks better in hight resolution, right? But shooting a higher resolution can help even if you are not showing your masterpiece in 4K, by allowing you to crop your video if needed. This can be a lifesaver if you goofed or if something really cool but unexpected happened further away from the camera than what you originally envisioned. You will be able to crop in on the shot and still have 1080p HD.
Famagog Kayaking Source to Sea Grewink Creek, Alaska
Famagogo had an amazing adventure just across Kachemak Bay from Homer, Alaska. We rode a water taxi across the bay to a small trailhead off the beach. Then hiked two miles up and over a mountain pass with our kayaks. We then paddled across Grewingk Lake to the foot of the giant glacier that is part of the Harding Ice Field. Then it was six miles of Alaskan glacier fed whitewater back to the bay.
6) Keep your lens clean. This sounds pretty obvious right? But, a little dust can ruin a great shot and really make you unhappy later. Make sure to clean both the inside and outside of the case as well as the camera lens itself. When in the water, watch for water droplets on the lens. One drop in the center of your lens can make the best footage look like a blobby mess. Many surfers have found licking the lens and giving it a quick dunk in the water will temporarily keep water droplets from forming on your lens. You will have to do this repeatedly in really splashy places. I often carry a small Pack Towel brand synthetic super absorbent towel, which I use to wipe down the camera and remove small droplets when on land.
7) Bring extra batteries. There is nothing worse than running out of power in the middle of the action. Hero 4 users have the ability to swap batteries in the camera when needed. These batteries are small and very efficient and really expand your capacity to keep shooting. I always throw in a couple of extra batteries to make sure I don’t miss out on the perfect shot. I keep all my batteries topped off with the Dual Batterie Charger that allows me to charge two batteries at once.
8) I love doing time-lapse with my GoPro. I typically use the Jaws Flex Clamp to mount my camera to something stable, and then let it rip. Using time lapse mode, I shoot a still photograph in .5 to 30 second intervals depending on the overall duration of the shoot. I then take a folder of all these still images and import them into GoPro Studio. The program takes it from there and creates a video using all the still images. The more frames you capture, the longer your final video will be. If you have a fast moving subject like boats coming and going from a harbor, a faster frame rate will work the best. For slower moving subjects, like clouds blowing over a mountain valley, you can get away with a slower frame rate.
GoPros are amazing little cameras that can free you to try capturing images never dreamed of before. It’s all about trying something new. You cant really fail but you sure can win. Like all aspects of photography there are tricks learned along the way. I hope these tips help you. Now get out there and be a hero.