Manually adjust the settings
Although there isn’t anything wrong with a GoPro camera’s automatic settings — it’s actually incredibly useful for those new to shooting video — manually tinkering with your camera’s exposure can help produce a better shot, especially in tricky lighting conditions. Higher-end GoPros, like the Black models, let you select all sorts of parameters, including resolution, framerate, and exposure compensation.
The Hero6 and Hero7 Black, for example, can do 4K at 60 frames per second and 1080 at 240 fps (useful for slow-motion playback). Even if you don’t currently own a 4K television or monitor, these ultra-high resolutions offer extra working room in postproduction and also future-proof your videos for when you do upgrade to a 4K set. But higher resolutions mean larger files, not to mention a more powerful computer to edit them, so if you want to quickly share your video to YouTube — partially if you want to do so through GoPro’s mobile app — you may want to stick to 1080p. The right resolution depends on your workflow: Do you want to quickly view and share, or is it part of a bigger masterpiece you’re filming?
Resolution is one thing, but it’s also important to select a frame rate that best meets your needs and the look you’re going for. 60 frames per second, for example, will give you the smoothest motion with the most detail, but also makes your footage look like reality TV. On the other hand, 24 fps is the standard framerate of professional film, and will yield a more cinematic look — but will make fast action sequences look like a fight scene form a Jason Bourne movie.
Let your subject matter dictate your choice, and keep in mind that not all frame rates are available at every resolution. If you aren’t sure, here’s an easy way to remember. Use a higher frame rate of 60 fps for bright conditions, fast action, or slow-motion; drop to 30 fps for low-light shooting or slower action. Use 24 fps for story-driven content.
Another thing to consider is the aspect ratio. GoPros can shoot in either 16:9 or 4:3 (think wide-screen HDTV vs. old-school TV). 16:9 is now the viewing standard, but shooting in 4:3 provides a “taller” image (using the full height of the sensor). We suggest you stick with 16:9, but the 4:3 ratio offers a little more flexibility in editing if you want to be able to reframe the content — but certain aspect ratios are limited to certain resolutions.
Another thing common to big-budget movies is the process of color correction and grading, whereby the color of a film is enhanced using software to create a desired mood. GoPro has long imbued it’s flagship models with a feature called Protune which grants users control over things such as white balance, saturation, exposure, and ISO. For example, under bright sunlight, you could dial down the exposure compensation level to, say, -1, to avoid having parts of the video or image look washed out. When shooting outdoors, locking in daylight white balance is another good idea, which will keep the colors consistent as you move in and out of sunlight and shadow.
Protune also lets you record video with less compression compared to the standard modes. All of this means more flexibility in post, where you can adjust color and bring out more detail. Sure, that may not be everyone’s cup of a tea, but for users who feel they’ve outgrown the standard GoPro offerings, playing around with Protune can open up new possibilities.
Burst and time-lapse shooting
GoPro cameras are known for their video-capture capabilities, but they function as rugged still cameras as well. The last few generations offer different burst and time-lapse modes that can add some unique shots to a video. With burst images, you can stitch the photos (30 frames per second) into a unique action sequence and mix it in between video action. The same can be said about Time Lapse and Night Lapse modes, which create fast-moving animations of a live scene, along with Night Photo, a mode designed for capturing long exposures. If you want your videos to stand out, these photo-based modes can help you do just that.
Plan out a good story
A good story is the backbone of any good video. GoPro itself knows this through and through, with plenty of examples of excellent storytelling on the company’s official YouTube channel. A strong story will grip your audience from start to finish, even if the actual filmmaking techniques are underwhelming. Don’t feel like putting in all the work? GoPro’s Quik app for desktop and mobile will automatically edit your selected clips into a short video, complete with cutting it to music. It can turn even a boring bike ride into something at least partially interesting, as in our sample video above.
For more serious storytellers, before even picking up your camera, try to develop the idea behind what you want to shoot. Maybe it’s just a simple day at the beach or maybe something a bit more complex. Either way, it’s important to start shooting with a clear direction. Write an outline, sketch a storyboard with stick figures, or list out different shots on paper — anything to get your mind focused on the process of creating moments, rather than just sitting back and hoping to record whatever happens.
GoPro experts teach the following “shot list” for anyone to get started on creating an effective video: Think of your story with a start, middle, and end. At the beginning, create an “establishing shot” — an overview of the scenery, for example. Next, introduce any characters involved. Then, mix in POV shots, and then ending with a final shot that wraps up the story. And just because it’s called an “action camera” doesn’t mean your story has to involve death-defying stunts, as this touching documentary — entirely shot on GoPro — shows:
If at first you don’t succeed…
Your first time out with a GoPro camera likely won’t be everything you were hoping for, but don’t let that discourage you. Keep working at it, keep trying new things, and keep learning. You’ll discover things that work (and things that don’t) and develop your own personal preferences and style over time. One of the great things about working with a camera as small and as flexible as a GoPro is that it grants you freedom to experiment — so don’t be afraid to try new things.
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