Fundamentals of Shooting with GoPro Cameras

By John Carucci

Proper planning is the key to success with a GoPro. It takes a few extra moments to make sure that the composition, color, and light are all right for the shot, but staying aware of how you capture each scene strengthens the final appearance of the movie. That’s how the pros do things.

Check your GoPro setup

“Measure twice, cut once” works for moviemakers as well as carpenters. Taking a little extra time to make sure that everything is set right goes a long way. Making sure that a shot is technically perfect means double-checking the monitor, ensuring that the mount is secure, and verifying that the camera is set properly.

Get exposure just right

It’s a tall order when you need to figure out how to fine-tune exposure with a camera that offers no manual settings, but GoPro moviemaking requires a different way of thinking. You can still control image quality, but the process is different from changing the aperture or lowering the shutter speed.

Here are some pointers:

  • Monitor the scene with your GoPro App. Because most of the time you will be nowhere near your GoPro, it’s necessary to monitor the scene so you can compose it properly and check the exposure. You probably already spend a lot of time checking your smartphone, so why not use it to check each shot on your GoPro, too?

  • Use exposure compensation. Exposure compensation is the next-best thing to setting exposure manually. This feature lets you increase or decrease the automatic exposure setting a few steps.

  • Set your ISO manually. Depending on the situation, you can alter the camera’s ISO setting to capture bright or dimly lit scenes properly.

    A bright daylight scene does well when you set the camera at ISO 400, for example; for a low-light situation such as a night scene or a dark club, try using ISO 6400 to increase sensor sensitivity. As with exposure compensation, you must enable Protune to change ISO settings manually.

Maintain accurate color (models with Protune)

The GoPro normally reproduces a scene with punchy, saturated color. That setting works well for many situations, but on some occasions, you want to fine-tune color or take a more stylized approach. Maybe you want to use color temperature to convey a feeling in the scene.

A warmly lit scene may evoke coziness, whereas a cool blue rendering evokes distance and isolation or tells the viewer, “Hey, it’s pretty cold here.”

When Protune is turned on, you can navigate through the GoPro App to the Color setting to adjust the color profile of your video footage. Here are the settings:

  • GoPro Color: The default color setting, providing user with the color profile they know and love.

  • Flat: Provides a neutral color profile that captures more shadows and highlights. Uncorrected, this setting doesn’t look very appealing.

    As seen here, Flat provides the most flexibility when it comes to postproduction. The color is pret

    As seen here, Flat provides the most flexibility when it comes to postproduction. The color is pretty dull.
    The color has been corrected and the image looks much better.

    The color has been corrected and the image looks much better.

Keep the GoPro steady

Although technical settings contribute to the success of each shot, none of them matters much if you can’t keep the camera steady. Camera stability is an important part of the equation, like following your grandmother’s recipe for reindeer cookies.

Make sure that the camera remains steady throughout your shots. GoPro offers more mounting accessories than an equestrian boutique, so choose the right mount for the job to make sure that the camera is secure. Also, check that everything is tightened properly. If you mount a GoPro on your skateboard, and the thumbscrew on the mount is loose, the resulting footage will show the camera slipping.

Keep your fingers out of the shot

More than likely, you won’t be holding your GoPro, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get your digits in the frame every now and again. This is bound to happen sometimes, because the camera has no viewfinder and a very wide-angle lens. Be extra careful to keep your fingers out of the shot.

The photographer’s finger has a walk-on role in this shot.

The photographer’s finger has a walk-on role in this shot.