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Tips on using your GoPro

Carlton Boyce / 06 June 2016 ( 17 September 2018 )

Biking, ski-ing, swimming - GoPros can be used to record all sorts of activities, and these tips will help you make the most of it!

A skier uses a GroPro camera to record the downhill run

So, you’ve chosen your new GoPro (or equivalent) and you want to get out and use it. While the instruction manual will give you all the basic information that you’ll need, taking these tips into account will help raise your game and give you a video you can be proud of!

What is a GoPro?

GoPro tip: Use the app to see what you’re shooting

A GoPro is fundamentally different to shooting with an iPhone or a conventional video camera because with the latter you are looking at what you’re shooting, which means you’ll be instinctively framing and re-framing your shots as the action changes.

With a GoPro you’re setting up the shot and then getting on with whatever it is you’re doing. This makes framing harder, so you’ll need to give it a bit more thought, especially if you’re filming yourself doing something active.

Downloading the GoPro app to your Smartphone will enable you to see what your camera is seeing when it is static. This might sound obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many videos are ruined because the action was taking place just outside the frame, even with the wide-angle of view a GoPro gives.

Suggested: Download the app and pair your camera to it before you set out.

If you enjoy Carlton's inimitable style of writing, you'll love his book How to Become a Motoring Journalist - available on the Saga Bookshop.

GoPro tip: Set your field of view

Speaking of which, you can tailor the field of view your GoPro gives from wide (14mm equivalent and roughly 150°) through medium (21mm and 110°) to narrow (28mm and 75°). This gives you the option of shooting different formats depending on what field of view you want to show.

Suggested setting: Wide is always a good default option that works well for almost everything.

GoPro tip: Buy lots of mounts

Your GoPro will come with a set of mounts that are brilliantly engineered and will last you a lifetime (assuming you don’t lose them).

However, they are expensive and there are thousands of companies out there making alternatives that are probably as good and certainly an awful lot cheaper.

Suggested: Search Amazon for alternatives, sorting by average customer review to find the good stuff.

Five essential GoPro accessories

GoPro tip: Buy good SD cards

Your GoPro’s memory card is the only link between you and what you’ve shot and if the card fails, you’ve lost everything. So it’s just not worth trying to save a few pounds by buying cheap microSD cards.

I’ve never had a problem with SanDiskand Lexar are just as reputable.

Suggested: If you buy SanDisk Class 10 32GB microSD you’ll be ready for anything.

GoPro tip: Get your numbers right

The resolution that you shoot at can make a huge difference to the amount of memory you use. Most, if not all, action cameras can shoot at 1080p, and some can even shoot in full 4k, but you should resist the temptation to think that bigger is always best. Big files take up a lot of memory on your memory card and take a lot longer to render and edit on your computer too.

While 1080P and 4K are the Gold Standard, most of us will be perfectly satisfied with 720p (the figure refers to the number of pixels on the vertical axis of your frame) and will enjoy the smaller file sizes that result more than we would the marginal improvement that comes from shooting at a higher resolution.

Suggested setting: 720p will work well for almost everything unless you are a professional videographer.

GoPro tip: Ditto, frame rate

You’ll also be able to set the number of frames you shoot at per second, or fps. Movies used to be shot at 24 fps and the human eye struggles to be able to tell the difference at anything higher than 25fps, which is the more modern equivalent.

The exception is if you want to be able to slow the action down for a slow motion film. In this case you can set the frame rate to 60fps or more.

Suggested setting: 25fps will work well for anything other than slow motion films, in which case you will want to set it to go as high as your camera can go.

How to photograph fireworks

GoPro tip: Steady as she goes

Even the best footage will be ruined if your camera isn’t being held steady, so it’s worth considering the best place to mount it to stop it wobbling.

Suggested: Always use a tripod or other solid mount if you can. If you’re holding it in your hand then a decent grip will help. Of course, if you’re attaching it to your dog then all bets are off.

GoPro tip: Keep checking

It’s always worth checking that the camera is still shooting. It’s all too easy to find you’ve missed some great footage because you’ve run out of memory or battery power or knocked a critical button by mistake…

Suggested: It’s worth checking every few minutes, just in case.

GoPro tip: Consider the B-roll

B-roll is the footage that filmmakers slip into action footage to give a sense of place. You can do the same by shooting some stock footage of traffic going past, the sun setting, people strolling along, or a city skyline.

Suggested: Consider the whole film, not just the action sequences.

GoPro tip: Show what you’re seeing

Finally, remember that a GoPro is ideal for when you want to show the world what you’re seeing. If you can find a unique way to showcase an unusual perspective you’ll find a ready audience for those who want to live vicariously – and it’s not just a human point of view: think babies, surfing pigs, and even milling wood.

Suggested: Think about what interests you and try to showcase your enthusiasm. Trust me, no matter how esoteric your hobby, others will share it!

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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