7 Key Tips for Using a GoPro

Getting great footage and making something worth watching is harder than it looks, but it’s not impossible

When you first get a GoPro, before you even take it out of the box, the possibilities seem endless. As you watch the promo videos put out by GoPro (or even the videos that professional athletes compile themselves), it’s all too easy to believe that just by mounting the cam to your head, you too will create mind-blowing footage that will absolutely go viral—it’s a sure thing, right?

Only after your first adventure with your new camera do you realize that most of your footage is of passing clouds and you didn’t manage to capture any of the action you thought it would. The simple fact is that getting great footage, editing that footage and compiling it into something that others would consider remotely watchable is tougher than it looks on those promos.

You could try to learn the hard way, through lots of trial and error, or you could read up on a few of the most crucial tips.

Get familiar with your GoPro. This one seems like a no-brainer, but wouldn’t you know it, people skip this step all the time. Just as some people don’t read the directions, many first-time GoPro users are so excited about all the epic film they’re going to capture that they don’t bother to learn about the camera. Don’t make the mistake of getting up on the mountain with the camera on your helmet before you can control your GoPro without looking at it—trust me, it’s a bad time. Watch a few tutorials, check out the settings and know what buttons to press, even when you can’t see the camera.

Figure out your mounts and the best way to use them. If GoPro had a nickel for every time a newbie misused a mount or aimed the camera at an absurd angle, they would be even richer than they are now. Set your camera and then either ask a friend to check the angle or use the WiFi function and the app to see for yourself. It’ll save you a few hours of frustrating footage if you can correct the problem ahead of time.

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Don’t let water get in the way. If you’re planning on spending any time in the water with your GoPro, chances are you know about waterproof housing. This shell allows for safe surfing, boating, kayaking and even diving with your GoPro, but the case also has a habit of holding onto water droplets. If you’ve ever been looking over some on-water footage only to see that the action was blocked by a huge drop of water, you’ll know how frustrating that can be. The solution to this problem is simple—buy some Rain-X (yes, the car product) and apply it to the outside of the waterproof shell, where the lens will sit. Once you’ve applied an ample amount and it’s all set and dry, wipe the lens clear and you’re ready to go.

Experiment with different angles. This is another tip that seems obvious when you watch the more professional clips, but for some reason it doesn’t occur to a lot of people in the moment. Try out a bunch of different angles. For example, skiers—try the chest harness, the pole mount, put it on one of your skis, toss it to a friend, try any angle you can think of, while also staying safe on the mountain.

Let’s put it this way, what would you rather watch: a five minute video shot at only one angle the entire time or five minutes of a variety of angles, giving you multiple points of view?

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Short and sweet is almost always the way to go. When you first start filming with GoPro, you might be inclined to shoot videos that are several minutes long. What happens then is that your memory card fills up quickly, you have a lot of footage from that one angle and sorting through all of that to edit is a pain. Shorter clips will help you vary the angles, find the important parts of film and, in the end, the shorter clips will make your video more interesting.

Go in with a plan. It may sound absurd to plan out your action video before any of the action takes place, but having a few ideas going in will help in the long run. If you can think of what you want the end product to look like, that will help you know which shots to get. Try to envision the finished video—what’s the intro like? What’s the focus? How do you want the whole thing to come across? With a bit of direction going in editing will be easier too.

Photo from Shutterstock

Remember, your GoPro isn’t just a video camera. This may just be the most important tip of all. Most new users focus on video mode and because the camera’s other capabilities are so often overlooked, the final video suffers. Get familiar with the cameras other modes and you’ll find unique uses for each of them. Time lapse and burst, in particular, are fun ways to make your footage stand out from the pack.

More Reading:
Must-Have Action Camera Gear for All Your Adventures
8 GoPro Videos That Will Blow Your Mind
Action-Packed Getaways: Top Places to Film Fantastic GoPro Footage