By now, everyone has heard of or seen footage captured by a GoPro. They have become the go-to action camera for sports and wanna-be sports enthusiasts like ourselves, but for good reason. These compact cuties pack a powerful punch but include many useless features, which is why we’re only going to discuss the important ones.
My older sister Megan recently received a GoPro from Santa and over break we sat down so I could address some of her concerns. I’ve compiled her questions into a Q+A interview thingy below that should provide a little guidance when operating this little dude.
*Due to software updates, many of the cameras share similar or identical interfaces regardless of your GoPro model, so everything below should apply to your camera.
Is the camera waterproof?
Yes, Ethan and I agree one of the biggest benefits of owning a GoPro is having the ability to take selfies under water. Just in case you're a deep sea diver, the skeleton housing is waterproof up to 131 meters, and if you’re not, just be glad your not, the ocean is a scary place and should remain undiscovered by humans. The slotted backdoor will provide better audio quality in dry conditions but is most certainly not waterproof. When not submerged, the housing also provides great protection for the camera, especially the protruding wide angle lens.
How do I take pictures?
Rather than screen grabbing a frame from a video, I recommend taking a photo. Although, sometimes its hard to hit the shutter while skiing down a mountain. Remember, the camera is equipped with a wide angle lens, therefore extending it our in front of you (selfie style) will capture more than your cellphone ever will. Plus, the warped image elevates any activity, resulting in a curved horizon or door frame. Picture mode is a forgotten feature on the GoPro but when used properly, it produces incredible images. It also helps if yours came with the Smart Remote, which connects to the camera via WI-fi. But don't run out and buy one, I find it tedious and rarely use mine (due to the slow connectivity between the devices, plus its just one more thing to worry about).
What attachments should I get?
A big mistake new GoPro owners make is purchasing accessories without understanding what their functions are. For example, the head mount, its cool looking, but unless you're Felix Baumgartner there is no reason to purchase one. The footage never ends up capturing what you hoped and it appears a shaky mess. I recommend investing in (or making) a pole, but don’t get it confused with a selfie stick, yes you can take amazing 360 degree selfies, but come on, you're better than that. My first pole was made out of a TV stand, black duct tape, and a GoPro sticker. You don’t need anything fancy, just something with decent grip and strength, PVC pipe is a great place to start. If you’re willing to spend a few bucks, I’d recommend a telescopic pole, perfect for travel and allows you to adjust the length, giving you greater flexibility when shooting. I use the aluminum SandMarc pole, includes a rubber grip, wrist strap, and extends from 17" to 40”.
Why does my footage look dark and not as pretty as in the GoPro advertisements?
Clear days. I have found the best way to get beautiful footage on your GoPro is to use it on clear days when the sun is shining its brightest. When the skies are blue and cloudless, the colors in the footage tend to be vibrant and heavily saturated. Like with any camera, light plays a huge role in image quality, and it's no different with the GoPro. When I was in college I created a GoPro Reel demonstrating the mounts my father and I made and the overall versatility of the camera. During the two month shoot, I did my best to shoot on clear days in order to achieve that high contrast GoPro look you see in most of their ads.
What mode should I shoot in?
This varies, however, 95% of the footage we capture is using 1080p @60 frames per second (FPS). Meaning, the footage is high definition, and captured twice as many frames (a second) necessary for a video, thus allowing you to slow the footage down by 50% in post (GoPro Studio is a free video editing software that walks you through the basics of manipulating your footage). Depending on the model of your GoPro, another great setting is 720p @120FPS, for capturing faster movements at a lower quality. Although, you will find 1080p @60FPS will be your go-to-setting.
How do I charge it?
Simply plug the USB cable into your computer. Sadly GoPro does not supply you with a wall adapter and I don’t trust the iPhone block either. It will only take 30-45 minutes for a full charge but you'll find it won’t last as long as a larger cell phone battery. The battery rule of thumb, 'If it charges fast, it dies fast.’ Luckily, Wasabi Power, an off brand company, offers spare batteries for half the price of the GoPro brand. As much as I love GoPro, they are proud of their product so be aware and and shop around for off brand accessories.
Final Words of Wisdom Treat this camera as it was intended for, as a tool. Don’t be afraid to duct tape it to your bicycle handle, hard hat, or broom stick. The founder of GoPro, Nick Woodman, wanted to capture close up footage of himself surfing, thus he created a tiny digital camera perfect for the job. At the end of the day, its not a fancy DSLR you polish before going to bed at night, if anything it should retain some of its elements you once submerged it in. With every adventure, we are still learning what this camera can do, go explore and have fun with it. Good luck :)
Get yourself a bag of goodies. A small bag with a tie strap works fine, just something you can throw all your little GoPro nicknacks into without having to worry about losing or forgetting anything. My bag of goodies contains: a 3M flat and curved mount, suction cup, assorted mounts, slotted backdoor, spare SD card, USB cable, smart remote and charger.
Here's my 2013 GoPro Reel. Big thanks to my dad for helping me build the snorri and chestie mount.