How to Master GoPro Photography

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GoPro cameras have revolutionized the way that travelers take pictures, and GoPro Photography has taken many an adventurer’s photo game to the next level of awesomeness while they are on the road.

The GoPro is the original action camera, and with each successive model GoPro pictures have become better and better, and while it was once best used for its quality video settings, these days the photography settings are top of the line too. 

With just a few GoPro photography skills you can take epic GoPro photos across the world. Take GoPro pictures deep underwater, or take incredible GoPro photos of fiery sunsets or insane mountain top views.

It’s one of the most versatile, quality cameras on the market, and to help you to make the most of it, here’s how to master GoPro photography. 


GoPro Photography 101

Sea Lion underwater with GoPro

Go Pro Settings and Shooting Modes

First things first, he GoPro has several different shooting modes and a range of settings that are built into the camera itself, and which makes mastering GoPro photography a much easier task for beginners.

While the shooting modes are great, it’s also good to remember that you can manually change settings such as ISO and Shutter Speed – although not the Aperture, on most GoPros.

Photo Mode

Photo Mode is the standard setting for taking photographs on the GoPro. You’ll want to use this when the light is good and you are just looking to take a wide shot of the landscapes or a selfie. It’s simple, easy to use and does most of the work for you, making it perfect for beginner photographers.

Night Mode

If it’s getting dark outside and the light is low or if it actually is night time of course and there’s no natural light around, then you need to set your GoPro to Night Mode if you want to be able to take any photographs.

It’s important to note that GoPro cameras have no flash, so night mode is important to use in the dark. The setting allows you to create long-exposure photographs and allows you to change the shutter speed of the GoPro, which can generally be set between 2 and 30 seconds.

A longer exposure time allows more light to enter the camera. You can also use a long exposure to create a smooth, silky look when photographing waterfalls in the day time.

Burst Mode

Burst Mode is the most important GoPro photography setting if you’re using the camera primarily for action shots. Burst Mode is essentially a continuous shooting setting, which allows you to click the shutter once and then have the GoPro keep taking shots.

You can set the burst speed, and a higher burst speed allows you to take more photos, quickly. This is great if you want to capture the action at a first paced event.

High Dynamic Range Mode

High Dynamic Range Mode (or HDR) is a great setting that allows you to capture different contrasts when there are bright colors and dark shadows. It’s best used for landscapes and when the light is fading, as the shooting mode takes multiple photographs at the same time, but at different exposure levels. The photos are then overlaid to give you a much more vivid photograph than you could achieve otherwise.

Easter Island

GoPro Photography: Composition and Framing

The GoPro is first and foremost an action camera, and that means that some of the best GoPro pictures are taken in the moment, and in the middle of the action.

While you can’t compose everything when it comes to GoPro photography, you can still make sure you have the framing and composition right in many other shots.

Unlike traditional cameras, the GoPro doesn’t have a viewfinder, and given the compact design, the screen is also very small. This makes it harder to use for more traditional photography.

The ultra-wide-angle lens on the GoPro though is actually perfect for landscape photography, and these are shots that you can compose and fine-tune.

Set up your GoPro on a good vantage point and hold it steady or better yet use a small tripod or even just a solid surface. Compose your landscape and check it on the screen after to make sure it’s just how you want.

Remember the rule of thirds for this type of photography still applies when taking GoPro pictures. 

You can also compose your selfies or even underwater shots. Make sure you have your subject in focus at all times – this is more difficult with selfies but the ultra-wide-angle again comes to the rescue. 

If you’re taking GoPro pictures of other people then get used to framing them in the shots. Use the landscapes or buildings around you, get them in the archway or framed by a golden glow at sunrise. Most importantly, get creative when it comes to mastering composition and framing. 

Eagle Master in Kyrgyzstan

Planning Epic Shots 

Just as important as the composition and framing though is the planning process that’s actually needed to get the most epic GoPro pictures. 

While the GoPro is the perfect action camera and some of the best shots can be the most unexpected, the most epic pictures usually have involved a lot of work behind the scenes to make them so great. 

Planning epic shots isn’t cheating either, because you’re essentially maximizing your chances of the picture being perfect. The planning process means researching the locations that are best suited to your photography, and this can mean finding which mountain viewpoint looks best for a selfie or which shipwreck would be fantastic for an underwater shot. 

You need to research countries, destinations, islands, mountains or wherever else you want to travel to. You can find inspiration from other photographers, through Instagram, Facebook, travel blogs or you can scout out photography forums or watch documentaries and YouTube videos. 

Once you have your location down, work out the best time of day to be there for GoPro photography. If you are at a famous monument or tourist attraction, then find out when the crowds will be at their thinnest, even if that means waking up at the crack of dawn to shoot.

If you need to hike to a destination, plan how long the hike will take and what time you want to arrive for the best light conditions. 

Holi in India

GoPro Photography Lighting 

As with all photography, the lighting is an important consideration in the overall composition of a GoPro picture and if you want the best shots you need the best conditions. 

Photographers often refer to what’s known as the Golden Hour, when it comes to shooting in the best light conditions, and for GoPro photography, it’s no different. 

Golden Hour is the short time frame that you have in the morning, just as the sun rises, and in the evening, just as the sunsets. This is when the natural light is beautiful, and you can frame your subjects or your landscapes with golden rays of light or fiery bursts of fading sunshine. 

You’ll need to plan when the Golden Hour is and although the hours are often unsociable if you want the best GoPro photos there’s no better time to shoot. Avoid shooting in the midday sun when the sun can be blinding, and try to avoid shooting when it’s too dark. 

Galapagos Penguin in Ecuador

GoPro Photography Accessories 

While you can shoot great GoPro photos simply by holding the camera in your hand, you can really perfect your GoPro photography skills by making use of particular accessories. Don’t miss our ultimate GoPro accessories guide

One of the most common accessories is the selfie stick, which is either loved or hated by GoPro photographers. While it’s seen by some as an accessory of the classic tourist when utilized correctly the selfie stick gives you the ability to take epic shots of yourself or yourself and groups of people in fantastic locations.

It can also come in handy if you need a higher vantage point, as you can raise the GoPro up on the air and then remotely take photographs. 

Another popular accessory is the Over Under Dome. It’s a bulky accessory to carry but it gives you the ability to take shots which are set both underwater and above the water. In one GoPro photo, you can photograph both the boat and the turtle as it glides past below the surface. 

If you’re into action photography, then great accessories to stabilize your GoPro photos or to allow you to keep your hands totally free, are chest harnesses and helmet mounts. 

Our Top Recommended GoPro Accessories:

Kayaking in Alaska

GoPro Photography Editing 

In many ways, the edit of a GoPro picture can be just as important the composition itself, and for truly excellent GoPro photos, you will need to learn a few editing skills 

These days you can do editing quickly and while you’re on the move, with applications such as Lightroom for mobiles. You can quickly transfer your GoPro photos across and then work on them instantly.

For higher quality edits though, you’ll want to work on a laptop with a large, high-resolution screen, so you really know what colors need bringing out or what details need sharpening. 

The GoPro can shoot in RAW mode and JPG, and for the best edits, you want to be professing in RAW and be shooting with a high-quality memory card. RAW files are much bigger than JPGs but they allow you to bring out much more color and detail. 

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About Lina Stock

Lina is an award-winning photographer and writer that has been exploring the world since 2001. She has traveled to 100 countries on all 7 continents. Member: SATW, NATJA, ATTA, ITWA



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