I’ve owned a GoPro Hero 3 for almost two years now and I love it for my skiing and diving holidays. They aren’t the easiest cameras to use though and they come with a bit of a learning curve so I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.
Choosing the right mount
I use a GoPole Reach for underwater filming. The great thing about this pole is that it floats when it’s fully extended, so if you drop it, it won’t sink to the bottom of the ocean. As the name suggests it has a long reach so its perfect for getting close up shots of marine life without having to get too close yourself and scaring them away!
For skiing I use a helmet mount. I think GoPro have since replaced the one I purchased with a newer and improved helmet front mount. You could get some great shots using the GoPole as well but I personally don’t feel comfortable holding anything except ski poles as it throws me off balance.
For general use, I always choose the GoPro 3-Way mount. I love how versatile this mount is – you can use it as a camera grip, extension arm or a tripod. It’s smaller than the GoPole so its easier to carry around when travelling. I just don’t like to take it in the water as its a bit more expensive than the GoPole and doesn’t extend as far.
Conserving batter power
In my experience the GoPro battery life is abysmal compared to my other cameras, only getting about 1-2 hours use out of a full battery. I invested in a second battery pretty early on so I always have a backup, but the most effective way to make your battery last longer is to minimise your use of the remote and always disable the WiFi when you aren’t using it. When you aren’t filming be sure to turn the camera off as well, leaving it in standby mode drains the battery fairly quickly.
GoPro’s have several major settings so this can be quite confusing! For frame rates I generally stick to 30fps. If you want to record something in slow motion you should choose a higher frame rate but for normal use 30fps is fine for most people.
I have my resolution set to 1080p. I find that this is a happy medium between quality and file size. My camera does support higher resolutions but since I only really publish videos to Instagram or YouTube there isn’t really a need to record videos in super high definition. If you choose a higher resolution then you probably want to bump up your frame rate as well.
I’ve only used the Wide field of view option, this is the signature GoPro look and gives you that fisheye effect. I think this works best for action shots (like skiing) and allows you to fit more into the frame. If you don’t like that effect then you can choose either Medium or Narrow. Medium will still give you a slight fisheye effect where Narrow will look more like a regular camera (no fisheye effect).
Something I only discovered fairly recently is that the GoPro Hero models are capable of shooting both video and photo stills at the same time with Photo and Video mode. I’ve configured mine so that when shooting a video, my GoPro will also take a still photo every five seconds. Before I learned about this setting I would just take screenshots of the video on my computer so having the GoPro do it automatically for me is obviously much more ideal. The stills taken by the GoPro are also better quality than what you’d be able to get from taking a screenshot. You’ll find this setting buried under Settings – Capture Settings. Five seconds is the most frequent interval available but you can also choose 10, 30 or 60 seconds.
Using a red filter for underwater filming
If you’ve ever tried to take photos underwater when diving then you’ll have noticed they will often appear very green and bluish, like the one below:
This is because the red/orange part of the light spectrum doesn’t penetrate well into water. When you’re snorkelling close to the surface there’s a good chance you will still get vibrant colours in your photos but if you dive down more than 5 metres or so, that’s when you start to lose the colours.
A divemaster recommended the PolarPro Switchblade3 Red+Macro filter to me to attach to my GoPro and it drastically improved the colouring in my photos. Just be really careful handling the filter as it scratches easily! I always pop my one back in its carry pouch when I’m not using it.
Got any other GoPro tips? I’d love to hear them!