Learning to take great travel photos with a GoPro changed my life.
Alright, alright, so maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit. BUT! When I ordered my first GoPro last year, I knew my travel photos were about to be taken to the next level. I was about to head to Central America and I knew the trip would be rife with opportunities for adventurous action shots, underwater footage, and awesome selfies that included more than just my big head.
Since then, I’ve taken GoPro travel photos everywhere from Sunday Funday in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua to Park Güell in Barcelona, Spain to kayaking adventures in Maui, Hawaii. Through trial and error, I’ve gotten pretty good at consistently getting great shots.
Today I want to share my best tips with you so that those of you who already have a GoPro can learn from my mistakes, and those of you who aren’t yet convinced that a GoPro is ideal for travel might finally see the light. If a GoPro isn’t on your wishlist, it might just be the perfect gift for the travel enthusiast or adventure lover in your life so they can save their epic memories, too.
Why You Need to Travel With a GoPro
Travel photos with a GoPro have a little something extra, a little bit more excitement than your average travel photo. One of the features I love most is its ultra-wide angle lens. It lends a unique perspective to ordinary shots and allows you to get way more of your surroundings in the frame than you would otherwise. It’s the closest thing I have to a fisheye, so it comes out whenever I want to capture a lot or want that added distortion.
Most GoPro cameras come standard with a waterproof case (or the body is waterproof on its own, like the new Hero4 Session) meaning you can take your GoPro out in wet weather conditions or if you’re out on the water where you wouldn’t risk bringing other cameras. The minuscule size also allows you to carry your GoPro everywhere without feeling weighed down. When not in use, you won’t draw unwanted attention because you can simply stow it away in a small bag or even a pocket. Its convenience is unparalleled.
GoPros are ideal travel cameras for all styles of travelers. When solo, getting shots of yourself is a breeze, either with a simple yet awesome selfie (see below) or by setting the camera on continuous shooting mode and finding a stable place to set it. And it’s wide enough that group selfies are no problem, either, especially if you’ve got a small extension handle or a selfie stick.
My Top Tips for Amazing Travel Photos With a GoPro
1. Take tons of photos
Unfortunately, most GoPro models do not have a viewing screen to help you frame your shot perfectly the first time, so you’ll find it’s best to shoot prolifically to ensure that at least one of them comes out the way you want it (models that currently include an LCD screen are the Hero+ LCD and the Hero4 Silver, or you can buy a viewing screen separately). You’ll have to experiment a bit to get the angle just right–what might feel like slight variations in your hand can produce drastically different results in your photos. It’s also important to keep unwanted things (and people) out of your periphery.
I have two GoPro cameras, the Hero 3+ Silver Edition and GoPro’s newest and smallest camera, the Hero4 Session. My favorite way to shoot with my Hero3+ is by setting it to shoot continuously, taking one photo every five seconds. The greatest part of this feature is that a countdown appears on the front screen so I know exactly when it’ll take and can get my next shot ready. My Hero4 Session has a continuous shooting mode as well, but by default it takes one photo every half second which is far too rapid, in my opinion, and can lead to blurred images. However, this setting can be changed by connecting the camera to your phone using its WiFi capabilities and controlling it through the GoPro app. Either way, taking a ton of photos is one of the best ways to make sure at least a few come out perfect–free from blur, poor framing, obstructions, or just plain old bad timing.
2. Embrace the Selfie
I wasn’t big on selfies before I got my GoPro, but I think the problem was that I wanted travel photos, not photos of my big fat face and nothing else. But the wide angle of GoPro lenses allows you to capture so much more than just you, and the results can be pretty incredible. You don’t even need a selfie stick–in fact, I could hold the camera no more than a foot from my face and still get tons of stuff in the background. That’s the beauty of the GoPro selfie! Check out some of my favorite selfies from my travels over the past year.
Your GoPro will come with adhesive mounts, allowing you to attach your camera to a number of surfaces, curved or flat. But it’s fun to switch up the perspective with other accessories, too. My head strap allows me to get hands-free shots that show things from my point of view, which is awesome for photos but particularly cool when shooting videos.
I now also have a small hand grip that doubles as a tripod, a versatile hand/wrist/arm/leg strap, and some multi-purpose straps so I can experiment to my heart’s content. And because you’ll be capturing a large volume of photos and videos, I recommend purchasing a 32 or 64 GB micro SD card.
Other accessories that can keep your GoPro photography fresh and exciting include:
4. Edit, edit, edit
GoPro photos can look pretty lackluster straight out of the camera, so it’s important to have a good editing solution at your disposal. If you upload the photos straight to your iPhone, an app like Snapseed could do the trick. I’ve found that Instagram’s new editing features are more than sufficient as well if your photos are going directly there.
I use Adobe Lightroom for all of my editing. If you’re not ready to throw down on professional editing software, PicMonkey is a great alternative. Here is an example of a GoPro photo before and after processing in Lightroom:
5. Recharge often
If you ask me, the biggest downside to GoPro cameras is that the battery life is quite short, especially when shooting video. If I ever use my GoPro two days in a row, I always have to charge it in between. If you plan to use it for long stretches of time, it might be worthwhile to invest in a portable power pack, extra batteries, or a GoPro dual battery charger.
6. Keep Your Lens & Case Smudge Free
There’s nothing worse than realizing after a day of shooting that your lens or case has been smudged the whole time. I don’t even know how it happens sometimes, but now I always give both the camera and the inside and outside of my case a good swipe with a microfiber cloth.
7. Get Wet
All I ever wanted out of a camera was the ability to take it everywhere with me–including under the sea! Sadly, GoPro’s performance suffers a little bit in low light conditions, but you can still get great images underwater. The original GoPro cameras come with a waterproof housing which lets you safely take the camera as deep as 40 meters (131 feet), perfect for dive enthusiasts. The Hero4 Session has a waterproof body, but only down to 10 meters (33 feet).
The low light beneath the surface means you’re more susceptible to blurred images, so try to hold the camera as still as possible while shooting. The deeper you go and the farther you are from your light source, colors become severely muted, so don’t expect underwater shots to be as vivid as those on dry land. Furthermore, you’ll need to be extremely close to your subjects for any sort of clarity.
8. Think Outside the Box
The compact size, wide angle, and ability to go just about anywhere make GoPro the perfect camera to experiment with. I’m always impressed with people’s creativity, and now that I’ve got fun new mounts I can’t wait to see what awesome images I can produce. For some GoPro inspiration, head to Instagram and search #BeAHero.
On that note, I’ll leave you with a few more of my favorite shots so far.
Do you take travel photos with a GoPro? What’s your camera of choice?
GoPro generously provided me with my very own Hero4 Session and accessory case, but as always, opinions presented here are entirely my own. This post contains affiliate links.