Tune your GoPro settings to get the perfect shot, every time.
At Spivo, we’re believers in planning out your pictures and videos before you go on an adventure. But don’t let that scare you. This doesn’t mean you're scouring google maps to find where you're going to take pictures. It’s all about knowing what you're going to do with your content. Are you going to simply show your family on your phone? Post on Instagram? Facebook? Make a YouTube video?
While you might not know what you're going to capture, it’s important to think about what you're most likely to do with your content, as that can have a large impact on which GoPro settings you should use to maximize the quality of the footage you capture. In this post, we’re going to cover four different GoPro settings (Aspect Ratio, Resolution, Field of View and Frame Rate), when and where you should utilize each mode.
The aspect ratio of a photo or video is the proportional relationship between its width and it’s height, in other words, how wide compared to how tall an image/video is shown. Aspects ratios are typically expressed as two numbers, which are separated by colon or “x", such as 16:9 or 16x9 (pronounced "sixteen by nine", or "sixteen nine"). A sixteen by nine aspect ratio means that if an image is 16 parts wide, it will also be 9 equal parts high.
Your GoPro has two aspect ratios to choose from: 16:9 and 4:3.
- 16:9 - Most common aspect ratio across all platforms (phones, tv’s, computers, Netflix, YouTube etc…)
- Use for: YouTube video
- 4:3 - Less common aspect ratio for traditional mediums, however 4:3 allows you to capture more top and bottom in a video. This aspect ratio looks much more square as a 16:9 aspect ratio (which is more rectangular)
- Use for: Instagram/Facebook posts
- A 4:3 aspect ratio video generally looks better as it takes up more screen space on your social media news feed (it’s a lot taller than a 16:9 video) especially when viewed on a smartphone
In the illustration above where both images are the same width, it’s easy to notice how much taller the 4:3 aspect ratio is compared to the 16:9.
Keep in mind, you can always crop your video from 4:3 to 16:9 should you want to change the aspect ratio for a specific medium (e.g. YouTube). However, it’s not possible to go from 16:9 to 4:3 without zooming into the image, as you’ll be missing the additional vertical image offered by the 4:3 aspect ratio.
With that in mind, what are you planning on doing with your videos? If you’re simply planning on posting them on Instagram or Facebook, select a 4:3 aspect ratio to maximize the screen space. On your GoPro, there are few different 4:3 shooting modes, so let’s get into what resolution is.
Resolution is the overall image size of the video you're shooting. There are many different resolution options on your GoPro, some of which you're likely familiar with (720p, 1080p, 4k, etc...). The resolution number refers to the number of horizontal lines (or vertical pixels) on the display. Pixels are the smallest addressable element of an image, e.g. the amount of dots that make up the overall image or video.
- For example, a video that is shot in 1080p, this means the image is 1920 pixels wide and 1080 pixels tall.
Nowadays, the most common shooting modes today are 1080p and 4K. Although it might be tempting to shoot at the largest setting to capture the most pixels (i.e. the clearest and largest video), that’s not always the best case. Before embarking on your adventure, ask yourself what you're going to be doing with the footage. Will you be editing the video yourself or will you be using a Video Editing Service? Let’s break down the various options below and provide some suggestions when you should use them.
- 720p: 1280 x 720 - Not worth shooting at this resolution (low quality, most smartphones have better image quality than this)
- 960p: 1280 x 960 - Still not worth it unless you really really want to conserve your battery and keep the video file sizes down
- 1080p: 1920 x 1080 - 1080p is the industry standard and is often called HD (High Definition). Most computers, TVs, and phones can easily play 1080p footage. If your simply looking to make a YouTube video of your trip or video, shoot it in 1080p.
- 1440P: 1920 x 1440 - Spivo's recommended shooting resolution. Why? Because you're capturing an extra 360 vertical pixels due to the for the 4:3 aspect ratio, which means your video has more top and bottom (a taller overall video). Notice in the screenshots below how when shooting in 1440p, I was able to capture the full waterfall. If you’re planning on posting a few Instagram videos or Facebook posts, we recommend using this resolution to capture the most in your videos.
- 2.7k: 2704 x 1520 - (16:9 aspect ratio) 2.7k offers great image quality however, you’ll have to deal with larger file sizes and might have difficulty playing/editing videos depending on your device or computer, which can make 2.7k footage a bit of a nuisance.
- 2.7k: 2704 x 2028 - (4:3 aspect ratio) Best for Instagram and Facebook posts, but you’ll have to deal with larger file sizes and reduce battery when compared to shooting in 1440p.
- 4k: 3840 x 2160 - The largest and best resolution offered on GoPro cameras Although you’ll get very high-quality videos, manipulating and playing the videos can be time confusing and challenging due to the large file sizes. It’s important to keep in mind that you’ll also drain your battery much faster shooting at higher resolutions. This is especially noticeable in cold environments, where your battery life is significantly reduced. (Pro Tip: If your camera is dead in the cold, stick your GoPro under your armpit for a minute or two. Brrr, it’ll be cold, but worth it for the ‘gram)
If you're just starting out, we don’t recommend shooting in 2.7k or 4k for these reasons. When in doubt, film in 1080p or 1440p to keep your video file sizes relatively small, and still have great quality video, all the while not chewing up too much battery.
Frame rate is the number of pictures (or frames) per second in a given video. So we’re all on the same page, all videos (filmed on GoPro’s, iPhones, or any camera for that matter) are made from a number of images played in sequence. Frame rates are commonly written out as a number followed by FPS, which stands for “Frames Per Second”.
The most common frame rate for GoPros is 30 FPS, followed by 60 FPS, 120 FPS, and 240 FPS. It’s important to note that anything below 18-20 FPS, will appear blurry to the human eye. Depending on the environment and action in your video, in some cases, video shot at 30 FPS can appear blurry if an object is moving very fast.
For most adventure and travel videos, like sightseeing or snorkeling trip, we generally recommend shooting in 30 FPS, which will conserve your battery and keep your video file sizes down.
So when would you want to shoot at a higher frame rate?
You’ll want to use frame rates 60 FPS and above when shooting in fast environments or high action sports (car racing, to capture a soccer ball after being kicked, when flying by the camera while skiing/snowboarding, etc…) Another use case is if you plan on making slow-mo videos.
- For example, if your shooting at 80 FPS, you’ll be able to slow down when video editing your footage by 37.5% to bring it down to 30 FPS, while still capturing great video quality like in the snowboarding video below.
Verdict: For most adventures, shooting in 30 FPS (the default is either 24FPS or 30 FPS, depending on your camera) is sufficient, unless there are fast moving objects or you plan on slowing down the footage.
Field of view (FOV)
Field of view is essentially the observable scene your GoPro will capture. This means, once you’ve taken the video, this is what you will get in the shot when you're watching it. There are a few different modes to choose from in your GoPro’s settings: Wide, Medium and Narrow.
Wide FOV: As a general rule of thumb, we recommend using your GoPro with the wide angle field of view when using your GoPro with the Spivo. The wide angle perspective created from your GoPro camera means you’ll capture more of the background and your surroundings, and you won’t crop out your head or feet, buildings, snowboard, skis, surfboard, etc… The wide angle perspective is great because it captures moments in a way that is similar to what you physically see with your eye. What does this mean for you? It means you get realistic looking video. The downside to shooting in wide is that your videos will appear warped in the corners, but you may find that that is not all that noticeable, particularly if you're mostly focusing on subjects in the center of your image (e.g. selfies)
When to use Wide FOV:
- Point of View (POV)
- Close up shots
Medium FOV: In the mode, the camera is actually shooting at 2.7k resolution, and is being cropped down to 1080P. This means the camera is actually only capturing what’s in the middle of the sensor, so you’ll have less fisheye effect or distortion in the corners caused when shooting in wide.
When to use Medium FOV:
- Pictures of subjects that are far away
Narrow FOV: Similarly to medium, in narrow FOV your GoPro is shooting in 4k resolution and is being cropped down to 1080P. With this mode, there is virtually no lens distortion. Shooting in narrow will give you a shot that doesn’t look like it was taken on a GoPro. Is that what you're going for?
When to use narrow FOV:
- Drone photography
- Far landscapes
Now that you have a better understanding of the various field of view options, think about where you're going to be shooting, and what look you are trying to achieve with your videos.
Our recommendations for most situations:
Aspect Ratio: 4x3
Field of view: Wide
Frame rate: 30 FPS
If this all seems a little complicated, try our Video Editing Service to make your videos look awesome no matter the settingsChoosing the right GoPro settings can certainly help your footage look good right out of the camera, but editing can work wonders if you haven't. Over the years, we realized that so much GoPro footage goes unused because most people don't have the time or ability to edit their footage once they get home.
That's why we launched the first Video Editing Service specifically for GoPro adventurers. Our professional editors take your footage and edit it into an awesome storyline with transitions, video stabilization, color correction, and more. Check it out right now if you've got piles of GoPro footage laying around.
Learn more about Spivo Video Editing
Bonus: Meet the Spivo 360 Swivel Selfie Stick
You've probably seen this product referenced a few times. It's one of our most popular products! The Spivo 360 is often referenced as the best selfie stick for travel thanks to the genius swivel feature that lets you capture every spontaneous moment and make your videos more exciting. Check it out if you've got some fun adventures planned with your GoPro and want to step up your videos.
Pro tips for Spivo 360 users:
So you’ve already picked up your Spivo 360 swivel selfie stick. Wicked! You're one step closer to capturing your epic adventure memories. Here are some of our favorite shots to make the most of Spivo's 180-degree swivel feature:
- Pan your arms while going from selfie shot to forward shot to selfie shot. This way when the camera comes back to selfie you get a new perspective making it possible to 3 different perspectives with 3 Spivo Stick clicks.
- For example: Selfie shot looking directly at you, then forward shot looking ahead of you and panning the scene up to your side to get the selfie shot showing your profile, as Undyne Carrasco did in the video below.
Follow cam shots: when walking or following someone while snorkelling, film in the forward perspective while following them as close as possible and click the button to switch between yourself, and your adventure buddy. These shots are great to capture the spontaneity of a moment. Jesse Del Grosse does this perfectly when swimming with his girlfriend Kimburley Smith.
Use Spivo's built in transition between clips: when you click the button to swivel the camera 180 degree on the Spivo, it create a video transition effect called a "whip pan". By placing multiple clips together, and editing the transitions during the camera rotating (during the whip pan), it creates really fun and interesting video that make it look like you're in a new spot every transition. Ana and her boyfriend did this all along their 3 month trip to 10 countries, and it made a super fun travel video.
There you have it folks! We’ve covered four important GoPro settings to keep in mind before embarking on your next adventure. We hope you've learned something and can apply these new found skills on your next adventure.
Sep 28, 2018 • Posted by Jose
Very helpful for a gopro noobie like me, thanks Spivo!
Oct 29, 2018 • Posted by Mohamed Hassan
Best article on GoPro settings for Instagram! Thanks a lot :)
Nov 01, 2018 • Posted by Miguel
Great quick tutorial / explanations on the go pro and the spivvie, thanks!
Waiting for snow to hit the ground so I can start applying new learnings!
May 07, 2019 • Posted by Spivo
Thank you for all the nice comments, guys :D keep on shooting and learning!
May 18, 2020 • Posted by Kate Godfrey
Best article that actually makes sense for using a GoPro for the most typical uses (Youtube and Instagram). Annoyed it took me so long to find it but happy now my GoPro is set to useful settings :)
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