Summer is fast drawing to a close, but there’s still time to get outside and explore, and what better way to capture those memories than with an Action Camera.
Action Cameras are typically small, lightweight, rugged cameras that can be attached to a plethora of accessories. GoPro are without doubt the industry leaders and with the launch of their new cube-like GoPro Session (which comes in at 35% smaller than all other models!) action cameras have never been cooler.
These tiny, durable cameras give even the most amateur photographer the ability to create dynamic and exciting footage, but with a gadget so small and often with no view finder, you may find yourself reviewing hours of wasted gigabytes of missed action, smudgy screens and shaky scenarios. However, with a few simple tips, we can make sure you’ll never miss a moment and will be producing the most impressive homemade action films in no time at all.
The first step before you even hit the record button is to prep. Chances are you’ll set the camera rolling and leave the gadget on top of a helmet or somewhere equally out of sight where it can be tricky to review how it’s doing.
Firstly, always check the battery and carry a spare with you. Last thing you want is to be halfway down a mountain or river and find that the battery died just before that awesome jump. I also recommend giving the lens and any camera housings a quick wipe before you turn them on. They get mucky easily and it would be such a shame to ruin a priceless moment with a great big smudge! A great tip for keeping the lens clear if you’re taking your camera into water is to give the lens a lick. Weird I know, but your saliva has water resistant properties that will help prevent water spots building up on the glass.
(GoPro specific) If you’re using a housing for your GoPro, check that you’ve attached the right backing. If you’re heading to water then you’ll need the solid plastic back to make sure the camera is sealed and water tight. However, if you’re using it on dry land, consider switching to an open back as you’ll be able to capture sound with more clarity.
Distance and Angles
When positioning an action camera to film yourself, a handy tip is to use your arm to line up the lens with your eye line to ensure you are centre of the action. However, you also need to check your camera’s settings and the field of view option you have it set to.
Most action cameras use wide to ultra-wide or a fisheye lens, offering a variety of field of views. The latest GoPros even include Superview: a setting that dramatically stretches the edges out to give a widescreen look. Superview is great for capturing landscapes, or selfies as it fits much more in, but be wary, any detail around the edge of your shot will end up looking distorted.
I’ve also discovered that whilst a wide field of view magnifies objects close to the camera and makes them look awesome, it shrinks the background. So, if you’re filming someone else skating in a park or skiing down a mountain, it’s best to get as close as possible to avoid losing them in the landscape. A good rule is to have the camera no more than a couple of metres away from the centre of the action.
Accessories and Mounts
There’s an incredible selection of mounts available for action cams, ranging from the GoPro Fetch for dogs to suction pads for surfboards. My personal favourite is the Zipmount. It’s small, simple and is secured in place with a zip cable which allows you to fix it everywhere and anywhere! But don’t be afraid to be inventive and hack your own mounts together. Action Cameras are built to withstand a bit of rough and tumble so creating your own home-made accessories is part of the fun. More than once I’ve found a bit of gaffer tape and string to be the perfect combo for creating an exciting new fixture!
(GoPro specific) A good tip when securing your GoPro to various accessories is to think about the size of the screw you use to fix it in place. There are actually two lengths and the longer bolts are much easier to get hold of and get a tighter fix. The shorter screws can be a bit fiddly and leave your camera at risk of slipping out of position.
Finally, if accessories aren’t your bag then you can always turn yourself into a human tripod. One of the biggest mistakes people make with hand-held footage is a sea-sickness inducing camera shake. If you’re moving around quickly, hold the camera to your chin as your head is the most stable part of your body and will make your footage much smoother.
I hope you find these tips and tricks useful. Now get out there and capture the last of the summer!