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Home / Features / How to set up a GoPro: tips and tricks to get started with your GoPro action camera

How to set up a GoPro: tips and tricks to get started with your GoPro action camera

Get set for adventurous videos

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Just unboxed a brand-new GoPro? Whether you’re hitting the slopes or vlogging on the go, the tips and tricks below will guide you through how to set up your action camera.

Capable of capturing action in almost all conditions, GoPro’s Hero cameras have long been the tool of choice for adventurous videographers. This year’s GoPro Hero 11 Black took what GoPro does best (crisp images in a small package) to the next level.

A 27MP 8:7 aspect ratio image sensor gives users much more scope than past models. It’s also an acknowledgement of the 9:16 format beloved of TikTok and Reels creators, but can handle 1:1 and 16:9 formats too. You can even lock the horizon in place (at up to 5.3K resolution), which means you can tilt and rotate the camera all you like while you’re filming.

With incredible image-stabilisation, top-notch connectivity and the option to shoot buttery-smooth slow-mo, your GoPro is one powerful pocket-friendly package. And with a brief fiddle around in GoPro’s Quik editing app on your smartphone, you can make just about anything look exciting.

Ready to jump in? Whether you’re hitting the slopes or vlogging on the go, the tips and tricks below will help you set up your GoPro just right – and make the most of its many skills.

Which is the best GoPro you can buy?

The latest GoPro hasn’t always been the greatest, but that’s very much the case with the GoPro Hero 10 Black. Nippy, powerful and polished, it’s the ultimate evolution of the GoPro action cam. Battery life still isn’t brilliant, but a lag-free touchscreen interface makes it a joy to use, while enhanced horizon-levelling smarts can produce unreal results.

Looking for something more affordable? Older GoPro Hero models won’t deliver the cutting-edge performance of the Hero 10 Black, but something like the Hero 8 Black can still shoot lovely 4K footage at 60fps – and two years after launch, it’s cheaper than ever.

Keen to explore all the options? Read our dedicated GoPro buying guide linked below.

How to set up a GoPro: assemble the elements

Depending on your GoPro version, you’ll find a range of different bits in the box. Most models ship with a rechargeable battery, a USB-C cable, a quick-release Buckle for attaching to accessories, plus an adhesive mount for sticking to stuff.

To get started, unlatch the side door of your GoPro and push the battery all the way in. You’ll then want to insert a microSD card (which you’ll often get bundled with your camera) into the little slot beside the battery. Although you can power on without one, GoPro cameras have no built-in storage, so you won’t be able to save any footage.

At this point, you can either re-latch the door for a watertight closure, or insert the USB-C cable to charge your GoPro’s battery. You don’t need to fully fuel it before using your GoPro, but you might want to for the sake of convenience. You can also use the camera while it’s charging, which is particularly handy if you’re deploying it for dash cam duty – although the door has to stay open, which means it won’t be waterproof. When it’s charging, your GoPro will show a solid red light on the front.

Out of the box and ready to record a blockbuster? Hold your galloping horses. Depending on your GoPro model, you might need to perform a firmware update before you can capture any action. In the case of the Hero 10 Black, that means pairing with the Quik app on your smartphone, or performing a manual update by downloading the latest version onto a microSD card. Even if your camera doesn’t demand an update, it’s still worth checking whether any fresh firmware is available – it could unlock new features.

Every GoPro from the Hero 5 Black onwards has a touch display, which should make it simple to work through setup screens. Tap and scroll to set your device language, agree to the terms of use and configure GPS settings.

Is a GoPro Subscription worth it?

You might have chosen to take out a GoPro Subscription when buying your camera. Smart move, because it bags you a solid discount on all sorts of GoPro gear, including the latest Hero cameras. Didn’t take out a membership? It could still be worth coughing up. For an annual fee of £50, a GoPro Subscription gets you unlimited cloud backup and automatic upload of all your clips. It also unlocks premium filters and tools in GoPro’s Quik editing app, plus you can get up to two replacement cameras in a year (as long as you follow the Ts & Cs).

How to set up a GoPro: learn the controls

Now your GoPro’s good to go, you can power it up by holding down the side button. Once it’s beeped into life, shooting footage is as simple as pressing the button on top. If you have QuikCapture enabled, you can also hold that button down to turn on the camera and start recording straight away – perfect for capturing rapid action.

Ready to start rolling? It’s worth taking a second to configure your GoPro’s settings. Swipe down to reveal the dashboard, where you can toggle voice control, QuikCapture and several other key functions. You can also tap the preferences button on the Dashboard to go even deeper into the settings menus.

Swiping around should feel similar using a smartphone, although GoPro displays are quite dinky. It’ll take a minute to get used to the sensitivity, interface and gestures. Swiping up from the main screen, for example, will bring up a preview of your clips. To cycle through photo, video and time-lapse shooting modes, you can either swipe left and right, or press the button on the side of the camera.

Presets are also worth a look. These allow you to quickly switch between different cocktails of settings to suit what you’re shooting. There are several by default, from Cinematic for 4K movies to Activity for slick 60fps footage.

To access presets, simply tap on the button at the bottom of the shooting screen. From here, you can scroll through all of the available options. You can also re-arrange the presets list by tapping the arrow icon in the top right corner and dragging your favourites to the top. Keen to tinker? Customise existing presets by tapping the pencil icon to the right of each one, or scroll to the bottom of the list to create your own (and select a badge to match).

Presets are well worth figuring out: they give you instant flexibility to switch your settings on the fly. You can adjust all sorts, including frame rates, the level of HyperSmooth stabilisation and the field of view. Delving into ProTune takes things a step further, allowing you to tweak bit rates, white balance, shutter speed and more. You can also customise which shortcut buttons appear on screen – or switch them off entirely for a clean interface.

Try out a time lapse

GoPro cameras come ready to shoot three types of time-lapse footage. Each will capture the passing of time with dramatic effect. Swipe or press the side button to cycle through shooting modes until you land on Time Lapse. You should then find three customisable presets at your fingertips: Time Lapse, Night Lapse and TimeWarp, which shoots a smooth, accelerated wide-angle video . You can change resolution, field of view, zoom and the speed/interval between frames.

How to set up a GoPro: get connected and ready to edit

Next comes the fun bit: capturing action-packed video. Whether you’re recording 4K footage from your helmet or a midnight time-lapse on a tripod, most GoPro cameras will capture steady, striking shots in almost all conditions.

But what do you do with those clips afterwards? You’ve got two options for offloading video: you can connect your GoPro camera to your PC or Mac via the bundled USB cable. Or you can pair your GoPro with your smartphone to wirelessly access everything that’s saved on it.

Connecting your GoPro to your smartphone is usually a cinch: simply download the Quik app for iOS or Android and follow the on-screen instructions. You’ll usually need to join your GoPro’s own Wi-Fi network to complete the setup.

Once your devices are hooked up, you’ll be able to browse through everything that’s saved on your GoPro and select clips to download to your device. What’s more, the app allows you to control supported GoPro cameras remotely – ideal for framing up from afar. Those with a GoPro Subscription will also find the option to configure automatic upload of their clips to the cloud.

Fancy yourself as a fledgling influencer? The Quik app is also where you’ll find the option to set up a live stream for your followers. Once your camera is connected, tap ‘Control Your GoPro’ then hit the little red ‘Live’ button to configure your stream – although going live on some platforms will require you to pass certain audience thresholds. You’ll need 1000 subscribers before you can stream to YouTube – and there’s no support for Instagram yet.

Create a clip show

So you’ve selected your favourite clips and you’re ready to assemble an all-action edit on your smartphone? That’s where Quik’s tweaking tools come in. From music and filters to themes, transitions and titles, Quik can rapidly combine your shots into a blockbuster Edit worthy of a GoPro advert. Start by tapping the clapperboard icon along the bottom and selecting the clips to conclude. You can then let the app try its automated best, give it a helping hand by highlighting key moments, or take full control. Take out a GoPro Subscription to unlock premium themes, filters and more backing music.

How to set up a GoPro: get adventurous and creative

Now that you’re up to speed on how to configure, control and capture footage with your GoPro, you’re ready to get more adventurous with your shooting. Experimenting with your action cam is one of the best ways to learn what it’s capable of. And GoPro action cameras are built to survive in some of the toughest environments – so it’s only right to put your Hero through its paces.

Start by dunking it underwater, sticking it on your cycle helmet or simply taking it for a run. Whatever activity you choose to record, try different frame rates, resolutions and HyperSmooth settings, to see how each change affects the resulting footage. Not all of your clips will be brilliant, but using your GoPro in this way is an intuitive – often rewarding – way to understand your action camera’s creative potential.

This is also a good moment to utilise some of your GoPro’s more advanced touchscreen controls. If you’re going below the waves with your action camera, for example, it’s a good idea to lock the screen to prevent accidental inputs: simply swipe down from the top of the screen and tap the lock icon.

Shooting in tricky lighting? Try using your GoPro’s Exposure Control to balance and maintain the exposure in your footage. Press on the touchscreen until a square appears. You can then drag the outline to the area you’d like to use as a reference point for exposure. Tap “Auto Exposure” and select “Locked Exposure”, then hit the tick button in the bottom-right corner.

Once you become more familiar with what your GoPro’s various modes and settings can do, there’s little limit to what you can capture. Search YouTube for inspiration and you’ll find no shortage of experimental shots and subjects – from slow-mo yo-yos to GoPros attached to kites. While some of these require accessory mounts, many can be achieved with your GoPro alone – or by fashioning an attachment using your ingenuity and some duct tape.

How to set up a GoPro: add some accessories

The best GoPro accessories unlock new ways to shoot with your action camera. From floating grips to wearable mounts, there’s a whole catalogue of add-ons compatible with GoPro cameras. Each attachment will allow you to explore novel creative avenues. There’s even a harness for capturing a dog’s eye view. Yes, really.

Keep to upgrade your GoPro kit bag? We’ve rounded up our pick of the best GoPro mounts and accessories in a dedicated buying guide, which you’ll find at the link just below.

Profile image of Chris Rowlands Chris Rowlands Freelance contributor


Formerly News Editor at this fine institution, Chris now writes about tech from his tropical office. Sidetracked by sustainable stuff, he’s also keen on coffee kit, classic cars and any gear that gets better with age.

Areas of expertise

Cameras, gear and travel tech