Home / Features / So you just got a GoPro: how to get started with your Hero action camera

So you just got a GoPro: how to get started with your Hero action camera

Get set for adventurous videos

Just unboxed a brand-new GoPro? Lucky you. Capable of capturing action in almost all conditions, GoPro’s Hero cameras have long been the tool of choice for adventurous videographers.

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 get set up for action with your GoPro.

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.


1) Get ready to shoot

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).


2) Get acquainted with your camera

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.


3) Get connected and ready to edit

Next comes the fun bit: capturing action-packed footage. 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.

Live-stream for your fans

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.


4) Get some accessories

The latest GoPro cameras are properly impressive. Rugged right out of the box, they’re ready to capture awesome shots in extreme conditions without any extra bits. But if you do want to upgrade your GoPro setup, you’ll find no shortage of accessories to take your videography to the next level.

Mount up with the folding fingers

With the Hero 8 Black, GoPro cleverly streamlined the mounting system. Out went the housings of old, in came neatly integrated folding fingers. Present on every GoPro since, these swivel out like little wings and make it much simpler to connect directly to all manner of mounts. They also mean you can still access the battery door and charging port while your camera’s attached to an accessory. If you’re shopping for extras, just make sure you pick one which works with your camera’s mounting system.

Max Lens Mod

Both the GoPro Hero 9 and Hero 10 Black support interchangeable lens attachments. The Max Lens Mod might add a little bulk to your action cam, but it also expands the field of view to an ultra-wide 115 degrees. Combined with maximum HyperSmooth stabilisation, even the shakiest shots will appear steady, while horizon lock keeps footage level even if you flip. Buy it here from GoPro

Enduro Rechargeable Battery

Battery life remains an Achilles heel for most GoPro models. Boost your shooting longevity by swapping out the standard cell for GoPro’s Enduro battery. Compatible with the Hero 9 and Hero 10 Black, GoPro reckons the 1720mAh power source can extend shooting times by up to 40% in standard circumstances – and hugely improve performance in chilly conditions. Buy it here from GoPro

3 Way 2.0

From Shorty to Chesty to the trusty Suction Cup, GoPro ships all sorts of mounts, stands and attachments for its action cams. There’s even one you can bite between your gnashers. But GoPro’s 3 Way 2.0 is easily the most versatile: the three-in-one accessory works as an ergonomic hand grip, an extendable selfie stick and an adjustable tripod. It’s also waterproof and features a ball joint for tilting and swivelling. Buy it here from GoPro

Floaty

The ocean is a natural home for your GoPro. Trouble is, it doesn’t float by default. Solve the sinking issue by sticking your action cam in this buoyant jacket. The padding adds protection and means a wayward GoPro will bob up to the surface. Plus it’s bright orange, so it should be easier to see in the sea. There are different versions of the case for different cameras, so check you’ve got the right one. Buy it here from GoPro

The Remote

Controlling your GoPro with your smartphone is a neat trick, but it’s not so useful when you’re halfway up a mountain and your mobile is stashed beneath three layers of thermal gear. Compatible with the Hero 8, 9 and 10, plus the Max, GoPro’s waterproof Remote can control up to five cameras wirelessly at a range of 60m. Big buttons make it easy to use (even with gloves) while a sizeable display ensures you can easily see your current settings. Buy it here from GoPro

Media Mod

Mod support arrived with the GoPro Hero 8 Black, allowing you to easily upgrade your GoPro’s recording equipment with smart attachments. The Media Mod is the one to start with: it features a built-in directional mic for better audio recording, plus a 3.5mm input to connect an external microphone. It also adds an HDMI-out port for TV playback, plus a pair of cold-shoe mounts for use with the Light and front-facing Display Mods (sold separately). Buy it here from GoPro

Mod cons: 5 things you need to know about the GoPro Hero8 Black, Max and Mods