The GoPro: it's not just for extreme sports :: Digital Photo Secrets

The GoPro: it's not just for extreme sports

by David Peterson 0 comments

If you don't already own a GoPro, you've at least seen them. The most common place to find a GoPro is attached to helmets or bicycle handlebars - they're extremely popular amongst people who are active or are into extreme sports. But GoPro's are great for other purposes as well - you don't need to jump off of a cliff or out of an airplane to get good use out of one. So what else can you do with a GoPro? Keep reading to find out.

Sports (extreme and otherwise)

Let's start with the obvious—extreme sports and other activities that involve physical effort but might not necessarily be considered “extreme." If you're a mountain biker or even just like to ride your bike on paved trails, you can still use the GoPro to get some fun photographs of your activities. Many bikers who use GoPros mount them on their helmets—you can actually buy helmets specifically designed to take GoPro mounts, which will allow you to capture rider’s-eye footage of your rides. Depending on what sort of look you want to achieve, you can attach the GoPro to the side of your helmet or to the top. Other riders will attach the GoPro with an elastic material to the chest. If you choose this type of mount, you will want to make sure that the straps are as tight as possible without being restrictive, which will help reduce vibrations in video footage. The nice thing about the chest-mount device is that you can switch it around so that the GoPro is mounted on your back, which is great if you want to take video of your kids or other riding companions who may be behind you.

You can also get a handlebar mount, but video shot from the handlebars tends to be more subject to vibration and may be bumpy and difficult to watch. On the other hand, if you're not going to be shooting a video but rather still frames, then the handlebar position might be ideal.

Mounts are available for just about any sporting equipment from a surfboard to a snowboard, so whatever sport brings out your adrenaline junkie, there's almost certainly going to be a way to get fabulous images of yourself engaged in that activity without having to hire a pro to follow you around with a camera.

Another particularly cool thing about GoPro is that if you can use it as a training tool. If you’re trying to perfect a sport or activity and you don't want to hire a personal trainer, the GoPro can act as that personal trainer, giving you feedback about things like your form, performance and other areas that might need improvement. You can learn a lot just by watching how you did, and the GoPro is much less expensive than hiring somebody to video you or especially paying for a personal trainer to give you all of that feedback. And even if you are using a personal trainer, he may not be able to articulate in words what you can see so clearly in a photograph or in a video.

What else can the GoPro do?

Some GoPro models have burst and time lapse modes—in burst mode you can get 30 frames per second, which gives you a pretty good chance of capturing something amazing during that burst. Time lapse is also a fun mode—grab a series of images over a set period of time and then sequence them together into a fast-moving animation. You can do this during the day or at night with the "night lapse" mode. You can change the speed at which those time lapse images are synced together. Think creatively about the different ways you can use time lapse photography—for example, if you could put the GoPro in your backyard and just chronicle the changing light from sunrise to sunset, or you could attach it to your car’s dashboard and take time lapse video of a cross-country drive.

The nice thing about the GoPro is it isn't just a video camera. You can set it up to take a photo every 60 seconds, every 10 seconds, or even every second. That means that you can be completely hands off and focused on riding, running, paddling (or whatever), and your GoPro will do all the photography for you. Now obviously this is a little bit like shooting from the hip in that you have no idea what your GoPro might take a photograph of from one minute to the next, but if you capture enough frames throughout the activity, you're almost certain to get a few that are pretty amazing.

Aerial photography

If you've ever wanted to take photographs from up in the sky but balked at the expense of hiring an airplane and pilot so you could do it, consider using a GoPro instead. GoPro's are great in combination with drones—combined with certain drone models you can add a mount that allows the camera to pivot, shoot from different directions, and pan. You can get some really amazing, professional-quality video and the investment even when factoring in the cost of the drone is a lot less than that it would be if you were doing aerial photography the old-fashioned way.

One thing to remember about drone photography is that it is prohibited in some places, so make sure you understand the regulations in your area before you make an investment in equipment that you might not be able to use.

If you're not that keen on buying a drone or if drones are simply frowned upon or out right banned in your community, you can still get some aerial photographs in a surprising way. The GoPro is designed to be rugged and tough—it has to be for people who use it for extreme sports because falls and wipeouts are just a part of the package. But because the GoPro is so tough, that also makes it ideal for types of photography that you may not have ever considered previously. I'm talking, of course, about "camera toss." This is a technique that's popular with people who don't own GoPros, too, but of course the disadvantage is that with a regular point-and-shoot camera you really do need to be sure you're going to catch the camera again after you toss it, or you're likely going to be out a camera. Some camera toss proponents will only toss their camera from a soft surface such as a mattress, which is obviously extremely limiting. If you have a GoPro, you can toss it from almost anywhere, and you can even toss it over the water provided you've got a float so that you can retrieve it again. To capture a camera toss image with a GoPro, put it in burst mode and then throw it into the air. It will take a series of images most of the time it is airborne, giving you a very cool sequence. I have even heard of one photographer attaching his GoPro to a Styrofoam airplane and then launching it over a golf course.

Pet photography

You've probably got loads of photographs of your dog, but do you have any dogs-eye view photographs? Try attaching your GoPro camera to your dog’s collar and then turning him loose for a day. Set the camera to take one photo every minute, every half hour or every hour, and then check out those photos at the end of the day to see what your dog got up to. This is going to be a lot of fun if your pet regularly explores the backyard and you're not always watching to see what he's doing. It works great for dogs, but I don't necessarily recommend it for cats since cats are prone to getting their collars stuck and if your cat is wearing a breakaway collar you may end up losing both the collar and the GoPro. You can also use the same idea with your toddler—you'll need to find a safe way to attach the camera (definitely don't hang it around your toddlers neck), but once it's mounted you'll get a wonderful and hilarious look at what it's like to be a toddler running around your house.

  • GoPro HERO3+ Black Edition
  • 100
  • f/2.8
  • 0.001 sec (1/1250)
  • 2.8 mm

What's That? by Flickr user snailsareslimy


If you're not really into extreme sports, you probably haven't thought too much about getting a GoPro—it's got a reputation as an active person's camera, and you likely think more of yourself as a real photographer than someone who straps a camera to his own head and lets it take all the pictures for him. You're probably not going to get a whole lot of competition-quality images this way, although having said that I've seen some pretty impressive shots taken with a GoPro. But there are still lots of good reasons why you should have this little camera as in addition to the gear you already own. Most people have events and other activities they attend where they don't really want to be thinking about taking pictures, but that doesn't mean that those events and activities aren't worthy of chronicling. And with a little creative thinking, you can find other exciting and fun ways to use the GoPro too. So if you're thinking about adding to your gear collection, put the GoPro down on your list as a possible option. I don't think you'll be disappointed.


  1. Sports (extreme and otherwise)
    • Attach to your helmet
    • Attach to your chest
    • Attach to your handlebars
    • Use it to evaluate and improve your performance
  2. Burst and time lapse
    • Use it to create a series of time lapsed photos
    • Use it for hands-off shooting
  3. Aerial photography
    • Mount it on a drone
    • Camera toss
  4. Pet photography
    • Attach it to your dog

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