Master the Modes: Improved Night Photo Mode
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be rolling out a series of articles breaking down the top-tier features on HERO7 Black, written by the people who know the camera best—our engineers and product managers. The following words and photos are by engineering tools specialist and night/time lapse photography guru Shreenivasan Manievannan.
Night Photo Mode : A gateway to long exposure and low-light astro photography
The powerful HERO7 Black is making long exposure and low-light photography easier than ever, improving upon its predecessor, by including higher ISO options to capture dark, starry skies in Night Photo Mode.
Night Photo Mode differs from regular Photo Mode by allowing users to select a shutter speed longer than 1/125th of second. Also, it allows the camera to expose up to 30 seconds, which is not possible with the regular Photo Mode that caters to hand-held shooting while on the go.
Tips for shooting the dark side(s) of the moon
- Dark skies with no moon: If you are shooting under a dark sky, with no moon and no foreground lighting, expose the shot for 30s at ISO 1600.
Also, turn Protune and RAW 'on,' so you have the option of editing further in post. This allows you to get creative with your photo and enhance specific details.
- Dark skies with a dull, waning moon: If you are shooting against the moon, expose the shot for 30s at ISO 1600. Again, shoot with RAW on to be able to enhance details later as necessary.
If you are shooting with the moon at your back, shoot at ISO 800 for 30s or at ISO 1600 for 15s, if a shorter time is required. Depending on how much light the landscape reflects (i.e. sand and snow are very reflective surfaces), you may need to tone down hot spots later.
- Dark skies with a bright moon: This setting requires you to gauge the scene more cloesly. Pay close attention high contrast areas.
If there are a lot of shadows, expose the shot at ISO 800 at 20s (or ISO 1600 for 10s, if you need faster shutter speed).
If lighting is bright and consistent, expose to ISO 800 for 15s. Or if you're looking for better image quality, expose to ISO 400 for 30s.
- Take in the skyline: Low-light scenarios, like cityscapes, will not demand as high of ISO settings, so long as you are OK with some motion blur on objects in the foreground. In this case, use a low ISO to capture the maximum image quality.
If you do not want motion blur, opt for regular Photo Mode and use a faster shutter speed with an ISO set up to 3200. But beware, the tradeoff can result in a lower quality image quality.
- Shine your own light: Creative lighting always helps when there are a lot of shadows in the frame. Try using direct light from a flash light to brighten a subject, or cover the bulb with a cloth to diffuse the light for a softer, more uniform light. Pro Tip: Play with the duration, location and concentration of the lighting.
Benefits of Shooting RAW
When you turn RAW on in Protune, your GoPro will store two files—one JPEG format and one GPR format. GPR is GoPro’s General Purpose Raw Format. This file will contain more data in comparison with what the regular JPEG contains, and it’s the most ideal format when you plan to post-process your photos. Turning RAW on is ideal when shooting in Night Photo Mode, especially when you're set to a high ISO and long shutter speed, because it helps to maintain details when reducing noise during post processing.
Long Exposure with Neutral Density Filters
Using a neutral density (ND) filter with Night Photo Mode can cut down the light by 2^n times; hence slowing down the shutter speed to capture more motion blurs. This technique will create smoothed-out, long exposures in scenes with flowing water or result in long light trails when shooting moving lights.
Pro Tip: When using an ND filter, shoot at with both min and max ISO set to 100 to create top-notch image quality. This causes your GoPro to use the slowest possible shutter speed and create some dreamy landscape scenes.
It is, however, important to note that if your shutter is set to AUTO in Protune, ISO maxes out at 800 and the shutter speed will be limited to 10s. This almost always results in an underexposed shot. We recommend locking your ISO to avoid this.
To get more tips and tricks, check out @shreeniclix on Instagram.