Capturing the night sky is no easy feat. There are ISO settings, shutter speeds and movement blurs to take into consideration. But when all three come together, the result gives a glimpse into space, immortalizing moments that are often missed by the untrained eye, or lens.

With the launch of HERO7 Black, GoPro introduced an improved Night Photo Mode that unlocked higher ISO options and longer shutter speeds, making night photography a bit easier for GoPro users. And just last month, GoPro lit up the spherical world a first-ever public beta for Fusion with Firmware v2.0 that brought RAW photos to Night Lapse Mode at a 5 second interval.

To give a definitive guide to mastering these new modes, we tapped GoPro engineering tools specialist and night/time lapse photography guru Shreenivasan Manievannan. The following words and photos are by Shreenivasan.

Night Photo Mode on HERO7 Black and Fusion is the strongest it’s ever been. Thanks to recent updates, my favorite mode now provides better image quality when capturing the change of light over a period and enables capturing a time lapse in day-to-night scenarios.

To break it down, on HERO7 Black, ISO settings can reach 1600 with RAW enable when using manual shutter speed, increasing light sensitivity. Whereas on Fusion, ISO settings can now be set to 800 with RAW enabled to get amazing details with the new Beta Firmware v2.0. Plus, Fusion Studio also has been updated to read edited RAW photos for easier stitching.

The Top Reasons to Use Night Lapse Photo Mode:

  • The GoPro stores every individual photo shot during the timeframe, enabling more creative editing in post processing.
  • You can capture long exposures up to 10s when using AUTO Shutter set to ISO range of 100 to 800.
  • Auto interval settings allow for smooth transitions of light in day-to-night time lapses, or vice versa.
  • The resulting set of photos provides the option to stack images in post to create the elusive “star trail” still image (pictured below).

RAW Night Lapse Photo shot with HERO7 Black set to auto interval, 30s shutter, ISO 1600, edited and stacked in post.

RAW Night Lapse Photo shot with Fusion at 1 minute interval, 30s shutter, ISO 800, eited and stacked in post.

The Beauty of RAW Fusion Photos:

Fusion’s Beta Firmware v2.0 has brought RAW photo capabilities to Night Photo, Time Lapse and Night Lapse Photo modes, and it’s exactly what we’ve been waiting for to make photos like the following happen. The proof is in the details, so look closely.

The RAW capabilities capture stunning shadow details, which were not possible earlier with camera jpg files. This image was shot in RAW, edited and stitched together with the latest Fusion Studio 1.4.

Scenario-Based Tips and Tricks:

  1. Day-to-Night Transitions: Turn on Night Lapse Photo Mode and use the following settings:
    • Shutter: AUTO (On auto, shutter speed is limited to 10s)
    •  Interval: AUTO
    • EV Comp: -1 (this allows for the sensor’s maximum dynamic range)
    • ISO: Min 100 and Max 800
    • White Balance: AUTO
    • Sharpness: Low
    • Color: Flat
  2. Post-Twilight Night Lapse Mode: Shooting at night is dependent on lighting, which you can learn about in-depth here, or you can use these general rules when shooting in Night Lapse Mode:
    • Shutter Speed and ISO: This depends on the brightness of the moon. 
      • When there is no moon: 30s at ISO 1600
      • When the moon is bright: 15s at ISO 800
      • When the moon is at your back: 30s at ISO 800
    • Interval: AUTO
    • EV Comp: 0
    • White Balance: 4000K
    • Sharpness: Low
    • Color: Flat
  3. Daytime Time Lapse Mode: When shooting in the day with bright light, ND filters can be used with HERO7 Black to create dreamy motion-blurred time lapse videos. For example, a ND1000 filter will stop the light 10x compared to the regular exposure working with available light. However, for a regular time lapse the following settings are recommended:
    • Shutter: AUTO
    • Interval: AUTO (GoPro defaults to 0.5s, but the longer the scene, a higher interval is recommended)
    • EV Comp: -1 (this allows for the sensor’s maximum dynamic range)
    • ISO: Min 100 and Max 3200
    • White Balance: AUTO
    • Sharpness: Low
    • Color: Flat

Pro Tip: When the Shutter is set to AUTO, the ISO maxes out at 800 and the shutter speed will be limited to 10s, resulting in an underexposed shot lighting is inadequate. To counteract this, lock your ISO to one of the recommended settings above and let the GoPro work it’s time-lapsing magic.

To get more time & night lapse inspo, follow @shreeniclix on Instagram.