Cameras keep getting more compact and convenient for recording things like concerts, nature hikes, family events and even extreme sports POV shots. Action cams like those in the SJCAM series allow you to stay in the moment and fully enjoy whatever you’re doing without being distracted by the hassles of managing a handheld device. While action cams can be just as powerful as larger professional cameras, capturing high-quality footage with them requires some extra technique. Here are some tips for getting the best shots with your action cam.
If you’re still trying to decide which action cam works best for your needs, take a look at the technical specifications. There are dozens of companies making similar products, and cost and quality don’t always correlate, so if you’re trying to decide between an expensive and a moderately priced camera, carefully compare the details to see if there’s really that big of a difference between them. HD videos and pictures can quickly take up a lot of memory, so if you plan on using your camera a lot, make sure to purchase one with ample digital storage space. Having multiple resolution and frame-rate options offers versatility when you’re out shooting; for example, some cameras let you lower the resolution so that you can record longer videos when you’re short on memory or power.
When choosing a camera, consider which type of activities you will be using it for and what accessories are available to help you out. Head straps can be especially useful for sports that require a helmet such kayaking, spelunking, and climbing. If you’re recording in the wilderness, carry along a battery bank to make sure that you don’t run out of juice, and keep an extra memory card or two handy for when your internal storage is full. You should also invest in an extra lens cap and a carrying case to keep your equipment in good condition since you’ll likely be traveling with it.
One of the biggest challenges when using an action cam is controlling shakiness. Fortunately, the SJCAM series is compatible with dozens of affordable mounts and stands that are ideal for specific uses like biking and driving. Many action photographers prefer chest mounts to head mounts because they offer a more exciting viewpoint. If you’re skiing, for example, you can capture your hands and your skis in the frame without looking down at an angle. Chest mounts are also generally more stable since the camera doesn’t move when you turn your head. You can even find small monopods for your action cam to get the perfect still shot.
Don’t leave your camera’s settings on default. Familiarize yourself with the options available to you. Most action cameras are equipped with a wide angle lens, which is ideal for capturing shots of mountain ranges and stage shows; however, many cams allow you to adjust to a medium or narrow view, which is better for focusing up-close on specific objects such as faces. Distortion around the edges of images is a common issue with wide lenses, so try a different setting if you’re not happy with what you’re seeing.
Photographers are trained to focus on their subjects’ faces; however, when recording someone else running, surfing or snowboarding, try keeping the camera aimed at their lower body. Watching someone run from the torso up isn’t very exciting, so make sure to get their legs in the frame. Many of the basic principles of still photography apply when recording action shots. Factor in the position of your light source, and get as close to your subject as possible. When trying to record audio, angle your camera in the direction the wind is blowing rather than against it to reduce background noise.
Setting up your shot and hitting the record button is only half of the battle when it comes to producing great footage. The magic of editing can make mundane footage look like a Hollywood action film. Tinker with preset filters before and after you record to get an idea of what works best for different situations. For example, a red tinted filter can make underwater shots look clearer. If you’re shooting in the snow and the image looks overexposed, try applying a neutral density filter. Altering the white balance can improve your view in both dim and bright settings. It’s easy to get lost for hours in all of the options. Experimenting is the best way the perfect your eye for editing.
WiFi capabilities add a whole new level of convenience to your experience. If your action cam comes with WiFi, take the time to learn how to use it as the features will make capturing and editing much easier. For instance, the SJ4000 with WiFi can be controlled remotely with a mobile device thanks to a free mobile app for iOS and Android. You’ll get a clear, live view of what you’re recording, and you can review photos and videos before storing them onto your memory card. WiFi also makes it simple to quickly share your footage with friends and family on social media.
Practice makes perfect, so carry your new cam around with you for a few days to get a feel for its capabilities. The time you spend honing your photography skills will show in the pictures and videos you take.