Best GoPro Night Lapse Settings | HERO4

A comprehensive guide to the GoPro HERO4 Night Mode Settings

This tutorial is one of three Night Lapse tutorials in which I uncover the keys to creating a quality night lapse. Here we cover all the night mode and Protune settings that are needed for each type of night lapse. We will mainly focus on shutter speed, and ISO as they are the settings that need the most frequent adjustment and heavily impact your shot.

Night Lapse Example – What you will be able to do after a tutorial or two and a little practice:

GoPro 4 Night Lapse – The Sky Comes Alive on Vimeo.



If you want to get stellar night lapses (no pun intended) I suggest you continue your Night Lapse education after this tutorial by following our crash course.

The first tutorialGoPro Setup and All Night Filming — covers what items you need for the setup and the film elements that make for a great night lapse. The final tutorial— Post Production Editing & Color Correction —will help you import/create the night lapse, and enhance the color to bring out the stars. Check out those tutorials if you are already a master of the night mode settings, but as for everyone new to GoPro night photography or trying to improve their night photos, this is a good place to start.

Night Photo Example: (this is a final product you can expect after doing some simple color correction)

GoPro HERO4 Night Mode

The Basics:

I hope you’re excited because the GoPro night mode is an awesome new feature and my personal favorite. The GoPro Hero4 Night Photo/Lapse allows you to capture amazing photos and time lapses on the darkest nights, at sunset, or on a night drive through a city. The difference between night photo and night lapse is that the latter allows you to capture a series of photos over a specific period of time and then compile it into a video like you see above. On a good night to film and a little practice and you’ll be on your way to shooting spectacular night lapses and single night photos.

If you are more interested in single night photos, note that single images can often appear grainy due to the fact that still images can be analyzed in far greater depth than a moving night lapse. To ensure quality you may need to further experiment with lighting, settings, and color correction. I find night photos turn out best when there’s slightly more light and there’s a focus object in the frame. This is because you can lower the ISO and the sensor picks up more color in lighter environments which overall allows for a sharper, clearer picture. For some inspiration, know that my best night photos where taken during night drives through the city or at outdoor events like a fair or concert.


Clearly it’s possible to capture high quality Night Photos/lapses with the GoPro, and I’m sure you’re antsy for the secrets to getting crisp night images. So here is my break down of the

Best GoPro HERO4 night lapse settings for the most common uses.

If you have a question at any point, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. I’ll do my best to help and give you more examples if needed.

Here’s a reference chart of the GoPro buttons and all the symbols for night mode/protune settings so you can follow along with all the technical terms.

gopro
large_iconkey

 

Cheat Sheet:

Before I get to far ahead of myself, if you need a quick reference before going out to film a night lapse, here is my main setup. Granted, this configuration doesn’t work for all situations but it is perfect for filming the stars and night sky.

Shutter: 30s
Interval: Continuous
MegPixels: 12mp Wide
Spot Meter: Off
Protune: on
White Balance: 3000K
Color: GoPro
ISO: 800
Sharpness = MED
EV Comp: n/a

For those who seek understanding that will allow you to maximize your filmmaking and use each setting to your advantage, I made this post just for you so let’s dive into it.


Getting to night lapse mode:
  • Turn on your gopro and press the mode/power button until multishot is on the viewing screen.
  • Next, select the settings/tab button on the right side of the camera and the multishot settings should come up.
  • Change the mode setting (the first option) to night lapse using the shutter/select button

Shutter Speed:

After you have enabled Night Lapse, you need to adjust the shutter speed. The shutter speed is by far the most influential setting how a night lapse turns out, and finding the correct speed is often challenging with the options ranging from under 0.5 sec up to 30 seconds. It took me quite a bit of experimentation to master shutter speed along with all of protune, and I’m here to save you the headache and 50 gigs worth of failed night lapses (damn I wish GoPro would have just install a LCD in the HERO4 black).

To adjust the shutter speed, stay in the night lapse settings which you just navigated to and follow these steps:

  • Starting from the multishot mode, select the settings button on the right side of your GoPro
  • Next, scroll down using the shutter button and change the mode to night
  • In order to highlight shutter speed, press the mode/power button
  • Press the shutter button to arrive at your desired shutter speed
Settings Examples
2 sec, 5 sec, 10 sec Use at dawn, dusk, twilight, or in situations with a relatively bright light source in the frame. Some ideas: traffic at night, concert seats filling up, Ferris wheel, fireworks, or a flashlight painting.
20 Sec Use to film the night sky if there is too much light pollution (full moon or cities).

 

Personally, I will always use a 30 sec shutter speed for filming the night sky unless my test footage came back way over exposed (too bright). It’s easier to tone down over exposed areas in post production than it is to bring out the stars and colors of an under exposed lapse.

30 Sec Used to film the stars, Milky Way, and almost every dark environment.

 

30 sec shutter picks up the most light and is the Goto speed for most night sky lapses, and night photography even if there is a source of light from the moon or foreground lighting. (foreground lighting is an essential for giving the lapse a focal point. Learn all about it and composure in my first night lapse tutorial).

Auto Use at sunrise, sunset, dawn, dusk, twilight (the shutter speed automatically adjusts between the fastest possible; 1/4096th of a second, and 2 seconds).

 

Basically, Auto is the best option for when there’s changing light conditions but I have always had a problem with sudden changes in image color as the sensor adjusts. Give it a try, but if it’s choppy just use a fast shutter speed like 2 sec for capturing a more smooth transition from night to day and vice versa. I mainly use Auto for night drives where the amount of surrounding light is usually changing as in the video below.

 

Here’s an example of using the auto shutter speed while driving:

ISO:

ISO is responsible for the camera’s sensitivity to light and balances the brightness and resulting image noise. As a rule of thumb, usually photographers opt for a lower ISO (makes the image darker) and a higher exposure (brightens image) when dealing with low light environments. This is because ISO is responsible for much of the noise or grain in a picture and a higher ISO hurts the quality.

The GoPro is remarkable for a $400 camera, but with such a small body and low price they couldn’t pack the best sensor in. As a result you will be forced to use the max ISO of 800 for most night lapse shots when there is no considerable light source. This is not terrible because the GoPro pictures are very high resolution and a little post production color correction can help fix the majority of the noise. Grain or noise is barely visible if you capture a night lapse following my instructions, but as for night photos you might have a little more of a challenge as I mentioned earlier.

Key points:  

  • High ISO = More light and more noise
  • Set ISO to 800 for filming the night sky, and set to 400 for most all other lighter environments.
  • Try to avoid high ISO if taking single night photos
  • Exposure over ISO whenever possible

I set the ISO to 800 for all instances where I’m filming the night sky, or completely dark environments. Set the ISO to 400 for time lapses/photos taken at dawn, dusk, sunrise…etc. Also use 400 for night photography when the object of interest is lit up such as a city, building, car ride, Ferris wheel and many more cases.

There is never one perfect setting and ISO is something I like to adjust after I take a few test images.

White Balance:

White Balance refers to adjust the color tone, in short, the warmth of a picture. Using a lower white balance ie. 3000K will give your lapse a cool blue tone which is ideal for night lapses.

  • If you want to go in for a blue tone while shooting at night, you can select 3000K in the white balance setting. I use 3000K WB for filming most night lapses, and I found Native White Balance (no white balance correction) to be the only viable alternative. You can do the majority of work with image warmth and white balance in post production so don’t worry to much.
  • However, if you don’t want to disturb the warmth emitted by the natural light source, avoid using the white balance setting. Auto WB is great for letting in warmth when you need more color.

WB: 3000K | Other Settings constant

WB

WB: 6500K | Other Settings constant

6500k gopro

I think you get the idea…

The Remaining Settings:

Interval: Continuous (always)

MegPixels: 12mp Wide  (always)

Spot Meter: Off

  • Spot meter is for instances where you are filming from inside your house or car and trying to capture something outside a window. Normally this doesn’t work well because the camera is automatically atuned to the immediate lighting so everything outside appears too bright or too dark. By enabling spot meter, the GoPro acts as if it were a few meters in front of you, basically placing itself in the outside environment and adjusting it’s light intake accordingly.
  • I enable spot meter for night lapses when I’m filming from within a car, like in the video above, so that the camera picks up more detail of surrounding environment.

Protune: on (always)

Color: GoPro (always)

Sharpness: MED (can change to high if the environment is well lit up and you are filming with a fast shutter speed)

EV Comp: n/a (nit picky setting. Keep n/a always)




Here are some extra pro tips before you are on your way.  (further reading can be found on my GoPro night lapse tutorial part 1 – The Setup)

  1. Stability. A stable camera is essential for capturing clear images and Night Lapses. The exposure/shutter speeds in both Night modes leaves the sensor open over an extended period to capture the minimal amount of light present. This extended period of the shutter speed also means that slight movements will be much more prevalent in a night photo, especially when using a longer shutter, and leads to blurring and distortion. Consequently, the integrity of the GoPro mount becomes crutial, far more important than a stable mount for even standard Time Lapse modes.
  2. Versatility and Stability.When I look for GoPro accessories that are best for night lapses/time lapses I look for stability as we established, but also versatility is a large criteria. I want accessories that allow me to get creative shots and that hard to get angle. More than that, I want an accessory that I can use for many more things outside of night lapses and photography. So here are some of my absolute favorite accessories for night lapses and far more.

GoPro 3-Way Arm

 

 

 

3 way
3Way_H3Plus_Standard_Grip_Arm_Tripod(sml)-800x800
   The winner for versatility is a no brainer. The GoPro 3-way can be configured in three ways—a grip, selfie stick, or tripod. The tripod is exceptional and I love the fact that I can be filming with the grip and quickly set the camera down for a time lapse whenever the situation calls for it. The tripod is screwed upside down into the handle the device has a set of three small legs. All you need to do is flip around the legs and twist them back into the handle to get your tripod. Fast, easy, reliable and always accessible.

 

GoPro Jaws flex clamp
 

jaws

Both the accessories allow you to quickly set up your camera for a time lapse in any environment. The Jaws flex clamp from GoPro has a flexible neck that allows you to reposition your camera for the perfect angle. I like the Jaws clamp because I can put my GoPro almost anywhere, get creative shots, and know the camera will be stable. The tips on the simple tension clamp move slightly and securely grab any irregular shapes like your skateboard, a railing, a tree branch, or a car trailer. This is great for night lapses because usually I’m setting up in rugged environments, and it’s much easier and cheaper to use than a tripod.

 

Panavise 809 suction-cup mounts

Suction Cup Mount GoPro

The suction cup mount is absolutely key for getting great night drive time lapses. I actually just bought one and can’t wait to start using it. The suction mount is for use inside or outside the car and the metal arm has 140-degree upward movement and you can tilt the camera 210 degrees or rotate it 360 degrees. Ultimately, this mount let’s you film dynamic night lapse edits and allows for untamed creativity for different shots. You can film all the perspectives of the car, inside and out, film backwards and all directions, and the panavise sunction cup has a reputation for being incredibly stable and reliable—although I wouldn’t try and scale a building with it.


Well I hope you are now well informed on how to setup your camera to capture a night photo or night lapse. But don’t stop there! A great night lapse only comes when you plan out a good shot, are properly prepared, and have the ability to edit out any flaws in post production.
Learn about the entire process or specific aspects of night lapses through my comprehensive GoPro Tutorials.
I will answer any questions sent to me or left in the comments below, and I would love to see the night lapses you share with me. Oh, and don’t forget about the Amazon Gift Card Giveaway!

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Thanks for reading and good luck with your night photography,
The Viabell Team

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