Have you ever wondered why the promotional videos for GoPro cameras look so different than what you are able to capture with the same exact camera? The difference is even more drastic for ski, snowboarding or sledding footage. Sure, they’re edited professionally. But it starts with using ideal settings to capture the best footage possible right in-camera.
Action cameras like GoPros have come a long way, now with batteries lasting longer than ever in cold conditions. But filming in winter scenery has remained tricky as ever. The problem is the automatic video setting.
Even the best action cameras out right now look amateurish when using the stock settings. The camera simply doesn’t know what it’s looking at. And when most of the image is pure white snow, it starts doing weird stuff resulting in videos with grey snow and horrible colors.
Recommended GoPro Hero 11 Black settings for winter footage:
- Framerate: 30 or 24 FPS (personal preference)
- Resolution: 4K or 5.3K (depending on FOV + FPS)
- Lens (Field of View): HyperView
- HyperSmooth (Stabilization): On
- Pro Controls: On
- 10-Bit Color: On
- Bit Rate: High
- Shutter speed: Auto
- EV Comp: +0.5 to +1.0
- White Balance: 4500K (sunny) to 6000K (cloudy)
- ISO min: 100
- ISO max: 3200
- Sharpness: Low or Medium (personal preference)
- Color: Flat profile
- RAW Audio: Off
- Wind (noise reduction): Off + wind muffler
- Video Mode: Highest Quality
- Everything else: Off
These are tweaked to work in snowy conditions when much of the scenery is white. Mainly the White Balance and EV Compensation are different from what you’d use normally.
Using these settings, the camera will only adjust the shutter speed and ISO automatically to adjust the exposure on the fly. Everything else is in your control for consistently high-quality footage!
Now let me explain the three most important GoPro settings for winter shooting. I’ll not go into every single one here but would recommend another article explaining all GoPro Hero 11 Video settings. And if you’re wondering how to activate Pro Controls (or Protune) on newer cameras, I’ll show you at the end of this article!
3 most important settings in winter
Recommended: +0.5 to +1.0
This is the most critical one! If you only adjust one setting, this is it.
Using the above settings, you GoPro is still exposing automatically by adjusting ISO and shutter speed. By setting an Exposure Value (EV), you can tell the camera how to expose: Over- or underexpose.
Now here’s the devil in the detail: With a lot of snow in the picture, the camera thinks everything’s too white and bright and makes the image darker. This is the culprit for the grey-looking snow in your GoPro footage!
In every other case, I use a negative EV, but in this case, a positive one may save your videos.
Unfortunately, even newer GoPros don’t feature a histogram or zebras to objectively judge exposure. So you’ll have to rely on your own eyes and the rear screen or phone screen (using the Quik app) to get the exposure right and prevent any over-exposure. Start out with +0.5 if in doubt.
Recommended: 4500K – 6000K
When left on auto WB, the camera will constantly color correct by itself. Now imagine the camera seeing mostly white snow and trying to compensate and reduce all that white color. This is why colors can look completely off and even change throughout a clip. No bueno.
Weird color fluctuations are the trademark of amateur footage. Luckily this is easy to fix!
This is an outdoor camera. And sunlight has a color temperature of around 5500 Kelvin. However, GoPros tend to create a warmer picture, so I prefer 5000K for normal sunny daylight. To create a cool look, you may even go down to 4500K for a nice chilly blue hue on your winter footage. On a really cloudy day, 6000K may be okay too to avoid a blue hue.
Easy as that. Set it and forget it.
Nothing is inherently wrong with the “Natural” or “Vibrant” color profiles. They provide the saturated colors and high contrast you’d expect from an action cam.
The problem for winter sports is, pure white snow against people and trees is already as high-contrast as it gets! So “Natural” or “Vibrant” tend to be strenuous to watch (just like high sharpness).
So, I suggest recording your winter sports exclusively in Flat. It preserves an even exposure and allows for popping color grading in post. Any over or underexposure from using high-contrast color profiles can’t be saved. That footage is ruined.
Remember: Contrast can be turned up in editing anytime.
Polarizer filter (PL & CPL)
Any kind of lens filter is usually only marginally useful on an action cam. For winter filming, however, polarizers are in fact a big help! They not only make the sky pop in a darker, saturated blue. Even more amazingly, polarizing filters reduce glare coming from highly reflective snow drastically!
There’re two types available: Slide-on polarizers that go over the lens cap, or screw-on filters replacing the lens cap. In any case, the bigger difference is between circular (CPL) and regular (PL) polarizers. CPLs can adjust the level of glare-reduction. With an action cam we’re talking about here, this can lead to unintentional adjustments. This is why I’d go for regular PL polarizing filters for a GoPro.
Wind (Noise Reduction)
In order to achieve the best possible audio quality, don’t use the menu option for wind noise reduction as this results in weird-sounding software distortion. Rather, leave wind noise off and muffle wind using a windsock or foam for crisp sound.
I glued dead cats and foam to my GoPro before, but think a full foam housing works best and is the easiest to use. That’s why I keep an HSU Windslayer on my GoPro or in my camera gear bag at all times.
HOWEVER, I can’t recommend it without restrictions! Using this in snow, there’s a high chance it will get wet and soaked reducing its effectiveness. So, feel free to experiment with the built-in software wind noise reduction first and see if you can live with that.
How to keep your GoPro warm in winter
Battery life decreases with colder temperatures. When shooting winter sports with additional chilling airflow, GoPro batteries really suffer. Here’re some tricks to extend your battery life in winter.
Try and keep the batteries at room temperature or at least above freezing. To do this, keep the (spare) battery inside your jacket to heat up with body heat and only insert it right before use. If the camera is wet from snow, dismount and warm up the whole camera rather than open the side door exposing the electronics.
The new “Enduro” batteries can handle the cold well, but this technique will extend their life even more.
How To Unlock Protune Settings for GoPro Hero 11
- On the main screen swipe down to reveal the menu.
- Swipe left to get to the second menu page.
- Tap on the button “Controls” in the lower left corner.
- Switch it from Easy Mode to “Pro Controls”.
- Done, now all the option ProTune settings are unlocked for you.
In order to gain access to the full list of settings, you need to activate the PRO setting on the second page of the main menu. The detailed video settings are accessed through the bottom menu of the main screen (viewfinder).