GoPro Burst Mode vs Continuous Photo

The Burst Mode and Continuous Photo functions on GoPros are useful ways to capture fast-moving action. Here's a rundown of how they work, how they're different, and what options are available.

When you’re taking photos with a GoPro, you’ll find that the shutter button is quite sluggish. It’s hard to use it to precisely capture a fleeting moment with a single shot.

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But most GoPros have some very useful workarounds built in to combat this–a couple of different ways to capture fast sequences of photos of quick action: Burst Mode and Continuous Photo. These offer a very useful way to maximize your chances of capturing the shot you want when things are moving fast.

These photo shooting modes are quite similar–both are methods for capturing rapid sequences of photos–but there are some key differences with how they work. Specifically, with Burst Mode, the number of photos and the interval are set. With Continuous Photo, the interval is set but you control the number by holding down the shutter button to shoot.

The “normal” way of taking photos is that when you press the shutter it takes one photo. If you want to take another photo, you press the shutter again. That’s not how both of these modes work. They’re multi-shot modes that take a number of images in a certain amount of seconds. Put in video terms, that’s framerate. The fastest still photo framerate currently available on any of the GoPros is 30 photos per second (or 30 fps). The maximum number of photos in any sequence is 30 (but with some cameras it will keep taking new sequences).

Not every GoPro has both Burst Mode and Continuous Photo, and not every camera that has them has the same options available. You can find more detail below on which GoPro has what burst mode and continuous photo options.

Burst Mode

Burst Mode captures a preset number of images in a set amount of time. Put another way, both the number and interval parameters are set. So it might be 30 frames in 1 second or 10 frames in 2 seconds, or whatever you’ve set it to on a particular camera. As an example, if you’ve set the 30/1 option, it will take 30 photos in 1 second and then stop. If you want to take another sequence, you’d press the shutter again.

There is a slight exception with how this works on the newer Black editions, which is the addition of a new Auto option in Burst mode. Basically, this adjusts the framerate to account for exposure. So rather than, say, taking 30 photos in 1 second no matter what, it takes up to 30 photos in 1 second, and if low-light conditions require exposures longer than 1/30 second for a correct exposure, the camera will automatically factor that in an produce fewer images within that 1 second. It’s a little confusing to explain, so I’ve put together some practical examples separately.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of which GoPros have what burst mode framerates available.

Burst Mode Framerates (Photos/Seconds)
HERO7 BlackAuto, 30/1, 30/2, 30/3, 30/6, 10/1, 10/2, 10/3, 5/1, 3/1
HERO7 Silver15/1
HERO7 White15/1
Fusion30/1, 30/2, 30/3, 30/6, 10/1, 10/2, 10/3, 5/1, 3/1
HERO6 BlackAuto, 30/1, 30/2, 30/3, 30/6, 10/1, 10/2, 10/3, 5/1, 3/1
HERO (2018)10/1
HERO5 Black30/1, 30/2, 30/3, 30/6, 10/1, 10/2, 10/3, 5/1, 3/1
HERO5 Session30/1, 30/2, 30/3, 30/6, 10/1, 10/2, 10/3, 5/1, 3/1
HERO Session10/1, 10/2, 5/1, 3/1
HERO4 Black30/1, 30/2, 30/3, 30/6, 10/1, 10/2, 10/3, 5/1, 3/1
HERO4 Silver30/1, 30/2, 30/3, 30/6, 10/1, 10/2, 10/3, 5/1, 3/1
HERO4 Session10/1, 10/2, 5/1, 3/1
HERO3+ Black30/1, 30/2, 30/3, 30/6, 10/1, 10/2, 10/3, 5/1, 3/1
HERO3+ Silver10/1, 5/1, 3/1
HERO3 Black30/1, 30/2, 30/3, 30/6, 10/1, 10/2, 10/3, 5/1, 3/1
HERO3 Silver10/1, 10/2, 5/1, 3/1
HERO (2014)10/2
HD HERO210/1
HD HERO-
The framerates used here are in the form of number of photos/number of seconds. So 30/1 is 30 photos in 1 second and 10/2 is 10 photos in 2 seconds. Put in conventional video framerate terms of frames per second (fps), those would be 30fps and 5fps.

The simplicity of Burst Mode is appealing, but there are situations where it’s not ideal. You can end up with a a lot of wasted shots. And the camera is busy while it’s taking its sequence–less of an issue with the faster sequences but more of an issue with the longer, slower ones.

Fields of View

The fields of view available in Burst Mode vary with each camera. Newer models, like the HERO7 Black, you have the option of the processed FOV Linear as well as the standard Wide. Slightly older models give you the options of Wide, Medium, and Narrow. And others only have more limited options such as Wide and Medium available. But in general, you can use the FOVs that are available with regular still photos (those don’t always match up with FOVs available in the Video modes).

File Formats

Burt Mode only works with JPG images. You can’t save them as RAW files.

How to Shoot Burst Photos

On newer models like the HERO7 cameras, You access the Burst Mode under the regular Photo Mode. On older cameras, it’s under the Multi-Shot Mode section. You can then specify the burst rate and FOV and whether to use Protune (when available on that camera model).

With cameras with voice control, you have two options. To switch to Burst Mode, say “GoPro burst mode.” That changes the mode to Burst Mode, but it doesn’t start taking photos. You can also shoot a burst directly regardless of which mode the camera is in by saying “GoPro shoot burst.”

Continuous Photo

With Burst Mode, when you hit the shutter button, it will take the set number of photos in the set amount of time. With Continuous Photo, you hold the shutter down for as long as you want to keep capturing (up to 30 photos). That gives you control over when the camera stops shooting, reducing the number of wasted shots and also freeing up the camera to shoot afresh.

Continuous Photo was introduced to GoPros a bit after Burst Mode, but it has still been around for quite a while (since the HERO3 Black).

In older cameras, Continuous Photo is a separate shooting mode. So just as you would switch the shooting mode to time-lapse, you’d switch to Continuous Photo. On newer cameras, it’s not a separate shooting mode and is activated automatically when you hold down the shutter when in the Photo mode (and have appropriate options set).

Some cameras have a single framerate for Continuous Photo. The HERO7 Silver and HERO7 White, for example, shoot 4 frames per second. Some older models allow you to set the framerate, such as the HERO4 Black where you can select 10, 5, or 3 shots per second. New models, like the HERO7 Black, switch automatically between 30 frames per second or 3 frames per second depending on lighting conditions to try to ensure correct exposure.

Here’s a detailed breakdown on which GoPros have what Continuous Photo shooting options.

Continuous Photos Framerates (Photos/Seconds)
HERO7 Black30/1, 3/1
HERO7 Silver4/1
HERO7 White4/1
Fusion-
HERO6 Black30/1, 3/1
HERO (2018)-
HERO5 Black4/1
HERO5 Session5/1
HERO Session-
HERO4 Black10/1, 5/1, 3/1
HERO4 Silver10/1, 5/1, 3/1
HERO4 Session
HERO3+ Black10/1, 5/1, 3/1
HERO3+ Silver-
HERO3 Black10/1, 5/1, 3/1
HERO3 Silver-
HERO (2014)-
HD HERO2-
HD HERO-
The framerates used here are in the form of number of photos/seconds. So 30/1 is 30 photos in 1 second and 10/1 is 10 photos in 1 second. Put in conventional video framerate terms of frames per second (fps), those would be 30fps and 10fps, but in this case the result is a sequence of still images.

File Formats

Continuous photos only works if you set the image filetype to JPG before you start shooting the sequence. If you have it set to RAW (.gpr), it only saves a single image and won’t take a rapid sequence.

Limitations and Things to Know

Both Burst Mode and Continuous Photo only work with standard JPG photo mode. They won’t work if you’ve selected RAW as the photo file format, and in general they won’t work with features that require processing of the images, such as HDR/WDR or SuperPhoto. Protune Photo options are available in Burst Mode when that camera has Protune Photo options available.

On the newer camera models, continuous and burst modes are handled a little differently when you’re playing them back on the camera’s screen. They’re treated as sequences, and they’ll auto play. If you hit the delete icon (trash can) it will give you the option of deleting the entire series of just an individual photo.

More GoPro Tips & Tricks:

This post was last modified on July 30, 2019 4:52 am

View Comments

  • Suppose there is a 5 second period that you want to capture and you don't necessarily need maximum rate of fire. Comparing the 3 options that let you cherry-pick the best moments, how will image quality compare: (a) shoot at 4k [pixel dimensions per frame of 3840 x 2160] in 30 fps, (b) burst 30 fps repeatedly, one more burst set after the previous [pixel dimensions of 3000 x 4000], and (c) continuously holding down the shutter release at 4 fps (Hero 5 black in this exercise) with pixel dimensions of 3000 x 4000? Probably the number of frames for each method will be (a) 5 seconds x 30 fps = 150 images that could be browsed to extract best frames, (b) 1 second x 30 fps burst, repeated 5 times =150 images at 3000x4000 pixels, and (c) 5 seconds x 4 fps = 20 images.

    • If I understand correctly what you're trying to do . . . in bright conditions there should be no difference in image quality. In lower light, the Auto burst mode option on the HERO7 Black and HERO6 Black (but not available on the HERO5 Black) increases the chances of a better-exposed image.

      One consideration, though, in running burst sequences back to back is that there is a lag as the images are saved before you can start a new sequence. That delay would prevent you from running 5 back-to-back 1-second bursts in a total of 5 seconds, for instance.

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