GoPros are best known for video. But they also have some useful and interesting features and characteristics for taking still photos. They don’t work quite the same way that more traditional cameras work, but they offer opportunities for some fun and interesting shots.
Save $170 on GoPro HERO9 Bundle
GoPro is currently running a deal on their latest flagship camera, the HERO9 Black. The deal includes a 1-year subscription to GoPro, an extra battery (in addition to the one that's usually included), and a 64GB SD card. The HERO9 also comes with a case. It's all for $349.98 and you can find more details here.
Some features of the HERO7 Black really stand out when it comes to taking still photos: the ultra-wide-angle fisheye perspective; auto-everything exposure1 and fixed-focus; fast burst mode shooting; and, most importantly, they’re small size and rugged build that lets you take them pretty much anywhere.
Depending on how you want to look at it, some of those features can be regarded as limitations or opportunities. The fixed ultra-wide-angle lens isn’t good for traditional portraits, for example, but it’s great for a close, immersive view or dramatic perspectives.2 The limited manual control over exposure does definitely limit what you can do, but the automatic settings also mean that there’s a good chance that you’ll get usable photos even from run-and-gun shooting.
There are definitely some limitations you have to work with or around. Even with flagship models like the HERO7 Black, the low-light performance is mediocre compared to many other cameras on the market today. And you’ll probably find yourself constantly fighting against the poor battery life.
But despite those negatives, I find the HERO7 Black to be a fun stills camera to shoot with. They’re particularly well suited to action shots, obviously–after all, that’s why they were invented in the first place–but they can also be a fun option for general travel photography or capturing family photos with a difference. Here’s a collection of photos I’ve taken with the GoPro HERO7 to give a sense of what it’s like for everyday shooting.
The HERO7 Black has a 12MP sensor which produces images in a 4:3 aspect ratio measuring 4000 by 3000 pixels. While 12MP is on the smaller size compared to many other cameras, it’s plenty big enough for sharing photos online and even making enlargement prints. You can shoot RAW with it using GoPro’s proprietary .gpr format (actually, it shoots RAW+JPG). It does technically have a zoom, but it’s a digital zoom rather than an optical zoom, and I don’t find it particularly useful. I have a separate post that goes into more details on the photo features and specs of the HERO7 Black.
Sample Images Taken with a GoPro HERO7 Black
All of these were shot with a HERO7 Black. Most of them were shot in GoPro’s RAW format, .gpr, and processed in Lightroom. Many of them had some boosting of local contrast.
Others were shot in JPG, particularly any that used burst mode (which only works with JPG).
GoPro also has a SuperPhoto feature, that combines in-camera enhancements such as HDR. I have found it to help with better-looking photos in some situations, but I also find that I can get better results in post-processing in Lightroom, so I rarely use SuperPhoto. None of the photos on this page use SuperPhoto, but I have some other examples here.