Traditionally, control over camera elements like the ISO limit, white balance and shutter speed have been reserved for pro-grade DSLRs and other large cameras. With the introduction of features like GoPro Protune, even compact action camera users can gain more granular control over their footage.
If you’ve recently bought a GoPro and are wondering what on earth GoPro Protune even is, this article should clear up your confusion. This page will explore GoPro Protune in detail, discussing its features, the GoPro cameras that have it, and which users could benefit from it.
GoPro Protune Overview
Protune settings are built into several GoPro cameras and give users increased control over aspects of their images. If you plan to edit your photos later on, it’s probably best to turn Protune on. These settings make your GoPro images much easier to edit with professional editing software.
To be clear, Protune is designed to be used by everyone; you don’t have to be a professional to take stunning GoPro images. It’s sort of like changing your GoPro into manual mode.
This section will list the elements of your photos that can be improved with GoPro Protune settings enabled.
Shutter Speed Control
If you’re wondering what the shutter speed setting even is, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. The shutter speed of your setup determines how long the shutter of your camera stays open for each shot. In effect, this influences how much light gets to the sensor of your GoPro.
The ability to change the shutter speed on your GoPro can prove useful in adapting to a variety of different lighting environments. Use a faster shutter speed in well lit environments and opt for a slower setting if you want to create cool light trails or adapt to low light scenarios.
ISO Limit Changes
Another useful tool in the Protune settings is the ability to tweak the ISO of your GoPro. While the speed of your shutter determines how much light gets to your camera sensor, the ISO setting effects how sensitive the sensor is to light in the first place.
ISO limit is one corner of what photographers call the “exposure triangle”. Essentially, this makes it a useful weapon in your arsenal when using your GoPro in a broad range of different lighting conditions. Protune can give users some much-needed control over this aspect of photography.
White Balance Adjustments
The human eye and brain do a phenomenal job of perceiving natural color tone and color temperature. Digital cameras have to do a lot of work to achieve the same results. White balance is related to the final color result of your image. Poorly optimize one way, and your photo will appear too blue.
Go too far in the other direction, and your image might be blown out and orange. Protune settings make it much easier to adjust your white balance and maximise the color accuracy of your shots.
A shorthand description of exposure is that it effects the overall brightness of your final image. With Protune, you can tweak your exposure compensation up or down in increments of 0.5. This means that if you think your image is a little too bright or dark, you can tweak your settings to find a look that works for you.
It’s worth mentioning that this Protune setting is tied to the ISO limit you choose. This is because exposure and ISO settings are inextricably linked in digital photography. Your Protune exposure compensation won’t adjust past the ISO limit you chose in your settings.
If you turn Protune settings on, you’ll have a choice of two approaches to color correction:
- GoPro Color
Both of these will treat the color temperature and tone of your photos differently. GoPro Color is generally brighter and more vibrant in its approach to color correction, while Flat aims to make your photos look as natural as possible. Each of these settings will work better for different environments.
It’s worth playing around with both options and learning which fits your tastes better.
Protune gives GoPro users control over the overall sharpness of their photos. There are three broad Protune categories to choose from for sharpness: high, medium and low. The sharpness setting that’s right for you will depend on your image preferences.
As a general rule, however, it might be best to switch to medium or low if you plan to use editing software later on.
The nature of GoPro cameras means they’re likely to be used outdoors a lot of the time. For this reason, sonic interference from sources like wind and ambient noise are more likely to be an issue than usual.
One of the settings provided by Protune allows users to adjust their camera’s sensitivity to noise and tweak the level of audio processing that’s used to tune out unwanted noise. The following audio settings are available when you turn on Protune:
- Low (very minor corrections)
- High (more substantial processing)
This isn’t always immediately obvious when you turn Protune on, but the suite of features also covers your video recording. Primarily, Protune ups the bitrate that your videos are recorded in, reducing the amount of compression that’s used on each file.
There’s two things to keep in mind about this:
- This generally leads to higher-resolution videos that are clearer and better quality
- Your average file size is likely to increase
Using Protune can give a welcome boost to your video quality. Just make sure you’re using a big enough SD card to handle the bigger file size.
This one isn’t exactly a Protune feature but it’s worth mentioning just in case. Let’s say you’ve been messing around with your GoPro color and other Protune options for quite a while and you’ve forgotten what the default mode even looks like.
The Protune resest option lets you immediately revert back to the default settings that your GoPro was using when you first took it out of the box. This option can come in handy when shooting outdoors.
Which GoPro Cameras Use Protune?
Knowing what Protune actually does is half the battle. You’ll also need to make sure your specific GoPro has the Protune options you’re looking for. The settings can be found on the following GoPro cameras:
- Hero3 silver (+all other editions)
- Hero Session and Hero 4 Session
- Hero4 black
- Hero4 session
- GoPro Hero5
- Hero5 session
- Hero 6
- Hero 7
- Hero 8
- Hero 9
- Gopro Max
If you’re using an older model, you’re out of luck. Check out this GoPro community page for more details.
Should I Use Protune?
Knowing about Protune features like Gopro color is all well and good, but is it actually worth using them at all? We think it’s well worth it if you have a little patience, but it’s far from essential either. The thing is, since around the GoPro Hero5, these cameras have come with pretty impressive default settings out of the box.
What this means for casual users is that you can usually just point your camera at a subject and still get an impressive photo with it, especially when your lighting conditions are good. Where Protune becomes most useful is when you know you have specific requirements for your image.
We’ll run through a few examples of this below.
Are You Working in Low Light Conditions?
If you’re shooting at night or in conditions where your available light is limited, Protune can be an absolute godsend. Adjusting things like ISO and shutter speed can allow you to adapt far more flexibly to whatever situation you find yourself in.
The trick is to practice using Protune as much as possible. Consider trying it out next time you’re with your GoPro and pay attention to which tweaks work best.
How do the Colors in Your Images Look?
If your GoPro footage or images aren’t looking the way you’d like them to, this could be because the default color correction on your camera isn’t pulling its weight. With Protune enabled, you’ll be able to adjust the settings on your camera and get your images looking perfect.
Pay attention to the colors of your images while shooting. If you don’t like what you see, it might be time to give Protune a try.
Are You Going to Edit Later On?
We touched on this earlier but it’s worth reiterating. Using certain manual settings will make it much easier to edit your images at a later date. This is especially true when it comes to the sharpness of your images.
If you plan to use an app or other editing software to adjust your photos in post, you’ll have a better time if you used Protune when shooting.
How Are Your Sound Conditions?
The option to use either high, medium or low level audio compensation when recording can prove very useful when working outside. The last thing you want when filming is to realize that your audio has let your work down.
While the processing capabilities of your average GoPro aren’t the best in the industry, changing your Protune settings can still improve your footage.
When You Don’t Need to Use GoPro Protune
We think that the higher quality that comes with Protune means that it’s generally worth using the settings as often as is practical. That said, there are a few scenarios where it’s probably not worth switching them on at all.
When You’re Trying to save Battery Life
Increased power means increased power consumption. Turning on Protune can significantly increase the amount of battery your camera needs to function. This is especially true of older models like the Hero4 silver.
If you know you’re far away from an extra battery or charging port, it might be worth keeping your unit in default mode for the time being.
When You Don’t Have Specific Requirements
If you don’t know the first thing about photography and just want to point your camera at something to get a decent image, Protune probably isn’t for you. In fact, if you really tried you could actually end up ruining your shot.
Throwing your ISO limit way up, for example, can result in a super blown out photo that isn’t great to look at. If you’re a camera-phobe, steer clear.
If Your Lighting is Perfect
If you’re in brilliant lighting conditions like a bright sunny day with a slightly overcast sky, you might not notice much of a difference between manual and automatic settings. It often becomes a question of how much patience you have to stand around messing with settings.
If you’re in rubbish conditions, the time is probably worth it. If your lighting is great anyway, it might be a waste of time.
If You’re Adding Audio in Post Production
This one is specific to the audio of your videos. A common approach to GoPro footage that was captured in particularly windy conditions is to simply mute the original video altogether.
If this is the method you like to use for your videos, it goes without saying that you’d be wasting your time if you fiddled with the audio processing settings on your GoPro.
We also wanted to reiterate that while they’re better than nothing, the Protune audio processing options in general leave a lot to be desired. It can sometimes be difficult to even notice a difference depending on your specific conditions.
We hope this article has helped to demystify the world of GoPro Protune settings. If we could leave you with one take-away, it would be to encourage you to give manual settings a go if you’ve never tried them before.
We understand that this kind of photography can be daunting thanks to its slew of jargon and learning curves. If you stick at it for a little while, though, you’ll soon realize that taking photos is a lot less complicated than many will have you believe.
With a little practice and determination, you’ll be taking killer GoPro shots in no time – happy shooting!