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Master the Modes: New HERO11 Night Effects


New year, new camera, new tricks, amirite? The new HERO11 Black and HERO11 Black Mini aren't just video monsters, they've also got some artistic prowess that they'd like to flex. The latest GoPros have three new Night Effects modes that appear to bend the very fabric of time as we know it.

Today, we're doing a deep dive on these three new modes. We'll explain what they are, why you should use them, and how you can get the best results. Let's goooo!

What are the night effects modes?

Put simply, there are three new night effects modes:

Star Trails

Light Painting

Vehicle Light Trails

Basically, the camera takes a series of long exposure photos and composites them together into one image or video file. This is the kind of wizardry that night photographers do all the time in post-production, but it typically takes them a fair amount of manual labor or at minimum some hefty computing power, especially in the case of star trails. Not anymore! The HERO11 Black line does all of that instantly, and right in the camera so you can review it right away.

Not only that, but instead of just spitting out a plain image, the camera gives you a video! Essentially it creates an animation of all the layers of images that get stacked onto each other, so you can see how it came together, and you can share the video itself, or using the GoPro Quik app, you can just snag the perfect screen grab and share it as a still.

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PRO TIP: For all three Night Effects, you have the option to choose 4K or 5.3K. When in doubt, go big. If you're pulling screengrabs from the resulting 5.3K video, it will net you a crispy 15.8 megapixel (MP) still image vs. 8MP from a 4K video.

While each of the new modes work similarly to each other, there are some variations between them, as well as some recommended techniques for each of them. Let's talk about what they have in common first.

Aside from resolution, mentioned above, there are a few main parameters that you might want to adjust if you're trying to go pro (as they say): Shutter, ISO and Trail Length.

Let's start with Shutter.That's how long your camera's sensor will be exposed to light each time it takes an image. For most of the modes you can choose 0.5 seconds all the way up to 30 second Shutter speeds. Generally speaking, the darker the subject is (i.e. the scene you're shooting) the longer you want your exposure time to be, with an inky black sky being about as dark as it gets.

You may also want to adjust the ISO(that's the sensitivity of the image sensor), with the higher number netting you a brighter image. The thing to remember about ISO is that the higher you go the more digital noise you're going to get, so we recommend adjusting the Shutter first and then raising the ISO if you need to.

The other most important parameter you can tweak is Trail Length.Here the options are short, long or max, and the one you choose is really going to depend on the look you're after. We'll dive into this in more detail for each specific mode, but the short version is that this setting dictates the actual length of the respective trail.

Pro Tip: For all three of these modes, wobble, vibration, or really any movement of the camera itself is the enemy. You want to have your GoPro securely mounted to a tripod or at least a stable surface. These modes all have Scheduled Capture and Timer options, and you should use them! Timer is our recommendation, so you can set the GoPro to start capture three seconds after you press the shutter button. This eliminates extra movement (albeit unintentional) from the initial press and any accidental bumpage.

The following are the best practices for capturing with HERO11 Night Effects.

Star Trails

While all three of the new modes are cool, Star Trails might just be the cooooolest. Stacking photos of the night sky in post can be a real pain, and all the work doesn't necessarily guarantee a slick animated video. Star trails, in general, are created by the rotation of the Earth, so if you can find the North Star, you will notice that all of the other stars in the sky swirl around it. Its art meets SCIENCE! Seriously, HERO11 uses the Earth's rotation to help create Star Trails.

Star Trails are super simple. All you have to do is find a space with a relatively clear view of the night sky, select your Trail Length and press record.

For Trail Length, we recommend going with Long or Max. As the name suggests, this will give you nice, long streaks that create some sweet arcs across the sky. Alternatively, Short will create an interesting effect where it looks like each star is a comet with a tail, but it won't be as good for saving a still photo later.

PRO TIP: If you are looking to offset an exceptionally dark sky, play with Shutter and ISO settings. You'll likely get the best results if you set the shutter to a full 30 seconds. And depending on how that looks, you can also crank the ISO up to 800 or even 1,600.

A Star Trails capture may take 20 minutes or even multiple hours, depending on the trail length you chose. We recommend doing a quick test shot before committing. The last thing you want to do is shoot for a long time and then check your camera, only to find that the whole scene was blown out or too dark. Instead, shoot for just a minute and then stop and take a look at the image and tweak settings accordingly.

Light Painting

This one is a classic. If you've played with long exposure photography at night, then you've probably tried writing your name or drawing a smiley-face with a flashlight. The HERO11 Black (and Mini) take that to the next level. First, it eliminates having to scramble and write (backwards) super quickly, because you can set the duration to as long as you want
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