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GoPros are about the most popular cameras among adventurists and action sports lovers. The GoPro Hero camera line has seen several versions over the years, with different upgrades included in newer versions. Hence, learning how to use a GoPro has become sort of a recurring task. The latest release of GoPro is the Hero 9 Black, which features some significant changes from the Hero 8, and especially the Hero 7. So, for users used to the Hero 7, the Hero 9 might seem a bit strange. That’s why it’s best to stay updated on how to use a GoPro.

Setting up a GoPro

Unlike some other cameras that come in separate pieces, the GoPro Hero comes in full-body, making it easier to set up. However, for first-time users, it might look all strange. So, here’s how to set up a new GoPro.

1. Unbox new GoPro

The Hero 9 Black comes in a small box and is packaged in a compact camera travel case. The GoPro kit contains;

  • A camera
  • USB cable (Type C)
  • Battery
  • Curved adhesive mount
  • Thumbscrew for the mount
  • Mounting buckle
  • Pamphlets for GoPro subscription plans and user manual
  • Some kits also come with a memory card

To unpack the camera;

  • Remove travel case from the box;
  • Open travel case and remove disposable packing;
  • Remove and dispose plastic sleeve on camera;
  • Remove protector films on the lens, front display, and back display;
  • Remove other items from the recyclable case and recycle;
  • Return package content to travel case.

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GoPro kits that come with microSD often come with 32GB which can’t do much filming at high resolution. Getting a 256GB microSD is highly recommended for the Hero 9 Black.

2. Charge battery

Now that the camera is out of the box, the next step is to fix the battery and charge for use. Here are the steps involved;

  • Locate tab at the bottom of the camera and pull to lift side door open;
  • Insert microSD card with the chip facing camera front, push down till it clicks in;
  • Insert the battery into the slot allotted with the GoPro logo side facing camera front, push down to click in;
  • Plug the USB cable into the charging port and connect to a power source like a computer port, power pack, or wall charger (recommended rating is 5V, 1A);
  • Ensure the charger indicator turns red to indicate charging, which also goes off when fully charged. First charging should take about two and half hours to complete;
  • Remove charger once the battery is fully charged;
  • Close the side door and ensure the tab at the bottom clicks in to maintain the waterproof quality of the GoPro camera.

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A fully charged GoPro Hero 9 battery can only last about 90 minutes when filming at the highest resolution. Getting spare batteries and a GoPro Dual Battery Charger can help increase filming time.

3. Update to the latest firmware

Once the camera battery is in place and fully charged, it’s now okay to turn on the camera. Turning a new GoPro on for the first time requires some specific configurations to be done.

A vital part of the new camera configuration is the firmware update. Installing the latest GoPro software on the camera ensures that users enjoy the latest features GoPro has made available for the Hero version. However, it requires using the GoPro mobile app or at least using the GoPro website.

Here’s how to perform the GoPro firmware update;

  • Push the power button to turn on the camera;
  • Select language preference and proceed;
  • Agree to Legal stuff after reading;
  • Agree to turn on GPS, after which the camera goes into pairing mode;
  • Launch the GoPro app on a mobile device after installing;
  • Tap the camera icon at the bottom left of the app launch page;
  • Select “Add a camera” and tap “Connect camera.” Ensure the GoPro camera is in pairing mode before this;
  • Allow pairing through Bluetooth on a mobile device and wait for the successful connection prompt;
  • Change name of camera to preferred name or ignore the prompt;
  • Once the connection is established, a prompt for the firmware update will appear; tap on “Accept and continue” to agree to the legal stuff and proceed;
  • The app will download the latest software for the GoPro camera on the phone and transfer the file to the camera’s microSD;
  • Upon complete transfer, the file is installed on the camera, and the firmware update is done. Confirmed by a checkmark displayed on both the app and the camera display.

How to use a GoPro

After completing the initial setup of the GoPro, it’s all down to figuring out how to use a GoPro efficiently. GoPro has designed the Hero 9 Black to be operated as a mobile device with touch screen controls. However, there are other components on the camera that need to be mastered as well.

Parts and functions

The GoPro Hero 9 Black is a small action camera with few moving parts. Be that as it may, the camera body design is made to function perfectly in extreme conditions.  Here are the GoPro body parts and their functions;

  1. Power/mode button. The power button, which also doubles as the mode button, is located on the side of the GoPro. Holding the button down switches the camera on or off. While clicking on the button once the camera is on will change the camera mode between video, photo, and time-lapse modes.
  2. Shutter button. The shutter button can be visibly seen on top of the camera. Tapping the shutter button will start or stop a recording or take a photo shot depending on the camera mode activated.
  3. A lens with a removable cover. While the GoPro Hero 9 Black lens is not interchangeable, the lens cover is now detachable. This means it can be cleaned if dirty or replaced if broken. The lens cover can also be replaced with a media mod with a filter or with a GoPro Max lens for enhanced coverage.
  4. Side door.  The camera side door is a detachable arm that protects the camera battery, memory card, and USB inlet. The side door can be removed entirely by pressing the hinge downwards and may be replaced with a media mod if needed.

  5. Front display screen. The Hero 9 front display is a 1.4-inch LCD selfie screen placed at the side of the camera lens. It shows a quick preview of the main camera display containing information like battery level, camera mode, recording time left, and time spent recording. Depending on the camera setting, it can show a full-screen preview (zoomed-in), an actual display, a status screen (with no image preview), or it can be completely turned off.

  6. Rear display screen. The rear display is the main control area for the GoPro. It is a 2.27-inch touch-sensitive LCD screen used for navigating camera settings. All the features available on the back display are discussed in the next section.
  7. LED lights. GoPro Hero 9 comes with two LED light options, one at the front and the other at the back. The front indicator serves as a charging indicator and flashes alongside the rear LED light when recording or taking a photo shot.
  8. Mic drain. The mic drain is a section on the side of the GoPro just underneath the power button with two slits. This part of the camera can’t be opened, so don’t try to force it open. Its only function is to drain off water after going underwater.
  9. Mounting fingers. The mounting fingers on the Hero action camera can be used for attaching the GoPro Hero to a solid surface like a helmet or on a tripod or gimbal. The mounting fingers are located at the bottom of the camera and can be folded in and out.

Features of a GoPro

The key features that influence how well a GoPro Hero camera is used are found in the camera settings and preferences. These settings are best accessed through the rear camera touchscreen. 

Before delving into the different GoPro features and how to navigate them, there are some constant display features always on the rear screen. These include:

  • Battery life – indicates the percentage of battery left;
  • Mode icon – indicates which camera mode is active; photo, video, or time-lapse. The mode can be switched by swiping the screen or clicking on the mode button;
  • Memory card – indicates recording time left at current resolution and frame rate;
  • Preset setting which varies with mode – a combination of preferences;
  • On-screen shortcuts which vary with mode – for accessing quick settings.

For anyone to master how to use a GoPro, here are the rear display features to focus on;

a. Video mode

In video mode, the preset setting is seen at the bottom center of the screen, and the on-screen shortcuts are seen on the sides of the preset.

  • Select the preset to change the preferred video recording configuration. The presets are different combinations of resolution, frame rate, and lens frame. E.g., 5K|30fps|wide angle.
  • Long press the preset to go into full settings and customize recording preferences which can be saved as a preset for future use.
  • The snail icon is an on-screen shortcut for changing the frame rate. It doubles the frame rate in use if compatible with the resolution in use.
  • The “W” icon can be used to change the look of the video frame by switching the lens settings. The options are superview, wide, linear, linear horizon, and narrow.
  • Shake icon is used to add hypersmooth stabilization to video.
  • The magnification icon is to zoom in or zoom out when recording.

b. Photo mode

The photo mode also comes with its presets and on-screen shortcuts. The significant differences are the presets.

  • Photo preset – This is the standard preset which takes single-shot photos at high resolution.
  • Liveburst – This preset mode takes 90 photos spread over three seconds.
  • Burst – Takes 25 photos in one second.
  • Night photo – Customized for night photographs in low-light conditions.

c. Time-lapse mode

The time-lapse mode is more or less like the photo mode but with much lower frame rates. As a result, it’s often best used with the camera positioned on one spot. This mode comes with three presets with an option to add customized presets.

  • Time-warp – great for capturing slow-moving objects over a short period.
  • Time-lapse – designed for time-lapse shooting over a longer time frame (1).
  • Night lapse – for recording time-lapse at night.

d. Recorded media

The recorded media can be accessed from the display screen by swiping up on the home screen. The last video recording or photo captured is displayed.

  • For a video recording, the playback icon is placed at the center.
  • Trash icon at the bottom far left to delete media.
  • Time icon to view playback in slow motion if it was recorded at a high frame rate.
  • Frames icon to scroll through video for crucial moments.
  • Arrow icon can be used to highlight key moments in a video
  • At the top left, the grid icon can be used to view a grid of recorded media thumbnails.
  • Volume icon to toggle playback audio volume.
  • Double-tap on media to zoom in and out. 
  • Swipe down on the screen to return to the main menu or press the mode button.

e. Dashboard

The GoPro camera dashboard can be accessed by swiping down on the main menu screen. The dashboard contains quick access to more general settings. Here are the options found on the dashboard;

  • GPS icon to indicate if camera location is on or off.
  • Time and date.
  • Voice control toggle.
  • Beeps and volumes.
  • Bunny icon used for quick capture.
  • Lock screen, which is needed when going underwater.
  • Grid icon, which can be used for composing shots.
  • Front display settings to choose the preferred display option.
  • Lock orientation to toggle between vertical or horizontal recording view.

On the dashboard the second page – swipe dashboard screen to access;

  • “Connections” is used for connecting other devices to the camera through Bluetooth or WiFi.
  • “Preferences” takes the user to all the general settings.

Mounting a GoPro

One of the advantages of the GoPro is that it can be mounted on about any surface type. For example, it’s hard to hold a camera in hand when going mountain biking or surfboarding. Hence, attaching to a surface is the way to go. 

Here’s how to mount a GoPro to a preferred surface;

  • Fold down the mounting fingers found underneath the GoPro;
  • Slide the mounting fingers into the mounting buckle from the camera kit;
  • Align the holes and insert the thumbscrew to hold the camera in place.

The buckle can be used on an adhesive mount. The GoPro comes with a curved mount that can be used for surfaces such as helmets. Flat surfaces need a flat adhesive mount which would be purchased separately. To mount a GoPro on some tripods, the mounting fingers have to be directly inserted and screwed into the tripod head without using a buckle.

To attach the buckle to the adhesive mount;

  • Lift locking plug on the buckle edge;
  • Slide buckle into the mount and place in position;
  • Drop the locking plug and push it down to lock the camera in position on the adhesive mount.
F. A. Q

Yes, the GoPro mobile app can change presets and preferences of a connected GoPro camera. It can also be used to copy media files, set up a live stream, and even turn off the camera.

Using the front screen display as a selfie screen, the GoPro Hero 9 can be used as a webcam while connected to the GoPro app for live streaming.


Buying a new device such as the GoPro Hero 9 Black comes with a special kind of thrill. Unfortunately, many times, the euphoria soon turns into frustration when users can’t figure out how to use the camera. But with a detailed guide on using a GoPro such as this, they can quickly turn their new gadget into a magic tool, creating magical shots and videos.


  1. Norbury, K. (2020, January 09). Time-lapse photography: How to make your first time-lapse video. Retrieved from