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An action camera is great for stills photography... if you know how to use it!

(Image credit: Future)

Action cameras been around for more than a decade and are a common sight now, whether it is attached to a helmet, worn on a chest harness or positioned using a mini tripod – the best action cameras (opens in new tab) and the best GoPro cameras (opens in new tab) do a great job at capturing footage in situations where you wouldn’t want to risk a more delicate or expensive camera.

However, while many photographers may add an action camera into their kit bags to capture footage of their adventures alongside the ‘big camera’, not many people look into the action camera’s stills mode. This is a shame, because the humble action camera can actually turn out to be the secret weapon in your kit bag. 

It is literally able to go places that bigger cameras can’t and withstand punishment other cameras won’t. Action cameras are the ultimate go-anywhere gadget thanks to their lightweight and compact design, along with their robust build and high-grade weather sealing.

What’s more, taking the time to learn the settings and modes of your action camera will expand your creative options even further. To get your started, we are serving up some photo projects to try out with your action camera that will show exactly what these fun and durable cameras can do…

Anatomy of an action camera

Action cameras come in a few shapes and sizes, most of them small and square. But if you're thinking of buying an action camera (opens in new tab), here are some of the key elements to look out for. Click the top right arrow on the image to view it in a larger format.

(Image credit: Future)

Action camera acessories

Unlike a standard camera, an action device comes into its own when paired with the right accessories. Whatever brand your action camera belongs to, there will be plenty of options to expand the potential for stills images. From additional waterproof housings, to mounts, clamps and handles, there are gadgets from branded names and third-party manufacturers.

That said, GoPro offers the most versatile and useful accessories for a huge range of situations, so why not start by checking out our guide to the best GoPro accessories (opens in new tab)? As they’re also the most common action brand, we’ll focus on the range of accessories for them here. You might be planning to take your camera on bike rides to capture the sense of speed and freedom, in which case a helmet or chest mount will be the perfect fit. 

Or, if you’re trying to create videos of professional quality with a GoPro, then an external microphone is a great idea, as this will vastly improve your audio.

(Image credit: Future)

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Lauren is the Managing Editor of Digital Camera World, having previously served as Editor of Digital Photographer (opens in new tab) magazine, a practical-focused publication that inspires hobbyists and seasoned pros alike to take truly phenomenal shots and get the best results from their kit. 


An experienced photography journalist who has been covering the industry for over eight years, she has also served as technique editor for both PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine (opens in new tab)PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine and DCW's sister publication, Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab)


In addition to techniques and tutorials that enable you to achieve great results from your cameras, lenses, tripods and other photography equipment, Lauren can regularly be found interviewing some of the biggest names in the industry, sharing tips and guides on subjects like landscape and wildlife photography, and raising awareness for subjects such as mental health and women in photography. 

With contributions from