In an industry which seems constantly under pressure I sometimes need to escape my escape. Fan expectations, financial issues and anti consumer actions are brought up in gaming news daily. Yes, that’s all important news but occasionally I need something positive, something to rise above the issues faced and forget about them for five minutes.
For me this extra escape is Virtual Photography. I’ve never been one for taking photos. I take some, on my phone for work but that’s usually of existing buildings to identify issues or draw all over. Something about taking a photo in a game really appeals to me. There are a lot of reasons for this from the ease of use most photo modes provide to that shared experience of showing off what I’m playing. It allows me to capture a fantasy or something I’ve achieved even if that’s just for me to look back on after a hard day.
— The Architect (@nova_47) February 22, 2017
Whilst all photo modes follow the same basic templates some work better than others. It was the inclusion in Horizon Zero Dawn and Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice that really drew me in. A turning point in which I would spend much more time framing and editing images. I would choose filters, tone them down, play with the colour balance or exposure. The level of detail these two games provided really set them apart. Unfortunately most of the images I’d taken of those two games are now lost after a home break-in in which my Playstation was stolen. Only those images on twitter survived although none of which were from Hellblade.
I’d taken screen shots before. I’d spam the share button if I found a beautiful environment or ridiculous glitch. I’d also messed around with a few early photo modes like Driveclub, Infamous Second Son and Uncharted 4. For HZD and Hellblade it was the depth of options they provided that had me spending more and more time with them. Of course the subject matter is important and it’s easy to capture an image of robot-dinosaur in an absurdly tonal environment or an action shot; there are only so many pictures of cars I can take. Finding that precise angle of a surgical strike, framed with a setting Sun then playing with the colour variations brings me real joy. More recently the photo mode in Assassins Creed Origins impressed me as did the one in Spider-man.
— The Architect (@nova_47) December 19, 2018
I think their continued inclusion in games is important; they’re escapism inside escapism and offer something different to break up the pace of a game if you want that. They allow communities to build and for us to share our experiences much more than an auditory or written explanation. Whilst the games I’d used photo modes in until 2017 were Sony exclusives we now see it in the Assassins Creed games, Metro Exodus and in the upcoming Division 2. Even Red Dead Redemption 2 added a photo feature; although one which fitted with the setting and time frame which was, I think, a clever inclusion. Developers are seeing these modes as important to the overall experience, something the fans want which can be used to interact with the player community. Some games include them after release too perhaps to bring people back into the game after they’ve put it down. God of War (2018) patched the mode in a few months after release; I’ve yet to go back to it so haven’t tried it out but some of the images I’ve seen from others are astounding. Currently from the photo modes I’ve experience with HZD, Hellblade, AC Origins, Shadow of the Colossus and Spider-Man are my favourites. These offer a reasonable range on the camera which is easy to operate and a depth to their editing tools unseen in other games.
So it’s obvious I love a good photo mode but for those of you keener on just looking at images rather than taking them there is a huge community of virtual photographers to follow. It is becoming a bigger and bigger part of the gaming community allowing people interested in photography, cinematography and art to explore and create whilst playing games they enjoy. Below are some of my favourites with links to their work. I’m a complete amateur compared to these people but if you want to see the images I capture head to my twitter page @nova_47
SunhiLegend was one of the first people I followed on twitter for Virtual Photography. Focusing more on gifs and short video clips the way they can capture an action sequence to get a sense of movement in the environment is second to none.
— SunhiLegend (@SunhiLegend) October 7, 2018
A recent name change from PS4_Photomode_Captures and a move to include PC photo mode shots shows a growth to the level of detail which was already fantastic in Lochlan’s work. Often capturing the game of the moment their work varies from landscapes to action stills.
— Lochlan Miller (@Lochlan_Miller) February 3, 2019
I was originally drawn to them for the way they captured shots from Horizon Zero Dawn and the fantastic use of lighting to frame Aloy and the characters in their environment. They capture tone and atmosphere really well even in games like Grand Theft Auto 5.
— Lady_SnipeShot (@Lady_SnipeShot) February 17, 2018
There are just too many excellent artists out their capturing beautiful images for me to mention so there are ways to help you find people and work you connect with. Some twitter accounts scour the site for excellent shots using the hashtags #VGPUnite and #VirtualPhotography such as @Urban_Tentacles and @VirtuaCam_. These accounts are a great way to get a taste for the community and find certain creators you like and want to follow directly. If you want to get more involved VirtuaCam also runs themed competitions. Instagram is another great place to search for photo mode connoisseurs if that’s your platform of choice.
Let me know if you have any favoured Virtual Photographers that you follow. I’m always looking for more.