What is video game photography about? This is the question that we’ll tackle in this article. But first things first. Photography is a visual art form in which the artist uses technology to capture light. The resulting piece of art is a picture that can be printed or digitally stored and shared. Because, in this time and age, it’s also clear that this can be done with digital devices. It’s also clear that digital art, artworks created entirely or by part on computers, are a true and valid form of art and no lesser form of this practice.
Now we can check on the other angle of the matter. Video games let us immerse ourselves in virtual worlds. Certainly, many games provide gamers with a narrative to follow, but an increasing number of games let us freely enjoy the beauty that game developers have worked on for years. Wouldn’t it be a waste not to stop your play once in a while and just look at these environments that are artworks on their own? Virtual photography could be taking place in VR, but this is currently not a common practice. Wikipedia currently refers to this practice as “in-game photography” which is not wrong but not the lingua franca among the community.
When you’re walking through nature and seeing something that captures your attention, something beautiful you want to capture and store or share with others, it’s common for people to take a photo with their smartphone, or camera if they brought one. Some gamers take it a step further in video games and follow a similar practice within the virtual world. The player appealingly arranges the viewport and captures this visual with all its contents as a still image. It gets saved digitally in a similar fashion and becomes a file that can be stored, edited, or shared, just like photos taken by cameras.
The rise of a trend
Over the years, game developers would support this movement as it equally supports their own efforts in marketing the game to new players and improving community engagement. Game development studios introduced photo-modes into their games, which allowed the video game photographers to be even more creative by using camera controls, lighting changes, filters, and more options to manipulate the possible outcomes of a picture.
Hardware and platform companies supported the movement by introducing easy ways of sharing “screenshots,” such as shortcuts or on software or even physical buttons on console controllers. The Xbox Series X controller has a new “Share” button right in the middle, while the Sony PlayStation 5 controller has a new “Create” button, positioned slightly to the left. This is a novel and very integrated way of directly sharing the artworks, whether it be pictures or video clips, directly with the gamer’s audience on the platform and, if they want, their connected social media accounts.
I consider myself a video game photography enthusiast. Still, to present you with a broad range of opinions, I have also spoken with various video game photographers, who’ve spent a lot more time practicing this art than me. I hope you find these interview insights as exciting as I did.
Chris Isak: Before we start, could you introduce yourself to the readers quickly? What’s your full name, age, and website if you’d like to share?
Kim McGill Stuart: I’m Kim McGill Stuart, let’s just say somewhere between 45-55, my real-life art is kimmcgillstuart.com, and my video game photography can be found at is misthosliving.com (Twitter redirect).
Chris Brutnell: My full name is Chris Brutnell. I’m 36, and I currently don’t have a website other than my Twitter page.
Robyn Lawson: I’m Robyn Lawson, I am of mature age, let’s just say, over 40, (laughs), and I don’t have any other website apart from my Twitter account.
CI: How do you define video game photography for yourself?
KMS: VGP (Video Game Photography) has opened my eyes to a new world and in general beginnings. From someone who is unable to maneuver well in the outside world, a beautiful game with a strong photo-mode gives me the ability to virtually experience birds, horse riding, trees, sunsets, and creatively lets me express myself. It’s really endless. I find that absolutely invigorating. From an artist’s point of view, it’s a glorious new medium to explore and has energized me. I’m currently working on a series that combines my love of VGP with my real-world love of painting with beeswax. I do think it’s funny that in the real world, I am an absolutely horrible photographer, but I really find I enjoy my work via video game photography.
YI: Video game photography for me is capturing the beauty of games in an artistic style and sharing my passion for it with others. Also, sometimes I think “outside the box” by trying to maximize the possibilities within the game in terms of using the in-game environment for my advantage for the best possible composition.
CB: My definition of video game photography is capturing the beauty of games. An artistic form of playing a game.
RL: Video game photography for myself means capturing memories of a game, much like in real life.
CI: What is the difference between a screenshot and a video game photo?
KMS: The difference is how it’s taken, I suppose. I’m only concerned with the output of the work versus what method I used to create it, so I try not to get caught up in the nomenclature. I think it is the artist that creates a work of art, not the medium. I say that because this discussion, from what I have seen on Twitter at least, is fraught with emotion and indignation as to what is and what is not game photography or “virtual” photography. Once a group identifies what is “not art,” the next step is excluding “those types” of artists, and I disagree with excluding someone based on the medium they choose to communicate with — screenshot versus built-in photo-mode — to me, just different tools of creativity.
YI: A screenshot is something instantaneous that you take to capture an interesting moment regardless of composition. Usually, something funny happened on screen or a breathtaking scene. Most screenshots also include the game elements, which makes it less “professional.” A photograph requires preparation and a vision for the end result. It requires more attention to the composition than simply pressing a button.
CB: To me, a screenshot and a video game photo can pretty much be the same, but some virtual photographers like to edit them afterward. So a screenshot is straight from the console or PC. A video game photo for me is also the editing process after.
RL: A screenshot is a still shot of what you are currently looking at with no emotions and feelings. Most of the time, you get a shot of the back of your character, which sometimes you don’t want. A video game photo is using camera angles, shades, filters at times, depth of field views, other attributes, and the option of removing your character from the photo completely. Much like real-life photography.
CI: What’s the better term to describe this practice: Virtual Photography? Video Game Photography? Something else?
KMS: Even though I will refer to it at times as Virtual Photography, it makes me slightly uncomfortable because the definition of “virtual” does not fit. To me, Video Game Photography would be a truer description.
YI: Both are a good way to refer to it, but I prefer Virtual Photography, as it’s more common among the community.
CB: In the community, it’s known as virtual photography and VP for short. So the people that do this are known as VPs.
RL: Virtual Photography is the better term, in my opinion.
CI: How would you explain this to others, outside of the VGP social media circles?
KMS: I found it difficult at first. As soon as I mention “game,” I see eyeballs start to glaze over, and I hear brains click off. I do think as more games embrace photo-mode and an ever-increasing acceptance for all ages to play games, this may change. I really get excited thinking about how there will be more people finding their creative voices via gameplay.
I’ve have changed my strategy on how I describe what I’ve been creatively “up to” to people now. I show them non-character images (sunsets, landscapes, etc.) with some images and then inform them that it’s from a game. You can see in their face they are trying to translate this new concept. I would like them to see this as another creative outlet instead of just “playing” games or “wasting time.”
YI: I would explain that virtual game photography has the same underlying rules of photography, the only difference that instead of taking our camera outside, we are using the freedom granted by the game to emulate a camera.
CB: I don’t talk about it too often, to be honest. Not from being embarrassed, though. It’s just that I never had the opportunity. But if I had to, I’d explain it as an art form. I’d refer to it as “the beauty of video games in photos.”
RL: I’d use the same description as to how I’d differentiated a virtual photo from a screenshot in the previous question.
CI: Since when have you been doing this?
KMS: I think I was kinda late to the whole video game photography trend. I started sharing my work from Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (ACO) on Twitter in March 2019. I went back into gaming as a way to deal with chronic health issues that limited my ability to walk, paint and teach for a while, so I really felt like I was in solitary confinement and going into a deep depression. ACO photo-mode was such an amazing way for me to fulfill my creative urges without taxing me physically. It was truly a godsend to me in many aspects. Mentally, physically, creatively, and it led me to a VGP community that really embraced me and was positive and was there when I had my next big health event — a breast cancer diagnosis, which led to a double mastectomy in June 2019. It sounds trite, but I honestly believe it kept me sane during a very rough patch. It has also reenergized my creativity and opened my heart to new medium explorations blending my video game work with my real-world work. And that is something I am grateful for.
YI: I started my virtual photography back in 2013 when BioShock Infinite was released, because I was really inspired by the beauty of the game and wanted to capture and share it with others, and ever since then, I kept taking pictures in games for my own enjoyment and shared them with others. Every day I am learning more about Virtual Photography and get inspired by the works of others to improve my own works.
CB: I’ve always enjoyed video games and their beauty. So since I joined Twitter, I noticed video game photography posts popping up, and it started to get my interest. So I started to post my own and more seriously in the last year.
RL: I started experimenting with Virtual Photography in March this year and have learned a lot along the way.
CI: Do you think this is art?
KMS: Yes, I do! I also think making things out of straw wrappers can be art, so I may not be an expert (laughs)!
YI: Yes, I can consider this as an art because the work put into each picture is roughly equal to the work put into a real-life photograph, and the end results can be attractive enough to be called art, in my opinion.
CB: I very much think it’s art. If you had a gallery and put up lots of different pictures from various VPs, I’d believe it to be very popular. It’s simply capturing the beauty in games without lifting a pen or paintbrush. We are basically showing off what the developers spent so long in making.
RL: I absolutely think this is art. They (Virtual Photographers) are some truly talented people out there doing incredible things with the captures they get from the games.
CI: How does your process exactly look like? Where do you start? Are you on PC or Console? What apps do you use? How do you save the results, and where do you share your polished works?
KMS: My process has gotten more strategic since I started in early 2019. I feel like a lot of my earlier work looked like selfies or just capturing a moment. Now I really think of a story, location, sun output, or a mental telling of an event or an expression of emotion. Currently, I play on a PS4 Pro. I won’t deny I’m thinking about getting an Xbox for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and/or a higher-end PC for better graphics and the ability to mod games. When I capture a moment or a scenario, I start to build a story in my head. I will typically capture no less than 10-25 pictures, per location, playing with depth, filters, fogs, and camera rotation and scale. I then export to PC. Change resolution as necessary and edit as needed. I’m an artist, not a technician, so dealing with game graphics versus display graphics is frustrating. I use photoshop as needed and some other applications for tweaking. I’m not one of those opposed to editing as long as you can keep the integrity of the photo that is being taken. I understand people have issues with that (pause), and that’s their journey. My Assassins Creed Odyssey photos need very little to no editing and thank you, Ubisoft, for that, versus something like a Red Dead (Red Dead Redemption 2) or Division 2 (Tom Clancy’s The Division 2), which may require a sharpening or saturation tweak or two. I mostly share on Twitter and am currently working on a real-world series with RDR2 images burned onto a wooden cradle then covered with beeswax. I just submitted a few into a gallery show. A few of them can be seen at kimmcgillstuart.com. I really want the viewer of my work to see what can be done in games and that there is no limitation to finding your voice in a virtual design environment and/or real-world medium.
YI: First, I consider the theme of what I want to shoot: a landscape shot, portrait, or even extreme closeup? I then consider which composition would go well with the picture. Most of the time, I shoot on PC, but I also take pictures on the PS4 (PlayStation 4) with games that have a photo-mode. On PC, however, I am using NVIDIA Ansel or 3rd party camera modes in order to simulate a camera-like view in games that do not have their own photo-mode such as “Reshade,” which is an in-game post-processing 3rd party program. It allows for the fine-tuning of the shot in terms of color rendering, contrast, simulated depth of field, and many more. I am also using Adobe Photoshop to prepare the photographs for posting on social media in terms of cropping and small adjustments to fit the image limitations of Instagram and Twitter.
CB: I’m a console, only VP (Virtual Photographer). I use Adobe Lightroom, Snapseed, and Photoshop Express. Then transferred to only hard drives and my phone. At the moment, I only share them on Twitter, but I’m thinking of branching out to Instagram.
RL: I usually go along and play my game until I come across a certain light in my travels. I will bring up photo-mode if it is included in the game that I am playing at the time, have a look around with the camera. Zoom in, change angles, lighting until I find a good capture. I sometimes don’t end up seeing anything great, so I unpause the game and continue playing until something else catches my eye. It can be a light, a shadow, an animal, an action in battle, whatever. Once I have what I want, I’ll capture it. It gets saved automatically into a file on my PC. I then close the game and open up Lightroom, which is a program from the Adobe Creative Suite. I then bring my saved captures from the game to Lightroom to do some touch-ups like adjust the lighting, the sharpness, and other aspects of the shot. Once I am happy with the results, I then save the edited photo to a different file and upload my photos to Twitter.
CI: Do you think that some games have done their photo-mode better than others? What would you expect a developer to include so you can go about your work?
KMS: If game developers want to keep their gamers engaged for a longer period while also utilizing their fans to continue marketing the game, it will benefit them to design a well-built photo-mode prior to and/or during the game strategy, design, and development stages versus adding one after the launch of the game. Offer more flexibility over character emoting and body language. Make accessing the mode during gameplay easier. Rotation, tilting of the camera. Horizontal, vertical, 360 — I want all the rotation (laughs!) Give better depth-of-field options. I’d prefer to see a more well-rounded photo-modes within gameplay than the ability to use 50+ filters and 25 photo frames. Filters are nice, but I want more abilities to take exciting shots. I’ve been extremely impressed with the ease of use of taking photos during gameplay with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. The Ubisoft photo-mode seems developed along with the planning of the game. They have also made it very simple for new players to easily take beautiful shots — quests that take you to beautiful locations, branches in particular areas that make good shots, control over sunrise, nightfall, and so on. The lighting and sun in that game is always breathtaking to me. Every single time it stops me in my tracks — I easily spend more time taking photos than playing. With other games, I find there is one thing here I like, or there I like and then a great deal of annoyance. RDR2 (Red Dead Redemption 2) has some pretty amazing details and atmosphere, yet during some game events, it’s just not photo-mode friendly, like “this is a good shot! DENIED! Friendly” (pause). I think this is due to the photo-mode being an afterthought. Horizon Zero Dawn has a very impressive photo-mode with more control over facial expressions and body language, which I adore. The game itself bored me a bit. I got to 15%. However, the shots I see come out of that game are truly breathtaking, and the ability to emote is really nice and takes VGP to a whole new level. Spider-Man for the PS4 and Control also have a well-done photo-mode with a strong set of interesting filter options and nice abilities to stop on the fly and get those sweet shots. So, do I think some game companies have done their photo-mode better than others? Yes, but that is definitely up to everyone’s own preferences.
Developer: @Ubisoft#VGPUnite #VirtualPhotography #Gametography #TheCapturedCollective #GamerGram #VPInspire #vpgamers #Ksnapshots #valortainment #ArtisticofSociety #PCGaming #ThePhotoMode pic.twitter.com/16W87iZAO4
— RoRo (@RoRo52534693) September 13, 2020
YI: Any game’s photo-mode has its own advantages and disadvantages, what I would expect from developers is to make the camera movement and its range bigger to allow freedom of movement and camera direction while capturing more details in the photo.
Most of the photo-modes have a very limited camera range and awkward mobility, which inhibits the potential of photo-mode in terms of panoramic shots and extreme close-ups, for example. A useful addition to photo-mode that I have not yet seen would be weather control, which could help create some interesting photographs.
CB: Some games have hugely in-depth photo-modes. Days Gone, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Spider-Man on the PS4, to name a few. I’d never expect a developer to include one (a photo-mode), as that’s always up to them. All I’d expect from a decent photo-mode would be good depth-of-field and focus settings. Changing the time of day is an awesome addition if possible. This depends on the game mostly and your preference for what your capturing. But a decent photo-mode would be all the finer details like changing camera angle, character position or removing the character completely, adjusting facial expressions, and those things.
RL: There are a lot of different ways the developers have done their photo-modes in their games. My personal preference is in the Assassin’s Creed games as you can just hit F6 or F3 in the middle of an action, for example, without having to go back to the menu screen to get the photo-mode running. As I only play on PC, I am not sure what the games on PS4 or Xbox One are like. (CI Note: On consoles, the photo-mode is often launched with a button combination, like pressing both control sticks, and can be executed similarly.)
CI: How do you feel about a visually appealing game which does not come with a photo-mode? What would you tell the developers of such a game?
KMS: At this point in game development history, I would say start planning a photo-mode early on your next game or, if they can invest time to reboot a game that has a big following, to add one in. I think we saw that with Red Dead Redemption 2 and Control and a replaying of those games happened. Also, invest in a decent social media team that encourages and promotes VGP (Video Game Photography). I would love it if this would have happened for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate or Assassin’s Creed Unity. This is one reason why I would like a powerful gaming PC. There are talented people out there creating mods giving gaming artists more control over their photos, pushing their images beyond the parameters.
YI: In recent years, more and more games include a photo-mode that allows us to capture the beauty of the game. If the game does not have one, I would ask the developer to include photo-mode for the game. If the game is on PC, I would ask the developer to include support for NVIDIA Ansel so as to allow us to capture beautiful moments within the game and share it with the Virtual Photography community and on social media platforms.
CB: I’ll use Anthem for an example here. It’s visually stunning, and the world needs to be captured. There are ways around this by turning off the HUD (heads-up display: graphics and gauges that provide information for the gameplay) and first-person views. I knew it did not have a photo-mode, but it should never stop you from playing a game. There are always ways around it if it’s not having one. I’d encourage them to think about adding one as it’s extra exposure for their games, that’s for sure.
RL: I would feel very disappointed, and would petition to get it (the photo-mode) put into the game, much like what happened with Death Stranding, the developers introduced the photo-mode after the game was released because of the players wanting it.
CI: Could you name any titles that are good examples of how to do a good photo-mode?
KMS: Here are some that I played on PS4, based on personal experience with little to no frustration: Assassin’S Creed Odyssey obviously (laughs), Horizon Zero Dawn with impressive ability to change body language and expressions, and Control with a photo-mode added after release, but well done. There are also some that I didn’t play myself, but other artists did impressive works with the photo-mode of titles like Assassin’s Creed Origins, God of War, Days Gone, Spider-Man, and RDR2 with the option to use a camera added in after the release.
YI: Yes, Horizon Zero Dawn has an excellent photo-mode in terms of color filters, time of day control, and depth-of-field control. It allows me to create visually appealing photographs in terms of landscapes and portraits.
CB: The PlayStation games are really a good start with photo-mode games. Days Gone, Spider-Man, Horizon Zero Dawn, God of War, The Last Of Us, and Uncharted are good examples. I used Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice on Xbox as well as Red Dead Redemption 2. All are very useful photo-modes.
RL: I have heard that Horizon Zero Dawn has an excellent one, but I won’t know personally until it comes to PC this year sometime. The recent Assassin’s Creed games and Red Dead Redemption 2 have excellent photo-modes, in my opinion.
CI: If a game does not come with a photo-mode, are there any other good ways to capture video game photos?
KMS: Working from a console controller, I’d say have limber quick octopus-like flexible fingers and a great deal of patience (laughs). Taking screenshots in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is exhausting and time-consuming. I’m always surprised I get something decent out of that game, and it torments me by having beautiful atmospheric surroundings and not be able to capture them (pause) torments me.
YI: On consoles, it could be an issue, but on PC, we can rely on 3rd-party camera mods, especially by Frans Bouma, that allow us to capture photographs in games that do not have a photo-mode, or the photo-mode is insufficient for creative use.
CB: As I mentioned above about Anthem, you can turn off all the HUD and trick the computer into going into first-person-mode by backing against a wall. For other games that don’t have a first-person-mode, it’s then pretty simple. I took thousands of pictures in Red Dead Redemption 2 before it even introduced a photo-mode, simply by turning off the HUD.
RL: I agree with the example of Anthem. It doesn’t come with a photo-mode, but if you position your character up against a wall, you can still get a decent shot without having your character in the photo and then, if need be, edit it in Lightroom.
CI: What are some upcoming games that are not yet released which you are looking
forward to play?
KMS: Easy. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. I’ve basically told those close to me they won’t see me for 6 months… or more (laughs). (CI Note: Yeah, me too.)
YI: I’m looking forward to the sequel of Horizon Zero Dawn, and also to Cyberpunk 2077.
CB: The Last Of Us 2 and Ghost of Tsushima. I’m very excited about this, as the photo-mode looks set to be one of the best. Also looking forward to Cyberpunk 2077, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II, and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla also has me very excited.
RL: I am very much looking forward to Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. I just know it is going to be amazing, and it will have a photo-mode. I am also looking forward to Cyberpunk 2077 and Outriders. And although it has already been released to PS4, I am eager to get into Horizon Zero Dawn for PC.
CI: Are you worried about copyright or license issues? Or are the developers and publishers generally approving of this practice?
KMS: Coming from an art education background, image copyright issues are discussed quite a bit, especially as more artists move to digital-only formats giving more opportunity to steal images of others, re-utilize others’ artwork, and so on. I don’t worry about it because I already internalized respecting the image(s), especially “characters” belonging to the company (the developer and publisher), so I don’t purposely sell my captures of their characters. An example would be, for instance, I took a fantastic shot of Kassandra (the protagonist of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey). I would not sell that photo of her as “mine.” Yes. I took it. Yes. The game gave me permission. No. She is not my creation nor my design. Now, landscape wise, the issue becomes a little foggier. It could almost be a landscape from a different game, and even in that case, I make sure to give the game credit — like a horse capture from RDR2, or a tree. Division 2 fits this too. A dystopian Washington DC is not a branded character per se and can easily be a landscape I created in a 3D environment. From the game developer/publishers, I get the feeling they are unsure how to handle it right now. It’s new territory because they are directly benefiting from a VGP fan base that is growing their game’s brand. The more photo-modes or artists-developed mods exist, the more I would think at some point they will have to decide when or if they need to step in to stop something being done with a character’s likenesses and/or is it worth pursuing monetary gain. For example, a nude Kassandra being sold in poster form, or similar examples. That’s like a double whammy, taking the character and selling the likeness plus the added manipulation of that character in a salacious fashion. It will be interesting to see how it would unfold.
YI: Developers usually have nothing against Virtual Photography, and I did not encounter any issue that a virtual photographer got a copyright take-down from any developer.
Developers usually love seeing what the community creates within the universe that they themselves created. Sony, for example, makes a “share of the week” wherein Virtual Photographers take part in weekly themes in games that correspond to that weeks’ theme.
CB: I’ve never seen a developer try to tell a VP artist to stop taking pictures yet. If they add a photo-mode, I think they encourage it. 90 percent (of the developers) are supportive of this and generally get involved with us VPs. In my experience on Twitter, I’ve had lots of developer interaction, and it’s all been good, so no, I’m not worried. When a developer likes something you do, it’s a huge boost, to be honest.
RL: We all know that we cannot sell or profit from our virtual photos. The original artwork of the game belongs to the developers. And we quite often get likes and comments from the developers on our photos. So yes, they generally approve of theirs fans putting in their own effect to create something more from their original work. I think it to be flattering.
CI: Is there a video game photography community? How does everybody come together? What is it like to be part of this?
KMS: Absolutely. It was there before I found it on Twitter, and it is even bigger and more active now. There are multiple VGP networks offering weekly and monthly theme challenges, advice, tips, and various levels of connecting people all over the world. Coming together is an interesting term. I see it more like we weave and meander into each other’s lives as each of us pursue our love of different games and our love of VGP. After all, Twitter has an algorithm that changes, and so does the community — in my opinion — it can be fluid and ever-changing as it grows and yet stays connected. The community itself has old-timers and new arrivals, and it works hard to be welcoming — it’s not easy, because it’s virtual, but I see a lot of energy extended to be inclusive. I really love being a part of it. There really is this undercurrent of love and acceptance and support. Every so often, it can be tense, but days later, it’s all back to goodness.
— Chris Isak (@ChristopherIsak) October 9, 2020
YI: There is a big virtual photography community on both Instagram and Twitter, the community itself is very united, and we have lots of activities like monthly themes and virtual photography pages that feature artists and host their own contests, themes, and interviews. The community is supportive of each other, and I’m really proud to be a part of such an amazing community.
CB: There is a large community on social media platforms, and it’s full of exciting, talented people that are simply so supportive — it’s unreal. The VP community is awesome, and it’s a very inspiring place to be. We have pages that will give us daily, weekly and monthly themes to try. Never pressured either, so it’s a great place to be. We all come together by simply sharing our work.
RL: There is a Virtual Photography community that I found on Twitter. Some have their own Discord (chat and collaboration app) channels as well. It’s a great way to see other people’s creations as well. They also put out weekly challenges for you to join in with, which is a great idea because it lets you get out of your comfort zone of just doing one type of photo and try and challenge yourself to do something different. For instance, if you only focus on doing portraits, the weeks’ challenge might be for landscapes or something else.
CI: How could your fans support you?
KMS: Be supportive and kind of each other’s journeys.
YI: Simply following my Instagram and Twitter is enough. Just sharing the beauty of the games that I enjoy is enough for me.
CB: My fans could support me by simply interacting with me anyway they wish to. A comment, a like, a follow, or nothing. There is never any pressure to like my work.
RL: I don’t expect anything from anyone, let alone my “fans” (laughs). But if people want to see my photo’s they can find me on Twitter – and give a like or comment of any they may like (smiles).
CI: If someone who reads this got curious and wanted to start out as a virtual photographer, what would you recommend to them? Where to start and what to do?
KMS: Here are some steps you could check into –
- Introduce yourself to the community.
- Follow and participate in themes. It’s a great way to push your skills in the photo-mode.
- Do research (YouTube, online galleries, stock photography) and be inspired by “fine art photography,” “movie photography/stills,” and “poster design.”
- Support other video game photography artists as you would want to be supported
- Take care of your emotions. Social media can be draining.
- Share your work for yourself. Followers will come. Don’t get hung up on the likes.
- Have fun with all a photo-mode has to offer. Try out filters, tilts, and everything. Eventually, you will find your style.
- Don’t get overwhelmed. Just keep posting.
- I adore doing themes. It gives me the opportunity to go back into a game and create a series that I may not ever think of doing on my own — something as simple as “stairs” or “winter.” Themes have led me down some interesting paths with beautiful results. There are so many theme choices now (pause) it’s just wonderful.
YI: First, I would recommend the readers to go over to the Virtual Photographer community to see if there’s any specific style they are more connected to. The Virtual Photography community has various styles of photography, just like real-life photography, so they would probably want to focus on a specific style or two at the start of their journey.
CB: I’m seeing lots of new people try this, so my advice to anyone is to simply have fun. If it becomes no fun, then you have to either stop or take a break. That goes with anything in life. Experiment and enjoy.
RL: Probably the best advice would be to make sure the game you start with has a photo-mode option and then just experiment with everything, filters, zooming, blurs, colors, and everything there is. It’s how I learned it too. And then, you can always use the hashtag #VirtualPhotography on Twitter, and you find a heap of people who are willing to help and give advice when needed.
(CI note: during my research, I have also discovered a great guide for aspiring video game photography artists and virtual photographers. Make sure to have a look at the Virtual Photography 101 article on ilikedetectives.)
CI: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us. Is there anything else that you’d like to share with our readers?
KMS: Truly, my pleasure! Thank you for the opportunity to share my love of VGP!
YI: I just want to thank you for the interview, and if there’s any reader that would consider starting their journey into the photography world, I would love to see their works.
CB: It’s been my pleasure. I’d simply like to give a lot of the credit for any success I’ve had to the followers. It’s been a tough year for us all, but the beauty of video games can bring that positivity level right to the top. So get yourself on a social media platform and check out virtual photography. You won’t be disappointed.
RL: My personal advice: Do this for your own enjoyment, share your work because you want to. Do not stress over not receiving a lot of comments or likes. Do it because you enjoy doing it for yourself! Experiment and explore. You will be surprised by what you can come up with. Thank you, Chris!
And I thank all of you for doing this. I apologize that it took a while to get edited and published, but I am sure it will help a few not only to know what this is all about but maybe where they should start their journey. I’d like to recap some aspects as well. Is virtual photography or video game photography art? Our experts all said “yes,” and I’d like to agree to that. One might be working within the works of someone else, but the product always has the aspiration to deliver beauty and joy to others and the artists themselves. For some reason, Andy Warhol decided to paint Campbell’s Soup Cans. He was capturing the product and label design of someone else, and is it art? Yes. And not a shred of doubt. Brands like Adobe refer to virtual photography being rendered scenes in which the artist is the 3D designer, so there is no exact match to be found in the creative industry but if you’re not sure whether you should call it virtual or video game photography, you can always stick to the community. Because if your community understands you, that’s all that matters in the end.
I previously wrote an article on how esports qualify as a true sport, and similar to that, I think that virtual photography is art. Perhaps it’s not as much as the “how” that matters, as in how something is crafted, but what matters is the “what,” as in what value does the product give us? As per Oxford, the definition of art is “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” And if we apply the shift away from “how” towards the “what” here, many would agree that photography, may it be in video games or other virtual worlds, or not, are appreciated for their beauty or emotional power.
One might not be able to sell video game photography art, which means the value cannot be determined by the buyer’s interest, but the definition itself makes for a compelling case, which means that this practice is an art form.
Still can’t get enough?
After publishing this article I talked again with Kim McGill Stuart, a.k.a. @MisthosLiving and it shows that there is a new project happening in cooperation with @AmAzingDrLama. Here’s what they wrote:
“@AmAzingDrLama and her partner in crime, @MisthosLiving, took our weekly ZOOM gal gamer lovefest, where we discussed playing games, talking about the joys and challenges of VGP over a glass of wine and wanted to share that love with other talented gamers and artists. Wine Time Photo Rave was born. A monthly theme-driven juried challenge encouraging artists to “think in the box” or “outside the box” accumulating in a live discussion between the dames and the creators of the juried pieces and what was the thought process and/or inspiration behind their work. In a nutshell, two sophisticated dames who love the vino, judging theme-driven VP artwork then talking the hell out of it with artists.”
Photo credit: The feature image has been done by Andre Hunter. The Xbox controller shot was done by Sadeq Shahsvan. The gaming setup photo was prepared by Ella Don. All embedded works are owned by the respective virtual photographers.