Exploring Virtual Spaces
The hardest part of this ongoing pandemic was distancing myself away from the scenery and interesting locations. Suddenly, taking random pictures became lifeless and futile in a room that is now a temporary replacement for the outside world. Sure, you can be creative and do an indoor photoshoot but at times, those efforts can be underwhelming and repetitive.
And so, your addiction for capturing moments and scenes beyond these concrete walls grow stronger.
I always found it amusing how we run into things coincidently, especially when we have no idea whatsoever of what it is and how much we need it. It just happens and we happen to be in the right place at the right time.
From watching a recommended video, that I never asked for, on YouTube to discovering snapshots of experienced photographers, I was driven deeper and deeper into…
The World of Virtual Photography (VP)
Simply said, Virtual Photography is the act of taking a picture of a subject, location or moment in a computer-generated environment. It can either mimic a real-world photograph or craft a completely new picture that cannot be replicated through traditional photography.
From 3D generated environments to Zoom photoshoots, Virtual Photography can take many forms and can be practiced from different artistic perspectives.
But in context to my story, the journey into this new-found artform begins in a platform where, even though creativity and art are thoroughly displayed, I never thought would be a place where photography can be well executed.
Virtual Photography in Video Games
Gaming was the pinnacle of my childhood. Even now, as an adult, it’s still one of the things that I can comfortably engage in or inevitably escape to. Over the years, video games have included several systems to enable creativity in their players.
This could be a simple replay system, a level editor and more recently, in-game photo modes to cater to those who love taking pictures of their favorite moments.
I treated these brilliant in-game photo suites and screenshotting features as a casual stroll and an occasional distraction to break away from the continuous gameplay. Little did I know of how far you could push these tools to create something cinematic and utterly spectacular.
Virtual Photography is a perfect complementary to Video Games, mostly because the in-game worlds and scenes that we traverse in are massively detailed.
The in-game and external camera tools push us to navigate these environments at ease and to discover the attention to detail that is given to a games surroundings or primary subject that is, otherwise, hidden or completely ignored on a linear playthrough.
By using the tools at our disposal, it becomes clear that each location paints a picture and each scene is a way of subtle storytelling that adds weight to the theme or mood that the game sets up.
Breaking boundaries to photograph hidden details and scenic moments are what makes a game unique for each and every player who is engaged in its setting.
Whether it’s a carefully curated world or a not so detailed environment, Virtual Photography encourages us to discover the essence of virtual spaces that may or may not have a larger meaning behind them.
If there is one thing that makes Virtual Photography shine over Traditional Photography, it’s the fact that there is little to no limitations on what you can do with the camera tools presented.
Whether it’s taking a closeup of a moment that defies physics or taking a clear wide shot of a subject 30,000 feet up in the air, Virtual Photography enables us to capture the impossible and to present a picture that is, otherwise, physically challenging, to replicate in the real world.
This freedom is what encourages players and photographers to capture unorthodox but refreshing pictures through their virtual camera tools.
In a time where creativity can feel restricted and locations being inaccessible due to the pandemic, video games have become the ultimate excursion and photography tool for those picture-hungry folks.
Anyone Can Be A Photographer
I always believe in the idea that anyone can be creative and deep down, everyone is artistic in their own way.
As an amateur photographer, there are times when I wish I had better skills or even better equipment to compensate for the lack of experience. There are moments when I wish I had that ideal location, the perfect time of day or even the patience to hold still for hours on end for that picture-perfect moment.
This is why I think Virtual Photography is the most accessible form of photography there is. Why?
- Everything is adjustable and it’s like playing god in an artificial universe. With a couple of buttons and a few settings, you can adjust the time of day, place your shots in fitting angles and even freeze time to compose an ultimate point in time. Everything is in your hands and you have no constraints of the real world.
- The need for better equipment and location is eliminated. Instead, you’re given a wide array of tools to use and manipulate your shot to your will. Although video games do not twin real-world locations to exact detail, their surroundings and scenery can be flawless at times, especially for those who are looking for a place that is far from reality.
- It’s the perfect place to learn and understand the basics of photography. While this is not a replacement for traditional photography whatsoever, Virtual Photography can be the most suitable place to either start or develop yourself as a photographer.
The Right Tools
Here is a list of tools and methods that I often use that may help you if you’re interested in VP. Some of these tools can be unconventional so please use them with caution. For reference, these tools are marked with an asterisk (*).
1. In-Game Photo Modes
Photo modes are quick and easy tools that you can use to take a screenshot of your game with settings that are adjustable to your liking. This includes options such as depth of field, the field of view, camera panning, motion blur or even filters if you prefer to apply them.
In-game photo modes have become customary on PlayStation titles and more recently, PC games as well. While some titles may lack features or the mode itself entirely, they have become the go-to and the most convenient camera tool to use.
For more information, take a look at the video above by GamesRadar, which explains the fundamentals of an in-game photo mode.
2. NVIDIA Ansel
If you own an Nvidia GPU, you can easily access the Ansel overlay which will put your game into a photo mode state. While you can freely move around the in-game camera, you can also use a variety of settings on the overlay to manipulate the game to your liking. The tool also supports high-resolution screenshots as well as RAW and 360-degree photos.
You can read more about Ansel here and you can find a list of supported games in the link below.
Supported Games for NVIDIA GeForce Experience
Optimize Your Game Settings with GeForce Experience: Capture and share NVIDIA Ansel photographs in the following games…
3. Hattiwatti’s Cinematic Tools *
Thanks to Matti Hietanen, Hattiwatti’s Cinematic Tools act as an alternative for PC game titles that has no in-game photo mode or Ansel support.
While the tool only works for a handful of games, it's able to present a list of complex settings as well as the ability to break the traditional camera in-game for more flexibility.
Although the tool has very few issues in singleplayer titles, it is advisable to use it with caution on multiplayer game modes as the tool can be labelled as a hack by common anti-cheat systems.
You can download and read more about it at the link below.
ImGui by Omar Cornut MinHook by Tsuda Kageyu inih by Ben Hoyt DirectXTK by Microsoft ... is a hack to allow free camera…
4. Mods *
Similar to Hattiwatti’s Cinematic Tools, several free cam and photo mode mods can be installed in several games that include modding support. This will allow players to wander around the game’s surroundings with no camera limitations or even go as far as to adjust settings to their liking if they wish to.
Some of the free cam mod projects can be found in the link below.
Steam Community :: Guide :: Freecam Workshop
I make freecams for games. Come see what I'm up to. Download beta freecams and help steer their creation. Let me know…
5. No HUD
If none of the above options works for you, there is always the No HUD approach, where you can switch off the in-game heads up display to remove the additional clutter from your screen. This gives you the opportunity to take still screenshots of your subject or location and it tends to work well for the most part, especially on first-person games.
If you enjoy quality writing and well-crafted video essays, Eurothug4000 has put together an excellent video on the Art of Video Game Photography. The video not only inspired me to dive into Virtual Photography but also helped me to understand the meaning and history behind this newly discovered art form.
But the mind of a creative is always sparked by the work of others.
Professional photographers such as Leo Sang and Petri Levälahti have pushed me to not only improve my overall VP skills but to also learn the fundamentals of cinematography and in-game camera placements.
Leo Sang - vrp
VRP stands for "Virtual Reality Photography". This is a personal project that uses video games as platforms for…
The Wrap Up
Virtual Photography has given artists and casual gamers a new medium to showcase their eye for photography in computer-generated environments. It has also become a more accessible road to photography, where newcomers are welcome to express their perspective while professionals use it as a platform to demonstrate their skills even further.
I hope you enjoyed this quick article on my perspective of Virtual Photography as well as how I came to discover it at a time where my creativity came to a temporary halt.
To showcase my newfound love, I started an Instagram account where I post shots that I take daily. Almost all the pictures in this article were my attempts at creating photo-worthy moments in video games. Check out The Memento Project.
I would love to hear your thoughts and your take on the art of Virtual Photography. I’m always eager to hear stories of how others have turned video games into a successful medium for photography as well as how much it has changed their perspective of the overall subject.
Thank you, Reader!
I appreciate you taking the time to read this story. I hope it was insightful and please feel free to leave any sort of feedback in the comments below. Have a great day!