In-Game Photography: A New Pastime For Gamers?

In-Game Photography: A New Pastime For Gamers?

Video games just as photography has grown at an exponential rate. Technology has allowed both to jump leaps and bounds in quality over the past few years, so it only makes sense that eventually the two would merge at one point. Introducing 'In-Game Photography', a new form of photography that seems to be spreading in interest among gamers across the world.

Above photo Josh Taylor

The idea of gaming photography I believe is an interesting and perhaps even slightly controversial one. I love video games,  Legend of Zelda, World of Warcraft and  Resident Evil just to name a few, and I use them as a way to escape the stress that sometimes surrounds my chaotic day. I never considered that when I would take a screenshot of my Blood Elf getting killed by Deathwing in World of Warcraft it could be considered 'art'.

Some photographers like, Duncan Harris, are so good at taking snapshots from video games and slightly editing them in Photoshop that some game developers use them as promotional images. Other photographers take the shots directly off of their television screens, like James Pollock who uses his iPod and apps like Instragram to capture his in-gaming experience.

While the photography is quite stunning it leaves me wondering... who is the artist? The photographer who froze and altered the shot or the game developers who created the entire scene in the first place? I have several friends who are game developers and are amazing artists that spend months to years developing a game. The photographers that I have seen practicing this have all been very respectful of game developers and credit them as much as possible. I wonder if copyright will ever become an issue for those into in-game photography. What are your thoughts?

You can read the full article about in-gaming photography via: Video Game Tourism.


Duncan Harris 

James Pollock

Iain Andrews



Josh Taylor


Duncan Harris 

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The problem I have with this concept is that all it accounts for is composition. The lighting and production design has already been made and decided by the game designers. 

says you, good sir. there's actually more and more and more games recognizing the interest in this idea and many of them are implementing INTENDED photographic apps/modes. the Halo series is a perfect example of this where you can change a lot of things about the lighting setup. Forza has an ever growing photography mode that let's you (in a VERY user friendly way) control things like shutter speed, aperture, etc. any game that has a level builder/modifier and can take screencaps technically is giving you photographic control.

it's really quite awesome!

Isn't that like saying that street photographers and journalists only account for composition as the lighting and production design has already been made and decided by the environment?

That would be like comparing the entire world and known universe to the scale of a very directed video game. Even open world games like mmorpgs aren't comparable in scale and variation to the world in which we live. This making the journalist photographer in the 'real' world responsible for noticing when these seemingly infinite possible combinations of light and composition are at a photo worthy point. Video games are too directed in my opinion. That isn't to say there isn't value in the composition at all, but come on, it's like calling Poke'mon Snap a photographers practice tool.

Actually a lot of games (But mainly through PC version configurations) allow players to change many settings that can imitate all the nifty settings on a high end DSLR. These may include the Aspect Ratio, Depth of Field, Field of View, Contrast, Brightness,  HDR etc...

I was expecting this to be about games such as Fatal Frame, but never mind. I've seen some good efforts with the screenshotting and such; I believe a group did a large photo essay type thing in a ww2 shooter.. may have been Medal of Honour. The amount of effort that went into position and composition of that was quite amazing. Also, most newer driving games generally have some form of photo mode, either staged or from a race replay. Pretty sure the newest Forza or GranTurismo even go into depth where you can compose from anywhere, adjust your focal length, aperture and shutter speed and I believe change the time of day for the shot also.

Arturo Mieussens's picture

Instagram for 3D.

Mike Kelley's picture

Dang. I think I have hundreds of screen shots from back in the day of me playing counter-strike and pwning tons of noobs on de_dust with an awp ;). Everyone who played this game knows exactly what I'm talking about. Good lord, I wasted so much of my life on that game!

Rebecca Britt's picture

That's me and anything Blizzard makes. World of Warcraft and Diablo particularly. 

I tried this with Star Wars The Old Republic about half a year ago.

It was fun and I would do it again if I would have the time.

These picture i find to be a poor example of what can be done, Duncan Harris (dead end thrills). work is amazing but even then it can be a little bit hit and miss.

Benicio Murray's picture

I'm intrigued. There are far better examples floating around in other stories on this subject atm though

I find this a fun thing to do, with the worlds that some of these people create and the control you sometimes get there can be a lot of creative freedom to have your own take on the virtual world.

Valve have also just recently released (in beta) Source Film maker which gives you amazing control over all aspects of things, lighting, camera, as well as actors and locations.. and while its mostly for video it can be used to create stunning images of characters that people have come to know and love.

I have't played around with it too much, sometimes in replays modes of CoD or other FPS i play around looking for nice scenes/images or if I'm playing something like forza or gt5.  The once thing I did notice that my love for photography has also made me look at games in a new way.

It is funny. If I will take a screenshot of Pulp Fiction that I watch on my computer screen and photoshop a little, am I artist? If I will take your picture and crop it, change some colors and contrast... Same thing.

It's not really..   If you take your camera into the real world and take an image of things nature or other people created is it your image?

What if you waited for the right time, selected a focal length to compress perspective and an aperture to select your focus and a shutter speed to leave a bit of movement.  Is that your image?

Say you added some lights and directed the scene..  is that your image?

You can do lots of these same things within game worlds, sure your not using a camera.. and the world is virtual but some games let you have control over all the same sort's of things that you would have in real life letting you have creative input to the final outcome.

While technically its not really photography in a normal sense, apart from the fact you dont use a camera and its in a virtual world lots of the same fundamentals still apply...   would you say the fully CGI scene in the new spider man movie isnt really part of the movie? yet it still required directors of photography.

Well in the game you see what an artist want you to see. Programers and visual artist made their job. You are just choosing what you like of their work and share with others.
Don't confuse photographing real world with the game.
It is only a digital simulator.

If you play Call of Duty are you a soldier? Hey, it is running and shooting...

I guess it depends on the game and the tool's given to you,  some games give you free camera movement, DoF adjustment, shutter speed adjustment as well as perspective.

I'm just saying that in some games, or some tool's that let you use a games resources (ie source film maker) its not just a case of you see what a visual artist/programer wants as  you have the ability and tools to be creative and do things they didn't.

When you shoot architecture you are shooting someone else's work right? But you can do so much more than just grab your iphone and snap an image, you can move about.. select the scene you want, use focal lengths to your advantage and even light it if you wish..     its the same with some games but not many.

There`s more to than what the developers gave you. If the game is scripted then you`re right. Pressing PrintScr does not make you an artist.


If you want a good sunrise picture, you get your a$$ out of bed at 4:00 in the morning. If you want a stunning panorama in a game (and there`s no "flying god mode") you haul your a$$ up on uncharted paths, or try to exploit the level geometry to get that shot.

I know it first hand. I did that for a whole week trying to get different vantage points.

Furthermore, there are games where night and day cycles make in-game photography very attractive.

And it does not matter if the world in which you take pictures has been created by digital artists or architects, because everyone is looking for beautiful places to sharpen their skills.

I`m an architect, and we create with vantage points in mind, but our expectations are oftentimes surpassed by creative photographers. And it`s the same for game-designers.

Away from the subject... Isn't it sad to do all this instead of taking the simplest camera, iphone or just disposable film point-n-shot and go out to the world and take picture of real sunrise? I guess I wasn't aware of where the world is heading...

 Short answer is ... no! All that has been done before , to death. As long as I`m expanding my imagination with a good game, it`s no harm in having a passion within a passion.

Hobby-ception, if you`d allow me that licence.

not at all the same thing, you can't immerse yourself in the movie pulp fiction, you can't move around freely in it, grab differing perspectives, alter the lighting settings and move to another room in the world as you wish.

fyi the only Photoshop on that image is the lettering, and everything in that shot was created by someone different, the hair the house, the tree the swing, the skin on the person the shape of the person etc.. in fact that lighting was done by me individually changing things like direction of sun, colour saturation time of day and gamma individually not a preset pre designed sky background by an artist.


how is it any difference than taking a picture of a girl posing on a swing irl, did you build everything in your photos, did you create the trees, sky, clothes, hair, skin, model, pose, whatever else no, you're capturing  what is already there.

 well, try and then tell us.

This kind of makes me sad...

I do in game photography in second life, and it is a lot more than just grabbing a screen shot of other peoples work. it is involved and complicated to get a good shot with good lighting.

and with second life just like the real world there is no one artist creating a world you take a pic of, there are tons and tons of people creating buildings towns cars clothes hair skins etc.... online photography is more than taking credit for someone elses work with a lucky screen grab.

I think the fact you play Second Life just about says it all.

Wipeout HD has shutterspeed and aperture settings in its photo mode!

Been doing this in MMORPGs for some time. Sims 3 even has camera mode, here you can zoom. but the world is a bit small...

Generally this works best where you are allowed to free roam in the world, hence MMORPGs, RPGs, or something similar.

Maybe it's time I dug out my old screenshots. :P

Pic says my feelings about this subject.

At least when speaking about this subject...what ever it could be called. There should not be word Photography included.