Virtual Photography

A Different Perspective

February 28, 2020

As I learn and grow in virtual photography, my techniques continue to evolve. The more I invest my time in Photo Mode, the more I feel comfortable with all its settings. Trying new things will help you think outside of the box to capture photos you wouldn’t have thought of before. Since I wrote “Through My Lens” back in October, my perspective has changed on the photos I take in Days Gone. I try to get more in-depth with my shots today by seeing through the photo. What kind of story am I trying to tell? What subtle object is in the image that provides that extra punch? How can I capture the dynamic lighting, the atmosphere or manipulate the distance to grab that extra detail? What can I do to bring something new to my shots? These are the things that run through my mind with each photo. Every snap I take, I try to outdo my previous best. I love creating things within Days Gone and my goal with this virtual photography series is that it may inspire you to create and try something new.

Storytelling Through Photos

A good habit to create when entering Photo Mode is to ask yourself, what story am I trying to tell here?  Asking yourself this simple question will help inspire you to look for new angles, to capture that subtle detail in the background and end with a photo that you will love. And that’s what it’s all about right? Enjoying the art form and loving what you create!

Here is an example. These two photos may not be flashy, but it’s the story behind it that made me capture it. “Before Death and After Death” shows the state of Boozer at two points during his story. On the left, he’s lying on the ground badly wounded on the verge of death. On the right, he’s a new man with a new outlook on life.

An Extra Punch

So, you have a photo all lined up with the settings exactly where they need to be, but after looking at the final product you realize there’s just something missing to give it that extra punch. I have gone into Photo Mode more times than I can count without actually saving the image because I wasn’t happy with the outcome. Maybe the composition wasn’t right, the lighting, or I missed getting a detail in the right spot to put the image above the rest.

Days Gone is filled with details waiting to be captured, and sometimes that extra Freaker in the shot makes all the difference, or a shooting star in this case. Look below at this photo I captured recently. I loved how it came out with the low angle of Deacon on his bike and having the night sky provide a canvas for the backdrop. To give it that extra punch I’ve been talking about, I was lucky to get a shooting star on the left of the image. It might not be much, but it puts this shot at a different quality level than one without that small detail.

Dynamic Lighting, Atmosphere and Distance

These three components are something I’ve been trying to work on a lot recently with my shots. If you can incorporate one of these to a shot, along with providing a story and an extra punch I can almost promise you that you will have an extraordinary photo that you will love. Everything I talked about so far go hand in hand with this. For example, by focusing on dynamic lighting, the atmosphere will creep in, the distance of the shot will be perfectly adjusted giving you that extra punch, all the while creating a tone or story within the picture.

Dynamic Lighting – You can use anything as a light source such as fire or a flashlight. Look at the image below where I used the motorcycle headlight in a dark tunnel to capture this shot. I focused on the lighting to hit one side of Deacon. There I can adjust the contrast and the angle to highlight the part I want, while disguising the rest in the shadows.

Atmosphere – Honestly, this may be the “easiest” to capture because all of Days Gone is atmospheric. The way the world moves, the chaotic nature, the haunting caves can all be used as atmosphere. In this shot, I went with the foggy graveyard in the Survive challenge mode. My subject I was capturing that day was Carlos, so I was looking for a spooky scene and found it! Look at the fog, the gravestones, the night sky and how the bare trees provide that atmosphere I’m talking about.

Distance – There are many ways to interpret distance, but I look at it as layers. What’s in the forefront that you are focusing the picture on, what’s right behind it to provide that extra punch and what’s further out in the distance that ties it all together? In this photo, Deacon doing the wheelie is the focus. The next layer includes the lumberyard where Freakers roam and you can see how the train fell off the tracks. The third layer includes the criers in the sky and the mountain in the distance bringing the “wheelie” photo to more than just the bike itself.

Something Fresh

Taking the same type of photos every time will get old and will drive you to stop taking photos all together. That’s why its so important to try new things, to experiment and share photos that may not be your normal technique. You may find yourself a style that really speaks to you! Enjoy the creation process of the art form!

As for me, I experimented enough with the advanced settings in the Photo Mode that I found a way to capture the black and white silhouette shots that I absolutely love to take. I wasn’t the first to figure this style out, but I had fun learning how to do it. So, for the people who have been wanting to try it out I have provided you the steps to create the silhouette preset so you can take your own shots. Enjoy!

Lastly, here are a few of my recent shots that I am proud of, and in my opinion displays my progression of virtual photography within the past year. Maybe they will inspire you!

Through My Lens

October 21, 2019

Photo Mode is a key component to any modern video game. It’s a feature that is used by players to capture their favorite moments, to the smallest detail. Photo Mode gives the players the tools necessary to look at the game in a new perspective and create an image that speaks to them. Photo Mode also helps display all the hard work that the artists achieve when developing a game that many of us take for granted. Taking photos pauses the action to examine the lighting, textures, foliage and details making us appreciate the care invested in a game we love. Days Gone provides one of the best Photo Modes to date with an abundance of settings to really capture something unique. In the beautiful, but dangerous world of Days Gone there are limitless possibilities in taking photos. Open-world games provide you with different landscapes, wildlife, characters, enemies and special locations. You will find yourself taking more photos than actually playing the game!

Days Gone is the game that got me started with Virtual Photography. It got me involved in the Virtual Photography community, which I never knew existed before this. Being a part of this community taught me a lot about in-game photography and how I can improve. Participating in weekly and monthly themes helped me take shots out of my comfort zone and use settings in the Photo Mode I normally wouldn’t. I never knew that I would fall in love with this art form so much. Now, here I am with a whole gallery of photos and holding Days Gone specific themes. It has been quite the journey!

First, I want to say that I am in no way a professional at this art form. I am still learning everyday and hoping to continue to improve. In today’s post, I just wanted to share my experience with Photo Mode and provide you with my personal tips to capture Days Gone photos. This will not be a tutorial but will show you a picture of what and how I think. Maybe you will take something good away from it to help with your own photos!

From the Beginning

Before Days Gone, I would take screenshots here and there in games as more of a memento to myself because I never shared them. I never truly understood the Photo Mode feature and all its settings until now. Below, you can see my very first photos I captured that sparked my interest in Virtual Photography, this blog and all my Days Gone content. These were very basic screenshots with no editing whatsoever in Photo Mode. At that time, I had no clue what to do! It’s funny to see this post now because little did I know what would become of it.

Fast forward six months, I now realize what works best for me and what doesn’t in the Days Gone Photo Mode. My favorite types of photos I love to take are with the motorcycle, landscapes and action. I seem to take more of these types of shots more than anything else. Between the motorcycle, landscapes and action I feel there is a large variety there to play with making each capture feel different. The landscapes prove just how beautiful the world of Days Gone is. The motorcycle is such an important piece to the game and its customizations can always provide a different look. The action is a staple to Days Gone with the slogan, “This world comes for you.” This can create extraordinary shots during fights with a horde, a Rager bear, Runners and other enemies.

As I have invested the past six months into Days Gone, my focus with my photos now looks at shots that haven’t been done before. Not only on a personal level, but things I usually don’t see other players sharing. I try to keep the photos fresh and varied to display the long range of photo opportunities that Days Gone can bring to people. From a design on a rug to fighting a bear, I want to capture as much as I can. As long as I continue to enjoy what I am doing (which I do) my creativity continues to expand.

Every now and then I like to look back at my older shots compared to my newer ones to see my progression, but to also see how I can improve. Some of the shots I have taken I am really proud of, and others I wish I did something just a little different. That’s just the perfectionist quality in me. Here you can see my top 5 most popular photos on Twitter, which correlate to some of my personal favorites as well.

Personal Tips

I would like to share with you some of my personal tips on how to approach your shot and follow through with a good photo. Once again, I should mention that I am not a professional photographer, just someone who enjoys doing it as a hobby. Most of the tips I mention below I learned from trial and error. What also helped me was gaining inspiration from other VP members with their shots from a wide range of games. Learning perspective, verticals, framing were all things that I learned from being involved in the community.

So, when should you take photos? I believe it’s best to take photos as you make your way through the story. This way you can capture certain characters and story points that resonate with you the most. However, I find myself most of the time roaming the map looking for particular themes to capture. Whether that is a community held theme or a theme I have in my mind. For example, when the Horizon Zero Dawn bike skin was released I had a certain picture in my head that I knew what I wanted to do. When I think of Horizon, I think of that beautiful world and the cold and snowy environments. Immediately, I rode my bike to the snowy area of the map and found a great spot with snow covered trees and a small pond of water. I wanted this theme to be labeled after the DLC, ‘The Frozen Wilds.’ The photo I captured fit perfectly with the theme I had in mind. When a spark of creativity jumps up, I roll with it to see what will come out of the photo. Sometimes your photo may not match what you were thinking and sometimes you will capture a great photo by accident!

This Photo Mode includes a lot of settings from basic to advanced, giving you the ability to take a shot and turn it into whatever you want. At first it might look intimidating but honestly, I usually go through the same cycle of settings for each photo. My priority once I enter Photo Mode is composition, focus and coloring. The very first thing I do is focus my shot. From here, I begin to position the screen and play with the Field of View slider, along with the Aperture to get a sense of what I am trying to capture. Once I feel that the composition and focus is right, then I start messing around with the color. At this point, I am still in the Basic settings menu where I navigate to Contrast and Brightness. I find the Contrast setting to be beneficial in a lot of my shots in Days Gone because as I increase the slider (just a notch up or two) it provides the darker tone needed in a lot of situations. Now, I enter the advanced settings to add a certain kick to the photo. Whether that includes Bloom, Vibrancy, Temperature or Vignette. Most of my shots include some sort of combination of these settings.

A couple basic features that is added to every Photo Mode are Frames and Filters. Personally, I don’t apply these that much to my shots especially the Frames. Occasionally, I will include a frame if I think it adds to the photo, but the world is so beautiful I don’t want to obstruct the view. It all depends on personal taste. With Filters, I mainly use three of them; Vintage, Black and White and Noir. I find that the Vintage filter really captures the moody atmosphere. I like to use this filter with hordes and darker areas to give it that apocalypse and desolate feel. A great feature that is included in the Photo Mode is being able to save your own preset. This is something I haven’t really taken advantage of, but I do have one preset saved called ‘black.’ This is a custom preset that provides the all black background. Thanks to @warrior_musa on Twitter for providing everybody with this tip!

The best tips I can give you is to experiment for yourself. Try out all the settings, take photos that you normally wouldn’t and be creative. Most of all, have fun doing it! Don’t worry about the numbers game on social media. If you begin to worry about how many “likes” you’re getting on each photo, your love for the art will diminish. Whatever art style you enjoy, continue with it and be confident in sharing it with the world. I hope this helped some of you out there, particularly the players who don’t know much about Virtual Photography like I did.

If you would like to see all my photos I have taken over the course of my playthroughs click here: Photo Gallery, or go to the PhotoMode tab at the top of the page. Remember, you have until October 31st to enter the second #VPDaysGone theme, Freakshow. Let’s see your scariest Freaker photos! For more information on the themes and how to get involved you can find everything under Themes.

Are you new to Virtual Photography and need help getting your Days Gone photos noticed? Check out the following graphic to gain support and enter different themes. The list you see here is what forms the amazing VP community and if it wasn’t for them, Virtual Photography wouldn’t be as big as it is. You will also get the privilege to meet other VPs that are always willing to support and share your photos.

Image credit: GamerGram