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Posted by hsvlad (142 posts) -

In-game Photography

 
I love photography. I studied photography for about four years and I had planned on becoming a professional photographer. That plan became plan B after I got to do some work with a professional in Copenhagen for a few days and I realised that seemingly every other vaguely artistic teenager in Denmark wanted to be a photographer, and they all wanted it way more then I did! Now its just a hobby, mostly for myself, but I also act as the photographer for a monthly acoustic night a friend of mine holds at a club in London. 
 
Anyway this weekend I was wondering around town aimlessly trying to come up with some project or theme and I started thinking about screenshots for videogames and in-game images in general and it got me thinking. There are plenty of game trailers I remember, and plenty of photographs that I've seen in books or exhibitions that I also remember, but there isn't a single still image from a game that I can bring up in my minds eye. Obviously most screenshots are designed to sell the game, and often are just what is visible on the screen whilst playing, but there are usually some more artistically minded shots added as well. Pictures that, although still in-game, aren't from the players perspective. It made me wonder why that is. I'm sure there are plenty of game developers with some photographic skills, probably far better then my own, so why don't developers treat game stills as if they were actually photographing them. So I decided I would give it a go. 
 
I decided to use Garry's Mod because I knew it had a camera, and some controllable depth of field (DoF) features. Its not perfect as the display is set up to act like a human eye rather then a camera lens, and the DoF is awkward and requires some pre-rendering but, overall I think these came out pretty well.   
 
 It took some time to get a feel for the DoF and to realise that the view wouldn't mimic a lens accurately

The DoF is a little enthusiastic at times 

 It took a couple of attempts to get this shot as Super Dof in Gmod is really designed for taking pictures of things that aren't moving

 I tried to shoot the NPC's the way I would actual people. Waiting for them to stop moving, but still do something interesting was tricky




 This is a good example of what I mean about the in-game camera not quite acting like a real lens does. I could probably fix that by setting the resolution to something closer to a photographic ratio

When I photograph people in real life I tend to wait for them to stop looking at me, in-game however it was the other way around. 


 I tried very hard to get this shot to feel more realistic, but its an example of what I was saying about the in-game camera acting very differently to a real one. 


 Another example of waiting for the in-game actor to look at the player     






    
I think this is probably my favourite. It has just the right amount of imperfection to it. Alex is slightly out of focus and the camera has a slight, accidental, tilt to it
    
 I was going to take some shots in the later episodes but decided to call it a night after this one. I was having enough trouble shooting while everyone was calm and standing still so I wasn't really looking forward to trying to capture things in motion.
 I did these in black and white in-order to give them a more photographic feel. When they were in colour they still felt a bit too video-gamey, though perhaps that's because I've played so much HL2. I'd love to do this again in a game that supported more camera effects. Things like motion blur and real-time DoF. It would also be great if there was a game that was actually trying to simulate how a camera works. There were a lot of shots I wanted to take that I would have been able to do really quickly if I had aperture, shutter speed and focus controls properly laid out rather then having to fudge them. I'd love to do this kind of thing in something like Battlefield 3 or Crysis 2 but I doubt anyone has created a DSLR mod for those games.    
  
If anyone knows any games that simulate cameras or mods that add that sort of thing please let me know as I'd really like to take a look.
#1 Posted by hsvlad (142 posts) -

In-game Photography

 
I love photography. I studied photography for about four years and I had planned on becoming a professional photographer. That plan became plan B after I got to do some work with a professional in Copenhagen for a few days and I realised that seemingly every other vaguely artistic teenager in Denmark wanted to be a photographer, and they all wanted it way more then I did! Now its just a hobby, mostly for myself, but I also act as the photographer for a monthly acoustic night a friend of mine holds at a club in London. 
 
Anyway this weekend I was wondering around town aimlessly trying to come up with some project or theme and I started thinking about screenshots for videogames and in-game images in general and it got me thinking. There are plenty of game trailers I remember, and plenty of photographs that I've seen in books or exhibitions that I also remember, but there isn't a single still image from a game that I can bring up in my minds eye. Obviously most screenshots are designed to sell the game, and often are just what is visible on the screen whilst playing, but there are usually some more artistically minded shots added as well. Pictures that, although still in-game, aren't from the players perspective. It made me wonder why that is. I'm sure there are plenty of game developers with some photographic skills, probably far better then my own, so why don't developers treat game stills as if they were actually photographing them. So I decided I would give it a go. 
 
I decided to use Garry's Mod because I knew it had a camera, and some controllable depth of field (DoF) features. Its not perfect as the display is set up to act like a human eye rather then a camera lens, and the DoF is awkward and requires some pre-rendering but, overall I think these came out pretty well.   
 
 It took some time to get a feel for the DoF and to realise that the view wouldn't mimic a lens accurately

The DoF is a little enthusiastic at times 

 It took a couple of attempts to get this shot as Super Dof in Gmod is really designed for taking pictures of things that aren't moving

 I tried to shoot the NPC's the way I would actual people. Waiting for them to stop moving, but still do something interesting was tricky




 This is a good example of what I mean about the in-game camera not quite acting like a real lens does. I could probably fix that by setting the resolution to something closer to a photographic ratio

When I photograph people in real life I tend to wait for them to stop looking at me, in-game however it was the other way around. 


 I tried very hard to get this shot to feel more realistic, but its an example of what I was saying about the in-game camera acting very differently to a real one. 


 Another example of waiting for the in-game actor to look at the player     






    
I think this is probably my favourite. It has just the right amount of imperfection to it. Alex is slightly out of focus and the camera has a slight, accidental, tilt to it
    
 I was going to take some shots in the later episodes but decided to call it a night after this one. I was having enough trouble shooting while everyone was calm and standing still so I wasn't really looking forward to trying to capture things in motion.
 I did these in black and white in-order to give them a more photographic feel. When they were in colour they still felt a bit too video-gamey, though perhaps that's because I've played so much HL2. I'd love to do this again in a game that supported more camera effects. Things like motion blur and real-time DoF. It would also be great if there was a game that was actually trying to simulate how a camera works. There were a lot of shots I wanted to take that I would have been able to do really quickly if I had aperture, shutter speed and focus controls properly laid out rather then having to fudge them. I'd love to do this kind of thing in something like Battlefield 3 or Crysis 2 but I doubt anyone has created a DSLR mod for those games.    
  
If anyone knows any games that simulate cameras or mods that add that sort of thing please let me know as I'd really like to take a look.
#2 Posted by tunaburn (1891 posts) -

dead rising 1. the camera is one of the main parts.

#3 Posted by Ravenlight (8040 posts) -

Most of the Metal Gear Solid games have a camera at some point, thought I usually just used it to take pictures of the pinups in lockers and unconscious guards in funny positions.

Loading screen tip #24: Running around in Gmod with Super DOF enabled is a great way to induce eye strain!

#4 Posted by Zandatsu (6 posts) -

I want instagram filters for game screenshots. You did a good job but something other than black and white would be cool.

#5 Posted by MarkWahlberg (4606 posts) -

I hear there's this awesome Pokemon game...

#6 Posted by Rabid619 (1101 posts) -

In game photography can be a fun thing, though I'm not a fan of B&W photography 99% of the time. It just feels like it tries too hard to me.

Anyway, I haven't done it in a while but Uncharted 2&3 and Wipeout HD both have some decent options for taking shots. I know I've done it with more but those are the only two that I can remember right now. They are both PS3 games, of course.

#7 Posted by Daneian (1242 posts) -

Some of theses are striking and quite beautiful. A lot of style and elegance. I feel like you captured the look of despair on the faces of the City 17 citizens and the oppression of the Combine.

Online
#8 Posted by hsvlad (142 posts) -
@Rabid619: I know what you mean about black & white but I have a soft spot for it as its what I was taught to use first. I used the Colormode thing in Garry's mod and shot them b&w though, I don't like to desaturate colour shots, that feels like trying to hard to me lol   
 
I didn't know there was a photography thing in Uncharted 2&3 though, makes sense given how pretty they are I guess. 
#9 Posted by ViciousReiven (821 posts) -
@hsvlad: You have to check out  Dead End Thrills, this dude has the same love for in game art, he takes super high resolution shots of PC games using mods that allow for a full array of shooting techniques, and his PC is super high end so he jacks up the anti aliasing and filters to the maximum, really beautiful shots in there, he even did promotional shots for Dishonored.
#10 Posted by hsvlad (142 posts) -
@Daneian: Thank you very much :) 
 
I very deliberately chose this part of the game because it would have more of the human/civilian element to it. 
#11 Posted by hsvlad (142 posts) -
@ViciousReiven: Wow! This guys stuff is cool! Thanks for the tip
#12 Posted by Rabid619 (1101 posts) -

@hsvlad: Unfortunately you can only do it in the multiplayer portions of Uncharted 3, which don't look nearly as good as the SP.

The issue that I've found with doing this before is textures. You may get the angle, the lighting, DoF and everything else right but fact is that 90% of the time the shot will be spoiled by an ugly texture, unless you have a monster PC with crazy mods, anyway.

#13 Posted by Scoozi (26 posts) -

The Fatal Frame series of games revolves around using a camera and using upgrades to it to take better pictures. Some of my favorite game moments were behind the camera lens with these games.

#14 Posted by SSully (4199 posts) -

I think you did a great job. You really capture the dire state of city 17, and honestly capture a real human vibe from a lot of the shots. Keep it up duder.

#15 Posted by MegaLombax (392 posts) -

Nicely done mate! Keep it up.

#16 Posted by hsvlad (142 posts) -

@Rabid619: I know what you mean about the texture detail. I thought about downloading the Super-high res texture mod for HL2, I think its called cinema or something, but decided to just go for it the first time around. I'll get it installed if I decide to do any more stuff in Half Life

#17 Posted by Inkerman (1451 posts) -

The Combine with the light above him is fucking amazing. What resolution are these in?

#18 Posted by TaliciaDragonsong (8699 posts) -

Some sadly still scream VIDEOGAME to me but there's a few cool ones in there.
 
Keep it up, art saves!

#19 Posted by hsvlad (142 posts) -

@Inkerman: They're all 1920x1080

#20 Posted by hsvlad (142 posts) -

@TaliciaDragonsong: Yeah I know what you mean. I'm having trouble putting my finger on it exactly but I'm going to experiment with the aspect ratio and field of view. I don't want to do anything to the images in photoshop if I can avoid it, otherwise these stop being in-game photography and turn into Bull-shots in my mind.

#21 Posted by TaliciaDragonsong (8699 posts) -
@hsvlad: Well my opinion on it is try to avoid known characters.
The moment I saw Barney or Alex I lost all immersion because I know they are videogame characters.
Its good though, there's a lot happening around the player and its a worthy thing to capture on digital image!
#22 Posted by Rabid619 (1101 posts) -

@hsvlad: Yeah it's more fun to just go for it. Half Life 2 seems like a great subject to do something like that, too. Maybe I'll have to try it myself sometime.

#23 Posted by fox01313 (5074 posts) -

@hsvlad: Love the idea of this too in games, sadly not a lot have been done. Only ones that come to mind that I've played where the photography has any kind of relevance to it are: Fatal Frame series, Silent Hill Shattered Memories (camera phone but still neat mechanic in game), Dead Rising 1 & Afrika (link to quick look on site). Out of all of them Afrika is probably the closest I know of to play with the options of all the gear you use in photography.

#24 Posted by Little_Socrates (5677 posts) -

I'm glad someone mentioned Dead End Thrills, 'cause that always does look gorgeous.

@TaliciaDragonsong said:

@hsvlad: Well my opinion on it is try to avoid known characters. The moment I saw Barney or Alex I lost all immersion because I know they are videogame characters. Its good though, there's a lot happening around the player and its a worthy thing to capture on digital image!

This didn't happen for me, but it's a good point nonetheless. Lord knows I'd be distracted if the same were true with a screenshot of Jenny Romano or Oleg.

#25 Posted by kalmia64 (79 posts) -

Holy cow these are awesome! Just looking at them reminded me of the confused panic-y feeling I had when I first wandered around City 17. Well done sir.

#26 Posted by believer258 (11948 posts) -

Those look quite good. Good job!

#27 Posted by MAGZine (438 posts) -

Very well done. It would be great if more games had camera/dof tools.

#28 Posted by GERALTITUDE (3347 posts) -

Hey thanks for doing this -- just read your post, really cool. Hope you do more in the future.

#29 Posted by Marino (4715 posts) -

@hsvlad: Pretty interesting stuff here.

This is now promo'd on the front page of the site.

Staff
#30 Posted by Tamaster92 (271 posts) -

Hate to hijack your thread but I also have a strong interest in ingame photography - I actually have a tumblr over at hiddenbeautyofgames.tumblr.com

I find some games are really beautiful when you take the time

#31 Posted by hsvlad (142 posts) -
@Marino: Oh wow! Thank you! 
#32 Posted by hsvlad (142 posts) -
@Tamaster92: I took a look at it, it's cool! I noticed the single Mirror's Edge shot in there and it reminded me how stunning that game could look!
#33 Edited by Zelyre (1207 posts) -

@hsvlad said:

For New Vegas, there's this:

http://newvegas.nexusmods.com/mods/39619

The Imaginator.

ENB is available for both New Vegas and Skyrim. Installation is simple and there are a lot of settings to play with. Not my screen shot, as mine are all pretty boring, but one from the ENB thread.

The base ENB settings are fairly taxing, if you're pushing 60fps+ fps now, expect performance to drop about 20fps. Some ENB settings are faster, some tax even the most powerful of systems.

That's one of my shots of a chain... for some reason.

Edit: Forgot to post the site for ENB.

http://enbdev.com/

Make sure you check the instructions. For the most part, you just extract the files to the game directory, make the tweaks, and run the game as you normally would.

#34 Posted by hsvlad (142 posts) -
@Zelyre:  Wow! This looks perfect!!!! 
 
Well it looks like Darksiders II is going to have to wait cos I know what I'm doing when I get back from work! lol
#35 Posted by Draugen (651 posts) -

You're a good picture-taker-person...

#36 Posted by Tamaster92 (271 posts) -
@hsvlad Thanks duder. If you want games good for taking photos try out and Bethesda game - the console commands make free cam and no HUD an ease.
#37 Edited by Brackynews (4087 posts) -

I prefer this to moving machinima by a factor of a billion. :) I think if you keep doing this you might wake up one day with an offer from Valve. ;)

Last time I checked my PC screenshot archive, it was over 2,000 culled pics since the late 1990s, but 95% are documentary, not composed for an artistic purpose. It is a personal crusade for me to play any and every game with a photography mechanic. From Snap to Fatal. From Rising to Afrika. It basically guarantees I will at least try it.

#38 Posted by EVO (3914 posts) -

Holy shit dude these are fantastic.

#39 Posted by hsvlad (142 posts) -

@EVO: Thank you :)

#40 Posted by Poppduder (460 posts) -

Real good work OP. I studied photography as well and I'm currently working for a studio in Chicago. Even when I'm entertaining myself with video games I find myself composing screen shots and bringing them into Photoshop and editing them further. I really enjoyed Rage for that because of the texture depth, as well as red dead redemption, and really any game I get my hands on. I should really put some of it up in this thread to show you, but I'm always on my mobile when I'm browsing.
My friends always give me a hard time because when we used to play San Andreas together, (we'd play until we died, then switch) but I would never get into any trouble because I'd be in the slums with the in game camera trying to get some nice shots.

Games with in-game cameras (Afrika, Dead Rising) don't really do it for me for some reason, but I absolutely loved the camera on the Forza series. You have some really yummy options in those games.

Keep it up buddy!

#41 Posted by H8RAID (28 posts) -

These are great pictures, thank you for sharing.

...makes me want to fire up HL2 right now!

#42 Posted by SuicidalSnowman (396 posts) -

I think the first photo, the one of Barry on the bench, and the one of the combine under the light are by far the strongest. The one you mention as your favorite is one of the weaker ones for me. It 1) looks like a video game screenshot and 2) isn't a very interesting picture. I think some of your landscape ones would be improved with color. Since you obviously have the technical training, the skills, and the desire, I wonder if maybe you could try some color effects. Something like over saturating or bringing out the lights? Maybe finding a way to simulate the long exposure digitals that are currently popular. Best, this probably doesn't even require hardware, just outside software. Regardless, these are fantastic. Seriously wonderful.

#43 Posted by hund_schraube (5 posts) -

worse yet i had a dream of some place in a game i played long ago and i realized that when i'm really old that may be a real memory of a place i've been.

scary[and yet i guess i was really was there ;) ]

#44 Posted by toastface (107 posts) -

I think there would be a huge difference if the blur created for the depth of field effect would take into account the shape of the aperture of the lens. This bright spot for example should be taking the shape of the aperture (which would depend on how many fins the aperture has).

#45 Posted by hsvlad (142 posts) -

@toastface: Yeah it would be great if the DoF in Garry's mod could simulate that. The way Gmod renders it is by rotating the parts of the image that are out of focus and blurring them together, it looks very odd buts its quite a clever way to do it. In theory it could create the bokeh effect you're talking about if it moved the image in a hexagon instead of a circle. It works great in Crysis 2 although it tends to exaggerate the effect a little.

It would be cool to see a camera realistically simulated like you describe. I'm supposed to be learning how to use Unity 3.5 for work so we can use it for interactive walk/fly throughs, I might look at building a camera simulation once I've got to grips with it.

#46 Posted by Bollard (5598 posts) -

That one portrait one and the 4 below it are great!

#47 Edited by Gold_Skulltulla (221 posts) -

Anyone who dismisses these because they look video game-y is missing the point. I think it's a noble pursuit to try and simulate real-world aesthetics in video game photography (you're always limited to the graphical quality of the original game), but I'd be more interested in seeing what fantastic things in-game cameras are capable of that real cameras can't do. Most "artistic" game screens are of environmental architecture, which rarely does anything for me with real-world photography, so I think the trick is actually finding subject matter in games that's worth taking pictures of. I think you're on the right track with images like 2 and 4 and the vertical one. Interesting stuff.

#48 Posted by RE_Player1 (7560 posts) -

These are really good.

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#49 Posted by Taborlin (177 posts) -

This is pretty damn good :)

Also the ENB post up there^ +1 some ENB settings make skyrim look so nice, but my system can't run it very well.

#50 Posted by medacris (662 posts) -

It's fun also playing with the immobile Garry's Mod ragdolls. Little more easy to get the right pose you want when they're not moving.

I wonder if a mod exists to get the camera to act like a real camera. I'd love to download and play with that.