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Top 5 Game Photography Tips for Beginners

A Non-Photographer's Game Photography Tutorial

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Welcome to the Top 5 Game Photography Tips for Beginners tutorial!

There are A LOT of photography tutorials our there, written by people that are amazing at photography.

There are NOT a lot of game photography tutorials out there, and even less professional game photographers (because I don’t think this profession really exists – yet).

So, follow me on my non-photographers game photography tutorials as I bumble my way through professional photography guides and apply them to game photography.

A bit about me – I have been working on IT projects for the last 10 years or so. I completed a degree in Computer Science which majored in Games Technology, and am a photography enthusiast that has done a few African Safari’s and overseas trips with my DSLR. So I know a bit about how games are made, and can also find my way around a camera.

For this tutorial I googled “best basic photography tutorial” and picked the top result. If you want to look at the tutorial I am using, this is it.

Top 5 Game Photography Tips for Beginners

1. The Exposure Triangle

The exposure triangle helps you capture that light in the best way possible in the environment you are taking the image. This section is a need to know when capturing an image in real life, and is very useful to know for game photography.

Game Photography is all about capturing light, but in a different way than in real life. In games, it isn’t always easy to tell where the light is coming from, what kind of light is trying to be achieved (i.e. sunlight, fluorescent light, candles, etc.), or what the strength of the light is.

Azis, light!

Light in the real world needs to follow physics – light in games can do anything. The source could be anywhere, it can travel anywhere or light things that should be in shadows. There are even times when there is no apparent source of light – the game is just lit up.

That makes it even more important to pay attention to what the light is doing when taking in-game photos.

Developers have done a really good job at mimicking what a real life camera does, so it is important to know what the exposure triangle is and use it to your advantage:

  1. Aperture — The size of the lens opening, often stated in the form of “f/stops” – f/2, f/5, f/11, etc. The smaller the number, the wider the aperture opening. The wider the aperture, the more light is let in. Aperture size also affects depth of field (which affects, for example, background blur).
  2. Shutter Speed — How long the shutter is left open, often stated in the form of 1/200 sec, 1/60 sec, 5 sec, etc. The slower the shutter speed, the more light is let in. Shutter speed also affects sensitivity to motion (faster speeds will freeze motion, slower speeds will motion blur).
  3. ISO — How sensitive the sensor is to light, simply stated as 100 ISO, 400 ISO, 6400 ISO, etc. Higher ISOs allow you to take photos in darker situations, but the trade-off is noise (“grain”). That’s why photos in the dark often have those characteristic spots.

Sometimes these won’t be included in a photo mode, or could be included but called something different (brightness instead of ISO for example).

2.  The Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is a composition technique widely used by photographers to improve their photography. A simple concept that I often get it wrong. For more advanced compositional techniques see our Intermediate Composition tutorial here

To use this technique, mentally divide the image into thirds with two vertical lines and two horizontal lines. The subject of the photo can then be placed in the intersection of the lines. This is where I have gotten it wrong before, by placing the subject in one of the thirds. Wrong. Intersection is where it’s at.

ruleofthirdswithgrid
ruleofthirdswithoutgrid

The biggest thing missing when comparing a pro photographer to an amateur is the composition of the photo. This technique will get you one step closer to being a pro!

3. Change Your Perspective

“One way to ensure an unremarkable photo is to snap a subject straight-on from eye level.” Love it.

Change the perspective of your snap! This is an incredibly easy thing to do in game photography, so should be taken advantage of.

Below I have taken a shot from eye level and a shot from as high as the camera would go. Which one do you like better?

perspectiveeyehight
perspectivelookingdown

Try getting higher or lower, closer to the subject, or at an angle that you wouldn’t normally be looking from. Make the image unique!

4. Post Processing

There is nothing wrong with a bit of post processing an image taken from a game. In real life, cameras are flawed, and in game photography is no different.

The developers have done their best to give us a good quality camera, filters and options for making the shot look it’s best. But they haven’t embedded a full image editing suite in the game (and nor should they!). So if you feel your images are lacking something, post processing could bring it out. If you want a good, free image editing tool, look no further than GIMP.

This image was cropped and a stronger Vignette effect added in post processing

5. Don’t Blame Your Gear

A skilled photographer can take a great photo with a crappy camera. Make the most out of what the game developers have given you. Learn as much as you can about composition, lighting and perspective. Improve your skills using the the tools in the game as well post processing tools.

Try new things, and share it with the community to get feedback and advice!

Thanks for coming along on this Top 5 Game Photography Tips for Beginners tutorial with me. It certainly improved my photos after going through it! Keep an eye out on our site for more of these in the future, including Black and White, high speed and depth of field tutorials.

 

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