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Monday, November 28, 2005

Gaming Screenshots

Some wandering thoughts on taking prettier gaming screenshots. No seriously.

Over at the PC Gamer UK forum a while back we had a discussion about game screenshots as more “arty” pictures and a rather lengthy thread of examples continued. It sounds absolutely cringe worthy, I know, but for the most part we weren’t seriously contemplating the shots we could take in your average game to be comparable to the works of respected professional photographers. It was more geared towards appreciating that pretty pictures can be taken in games that move past being pretty just because they’re showing off the latest graphics engine.

My own thoughts were essentially that. Anyone can take a screenshot, much like anyone can (and will) take a photograph. To state the obvious some more, many people can take competent photographs that we’d all agree look nice. I’m assuming (I’ve never really looked into photography much) that far fewer people can take photos that are worth paying money for. With games I don’t think that third band is there yet, really. We have plenty of quite attractive games around but they either need to get even prettier (which is a whole other argument) or there need to be more that offer their own distinctive visual style. In addition they require the freedom to allow every participant to potentially find a shot that’s not going to be stumbled into by a random screenshot key press.

So to continue what I’ve said, that leaves us with the second rung of screenshotting that’s not just your average random snapping. That requires some basic skills to be applied and consequently is a step above your basic screenshot. You need an eye for composition, which is probably quite an obvious requirement. It’s not a highly skilled occupation (that I can see – I don’t think there are any people employed solely to take screenshots…) but it is a bit more than button pressing whenever you feel like it.

That’s my view, which has been reinforced by experiences in the past – particularly in selecting and/or taking screen shots for the Gundam Universe Quake 3 mod in my time there. I’m not much of an artist anymore but I like to think I still have my artist’s eye (which sounds pretentious as hell I know), particularly when it comes to composition. I don’t always exercise it but it’s there, I think. I try and bring that to the screenshots I take every once in a while. I currently maintain a flickr account here where I post up the shots. I don’t think I’m producing images of great skill or anything but I like to think I’m striving for a prettier kind of gaming picture. Shots like the one below are ones I’m quite satisfied with.

Dawn Of War: Blooded

There are others doing this as well and you can find them amongst the member list of the group created for that original forum thread. Whether screenshots of games will ever surpass the status of “pretty picture” in the hands of a talented future “virtual photographer” I don’t know, but at least there are some folks trying to make a better image to glance over.

Posted by Alex Hopkinson @ 4:48 PM


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All original content is copyright Alex Hopkinson 2005. Other content is copyright the respective owners. To contact the author email: alex [at]

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