Game Photography Becoming a Thing

What is Game Photography?
The short version
Game Photography is the capturing of static frame images from within an executed game engine. But really, it is so much more.
The long version
Although technically we are not using a camera sensor to capture light, we are using a means to capture an image, or a moment if you will. During my journey on figuring out how photography differentiates from game photography I struggled to find a lot of differences, but how people described individual images themselves I found to be the opposite; it was mostly different.

Game photography aside, “normal” photographers themselves identify their work in different ways and the art of photography means something different to everyone. Just google the word photography and see how it is described, or better yet ask a few people what photography means to them and you will likely have different answers. Everyone defines the artistic aspects, purpose, and outcomes photography differently. Art is subjective.
How would you describe (game) photography in one word?

But there is no camera

Technically, no there isn’t however, there is more to photography than the means used. If photography is solely based on the medium used than anyone with a camera can be called a photographer, and any image ever taken can be considered photography. This includes all the blurry images your butt took on your iPhone camera by accident and every image you see posted on social media (even the really bad ones).

The medium is not the creator

To put things into context, photography from an artistic perspective was never fantastical by the medium used but by what the creator created using their chosen medium in the desired way. Anyone with a camera can hit a button and get a lucky shot, but creating something with intention and attention to detail is what makes it art, be it with a DSLR camera, an iPhone camera, or hitting printscreen for an in game screenshot.

  • The scissors will never be the hairdresser.
  • The paintbrush will never be the painter.
  • The piano will never be the musician.
  • The bathing suit will never be the swimmer.
  • The sword will never be the fighter.
  • The tools used can never be the creator.

Tools cannot use themselves. At least until robots become more sophisticated…

The pros to game photography

It’s Cheaper

I can’t say how much cheaper because that depends on how much you decide to spend on your PC (or console), the games itself, and any potential third-party programs. I will say though that having a better PC, specifically, a better video card will improve the quality of your graphics and thus produce better images. A ballpark figure for a decent top of the line PC (custom made) that can produce the best up to date graphics in 2019 is approximately $800-$5000, not including a monitor or accessories. But hey, that is still way cheaper than a good full-frame camera and a nice selection of lenses.

Console gaming is cheaper, significantly. Anywhere up to $400-500 not including games or accessories but is no match graphically. Plus, if you want to do any post processing you will have to transfer your images to either a PC or a smartphone. Yes, PC master race.

You don’t have to travel

No travel costs, no getting lost, no getting out of your jammies.

You can break the rules of reality easier

Sure, you are limited somewhat by the contents of the game, but you are unlimited by means of the 3D and 2D art world. All games are made using an engine and art programs, and thus if you really want to customize everything to a T, then consider learning a 3D art program.

You can use the engine to create custom environments and characters.

You don’t have to deal with people lol

I am an introvert at heart, which means being around people too much, or too often can drain my energy. If you love working with real people but still like the fantasy aspect of game photography, consider composite fantasy photography. You can coordinate easier and have greater control over the situation. You don’t have to worry about traffic, time, or how to get to where you’re going. You don’t have to dress to impress. You don’t have to dress at all, unless you want to.

Less saturated market

The truth is that most game photographers are hobbyists, and are not trying to pursue a career in game photography. They are not interested in crafting their skill and style, but simply want to document their game-play. Some people aren’t obsessed with trying to make their image look better and never bother with editing their photos.

The cons to game photography

You don’t have human interaction

I know I said this is a pro, but that is entirely up to you.

You are on your ass

This could also be seen as a pro, but honestly too much sitting is bad for so many reasons. It lowers your metabolism, can cause depression, and over time can damage your back.

Its a nichey AF

Although growing, it is a niche inside of a niche. And it is illegitimatized because most people don’t see it as real photography.

Game photographers consider the same things

We too have to think about the following with intention…

  • subject
  • environment
  • lighting
  • props
  • costume design
  • character design
  • lens effects
  • composition
  • post processing
  • resolution

End Game: is there even a market?

Copyright issues

It is unlikely that you will see game photography being sold as fine art in an art gallery, unless indistinguishable or the art (3D) was made solely by you . However, you can still use it in your portfolio.

Game Capture Artist (marketing and promotion)

Check out this position. It’s a thing!

Game development and marketing companies are hiring people to take screenshots.

In addition to screenshots for a marketing campaign, promotion art is needed for box coverings, advertisements, game guides, YouTube thumbnails, and website/social media. When they are hyping up or releasing a game someone with an eye to make the game appealing has to do this. Just think of all those thumbnails on Netflix, they don’t reflect the actual video footage of the show/movie, but they stylize it to make it appealing. This is usually done using third party programs such as Photoshop or Illustrator.

Spread the word

I want to educate the world about this up and coming niche that very much exists, and I hope we can pave the way to one day have mainstream see it is a thing. I hope that this not only turns game photography into a legitimate career but pushes the limits of our craft.

If you have found this post to be informative, please share this with others. Let’s legalize game photography.

If anyone tells you game photography isn’t photography, take a picture of your screenshot art, and then send it to them to seal the deal.

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