In this edition of Through The Virtual Lens, I managed to talk with DotPone about their experiences in the world of Virtual Photography. Virtual Photography is a growing discipline that utilizes the ever-popular “Photo Mode” settings in Video Games to capture beauty and art from virtual worlds.
The term “Virtual Photography” may not be one you hear often, but it is simple-enough to understand. Where “Traditional Photography” deals with precisely composed images captured and developed onto film, “Virtual Photography” deals with precisely composed images captured within video games. It is, by all accounts, a natural evolution of the discipline in the modern age. Thankfully, Game Developers are helping to foster the growth of this field. They are undoubtedly helping to foster the growth of a new kind of artistic expression. It makes sense, though, given the ever-improving virtual worlds the industry is presenting us with.
Through this series of articles, I want to talk about Virtual Photography with Virtual Photographers. I will be asking about their reasons for becoming a Virtual Photographer, their opinions on the current state of in-game Photo Modes, the Virtual Photography community as a whole and anything else they have to say!
In the third installment of Through The Virtual Lens, I got a chance to talk with DotPone. He is a Portuguese-based Virtual Photographer who most-recently won a VP Competition with Playstation Portugal for an image of Ghost of Tsushima!
You can find a link to their Twitter Account here: DotPone Twitter
As always, I started off by asking how DotPone began his Virtual Photography.
In comparison to some, DotPone is a relative newcomer to Virtual Photography. However, this doesn’t mean his work is anything but exceptional. He states Insomniac’s Spider-Man title as his starting point.
“ … A little part of the excitement surrounding [Spider-Man] was because of the Photo Mode. I had no idea Photo Mode was even a thing before it was announced.”
It may not have been the first title with Photo Mode, as DotPone stated that he initially thought, but it was an important Photo Mode nonetheless. His Virtual Photography began on launch day and he hasn’t stopped since.
In addition to Insomniac’s Spider-Man title, DotPone also noted the hashtag “Virtuasun” and @VirtuaCam as an important stepping stone into the Virtual Photography Community. His participation in theme-based weekly challenges led him to a community of people “with the same passion”.
Continuing on, DotPone discussed his interests with Traditional Photography.
“I always had an interest in it and even bought a camera.”
Understandably, he mentions the fact that Traditional Photography is an expensive hobby to jump into. Cameras aren’t as expensive and there are countless other expenditures. This, in a way, perfectly highlights what’s so important and exciting about Virtual Photography.
Virtual Photography provides an affordable alternative to Traditional Photography that fosters the artistic expression of those unable to through Traditional Photography for whatever reasons. There are real-world locations in a lot of titles and the opportunity to take photos of locations many people might never be able to visit in person.
This being said, A Photo Mode is the vital tool of a Virtual Photographer. So, I asked DotPone about his opinions on them.
Firstly, I want to discuss what features DotPone believes are missing in the majority of Photo Modes. Heads up, Developers!
“Most Photo Modes don’t give you a nice distance… Most titles only let you orbit around the main character.”
This. One-thousand times this. DotPone does point out that this is probably down to rendering issues and the fact that there is only a certain distance around the Player-Character that is fully rendered, but it is an important point to make. I can only imagine that, if rendering is the issue, the future looks bright. The next-generation of consoles and increasing power of computer components, I should think, will help with making this feature a reality.
I then asked which Photo Mode DotPone thinks is the best. He gave a surprising answer…
“Days Gone by a large margin… The shots you can create on that Photo Mode will leave anyone speechless.”
In particular, DotPone highlights the RGB controls, bloom effects and distance options. All of these, when combined with Days Gone’s option to save Photo Mode setting presets… Rightfully so, it is a fantastic combination.
As we’ve seen, Traditional Photography Techniques are vitally relevant to Virtual Photography. I asked DotPone if there was anything in particular he finds useful.
In relation to this question, DotPone shined a light on image composition. This seems to be a popular response to this question and for good reason.
“Composition is king in any image… The role of composition is to lead the viewer’s eye to wherever the artist wishes it to go.”
To further go into image composition, DotPone discussed his use of natural framing in his work. By using an in-game element to frame the main character, it creates a depth to the image that highlights the target-focus beautifully.
As any Content Creator has, DotPone has a growing community of his own! I asked him about his experiences within the Virtual Photography Community alongside the growth of his own.
“I haven’t thought about it until this very moment… I’m nervous about it.”
Oh god. What have I done?
After this, thankfully DotPone continued to answer rather than slipping into some existential crisis. He stated that he found it funny when people would see his work and audience and assume he is a professional.
“They get pretty bummed when I explain that most of the time I have no idea what I’m doing.”
However, he still offers advice and help where he can regarding both Virtual Photography and Community Growth.
On top of this, he also expressed his joy at the global reach of Virtual Photography and his community.
“Never in my life I thought I would have a friend from Mexico… Germany… The U.S…”
This is a testament, like any art-form, to the global reach it has. Virtual Photography can transcend borders. Not bound by languages, these communities are growing and continue to thrive as the internet age continues.
Finally, I discussed the concept of Content Creation and monetization with DotPone and the career prospects of his work.
Virtual Photography is one of the few avenues of Content Creation that has seemingly been left alone by the idea of monetization. He himself agrees with this sentiment, and believes it should stay this way, stating:
“There are all kinds of content creation around games making money and we are the only ones who haven’t tapped into it… Directly selling your shots shouldn’t be allowed.”
Discussing gaining revenue within the Virtual Photography Community is reportedly a taboo topic. He believes that the Game Developers still own the rights to the imagery, not the Virtual Photographers. There are, however, ways around this. DotPone has a Patreon he is using to support his work.
In a final word, for now, from DotPone, he expressed an obvious sentiment…
“Isn’t that everyone’s dream? Getting a career doing what you love?”
It’s an important thing to follow your dream, and Virtual Photographers face an uphill struggle to make a career out of their work (if they want to, anyway!) Still, that doesn’t mean they should stop sharing their work in any case. It is as beautiful as it is inspiring.
I hope this has offered an exciting insight into the world of Virtual Photography and Virtual Photographers. Keep an eye out for the next installment of Through The Virtual Lens for another discussion with a talented Virtual Photographer.