In-game photography is becoming more mainstream. Just a few years ago, many photographers would have turned their noses up at anyone talking about virtual photography, and for some, it can still be quite difficult to get their head around. I believe perception is changing, and this virtual photography world is going to explode, and in some respects already has. With the introduction of the Forza Horizon series and games like Red Dead Redemption and the rapid change advancement in tech, the world of virtual in-game photography has only just begun. What lies before us is a whole new way to express our creative freedom and it’s a playground like no other.
What do you need to get started?
What do you need? What are the basics to get you started? Well, there’s good and bad news here. The good news is many people already own the basic equipment to get started. The bad news is you will likely find yourself craving more power from your PC and that’s when it can get expensive.
There are 3 main components to start your journey
- PC (Personal Computer)
- A steam Account for games (Games)
- A Monitor
These are the basic three things you’ll need to get going. Of course, PC’s and monitors vary wildly amongst each other but if you have even a basic understanding of tech you should be able to navigate this without much stress.
About the PC for In-Game Photography
There are two important parts of your PC to keep top of mind. The processor (CPU), and the graphics card. Both of these in simple terms will work in tandem to run your desired video game. Some video games use more of the processor and some use more of the graphics card, all games use a variance of both, depending on the video game.
The simple fact is; the more money you spend on your PC, the higher graphical settings you can run your game. As video-game photographers, we are always looking to run our games at the highest possible settings to achieve the best quality and results from in-game textures, lighting effects and shadows, but it’s not the be-all and end-all!
Monitors for virtual In-game photography
The monitor plays a huge role in the final output of your image. In particular the resolution of your photo. Again as video-game photographers, we like to create images at the highest possible resolution. This is where it can get tricky, as the higher-resolution monitors require more expensive graphics cards to run them. From experience, I’d advise nothing less than a 2K (1440p) monitor with 60hz refresh rate.
Do I need a gaming monitor for virtual in-game photography?
Quite simply, NO you don’t. Gaming monitors are designed to run at very high refresh rates (FPS) and with low input lag. If you’re just looking to get into virtual in-game photography you need not worry about refresh rates and such. Anything with 60hz (FPS) or about will be perfectly fine. Monitor resolution and colour will be your best friend here, alongside the ability to run in true HDR but ill leave the HDR topic for another post.
So what monitor resolution should you pick for In-Game Photography?
That depends on what hardware you’re running. Some say it doesn’t matter what resolution you use and it all depends on your desired output size but I have to disagree. With more pixels comes more fine detail that will take advantage of what your graphics card can deliver in terms of textures. It also gives you the ability to refine your crop in external editing software like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop.
I would recommend spending as much as you can on your graphics card and then you can purchase a monitor based upon that. If you have a very powerful graphics card you can run 4K or even higher. If you have an older, or budget graphics card you may have to opt for a 1080p monitor. Personally, I would avoid going less than 2K (2560×1440). At this resolution, you get the benefit of running your games at higher graphical settings whilst retaining a little bit more fine detail and the are other goodies like being able to crop and re-frame after the fact.
My Personal Virtual Photography Setup Specs
So there is no point in giving you my opinion unless you know where I’m coming from and the equipment I’m using at the time of writing this blog post. My own personal setup for gaming photography is listed below.
My experience with this particular setup is varied. I run Forza Horizon 5 at almost max settings on a 4K monitor. I occasionally get the message pop up for “performance issues” but as long as I’m not running any other software it seems to be quite smooth. On the opposite end, “CyberPunk” is very heavy on my machine. I can run CyberPunk at medium settings in 4k and I get frame drops and poor performance all around. It doesn’t bother me too much though, I’m happy to put up with it, which enables me to keep some of the nice effects and filters that CyberPunk has to offer.
You can get started in in-game virtual photo photography with almost any modern PC and monitor. You don’t need a high spec machine to create amazing in-game photography.
However, to create some of the stunning visuals you see online you’re going to need something with a bit of oomph. You’ll need a PC that can run games smoothly at high graphical settings to make it a great experience.
Now it’s not all about realistic graphics and visuals. You have to remember it’s about the creativity, the process and what you learn through mastering the art of photography along the way. There’s so much room for growth here and I find that very exciting. You can easily start with basic equipment, from there you can easily fall down the rabbit hole of graphics cards and processors as the addiction bites.