Every day I see more and more people starting out on their own journey into virtual photography and encounter artists of all different skill levels; from the greenest of first-timers, to experienced real world photographers and seasoned game industry veterans. There are a lot of different roads to virtual photography and I'm going to tell you that it doesn't matter which you are on, or even if you haven't set off yet, because at the end of them all is the pursuit of art and it can definitely be done your way.
I can't draw, can't paint, can't play music and am not very spontaneous...
To that end, I thought I'd share with you how I have got here and the first revelation is that I don't consider myself to be very creative! I can't draw (not artistically anyway), can't paint, can't play music and am not very spontaneous but I do have a love of imaging and an eye for detail.
By day I am a research scientist in nuclear engineering, not much room for artistic interpretation there, but have also been a keen amateur photographer for around 15 years. As something I have never studied, all of my photography skills have been learnt on-the-fly and stem from an initial interest in macro and detail shots, like this example of moss sporophytes on a wall near my home. Everything I have learnt since has been driven by the simple desire to capture interesting images and in this regard, my virtual photography is no different.
As a life-long gamer with early memories of classic Atari titles, handheld LCD racers and my beloved Amiga 500+, there was a certain inevitability that my interests would eventually collide and my love for imaging soon bled into my gaming. I would regularly use my PlayStation 3 to merely wander around the latest games, admiring the sculpted landscapes and marvelling at smoke, water and particle effects but it didn't really occur to me that these images could be captured at the time, after all, this was someone else's creation and I was simply enjoying it.
Eventually, along came a game called LittleBigPlanet! The inspired creation from Media Molecule was something of a revelation to me because, although I still couldn't think of many creative ideas, I found that the analytical scientist in me could manipulate the available tools to recreate some pretty cool things from my past. By the time of the more advanced sequel, I had a working Pong AI opponent and an LCD racing game with randomly generated traffic that was buffered in memory so that the same cars would re-overtake you if you slowed down. OK, this doesn't really sound like virtual photography but LBP was the first instance of me sharing any sort of creative work with other people, via LBP.me, and the first thing to make me capture screenshots of something I was proud of in a video game.
unique and artistic images that convey real connections...
Fast forwarding to this generation, video games are ever more beautiful to behold and capturing screenshots is already taken for granted, but more importantly, we now have a real and developing art form in virtual photography. An art form which enables players to engage with their games on a different level while composing and capturing unique and artistic images that convey real connections. Of course, capture art has been an industry staple for decades, crucial in the production of printed and promotional material but it is the inclusion of photo modes in many modern games that is now bringing creative free-camera tools to the consumer level. I, like probably most of you, have no experience from the industry driven side but nor do I feel like I need it to express my art and you certainly shouldn't think that you must have professional tools or a PC imbued with the power of the Gods to produce something of worth.
Simply put, there are no prerequisites to art...
While I cannot deny that my real world photography experience aids my virtual photography through the use of compositional techniques, directional lighting, depth of field, etc. there is nothing that you cannot learn through experience. In fact, virtual photography has also helped to develop my photography skills outside of games by enabling me to explore styles of imagery that I would not normally have engaged with. Naturally, my interest in detail still comes through but in the virtual world I have not only found a liking for portraiture that I simply don't have with real humans, but can also conveniently experiment with otherwise impractical situations (where else can you photograph a superhero evading a rocket propelled grenade?) or capture profound emotions rarely exhibited openly in the real world!
Simply put, there are no prerequisites to art and no rules to dictate what you must do. Virtual photography has begun to uncover a huge wealth of artistic talent as people capture images of the games they love, in the way they interpret them; how you do it really is up to you.
Thank you for reading and feel free to add your own experiences in the comments below,