It's fair to say that Ghost of Tsushima has already left an indelible mark on the virtual photography landscape with its alluring beauty and innovative photo mode features that have really captured the imagination of players. Little wonder then, that the PS4's fastest selling first-party title has already seen 15.5 million photos taken in just 10 days since launch! With so many images out there, it can be hard to stand out, but here are some of my photo mode top tips to help you find your best work...
Set the mood with a soundtrack:
OK, so this may not directly affect your photographs but it could help to aid the creative process. Photo modes are often silent and boring places to work, but not this one; head straight to the Music option and choose a fitting soundtrack to entertain you while you compose a shot, or to accompany the clip if saving a video.
Know your lenses:
Sucker Punch like to use photographic authenticity in their photo modes and the virtual kit bag they have provided here is equipped with a useful range of focal lengths. Whether a wide angle 12 mm for distorted perspective, "normal" 50 mm or 70 - 300 mm telephoto for closing distance and isolating subjects, knowing when to use the right equivalent lens length can really improve your composition.
help lead the viewer's eye to the element you are trying to feature
Define your subject:
With beautiful backdrops and intricate details everywhere you look, Ghost of Tsushima has a lot to take in, so help lead the viewer's eye to the elements you are featuring as the subject by minimising any distraction from the rest. Create a shallow depth of field with wide aperture settings (low f/number) and manually place the camera focus for precise sharpness on the most important details.
Control the light:
Lighting is always a crucial aspect of any photograph and the more you pay attention to it, the better your shots will be. Take full advantage of the control that this photo mode affords the user by shifting the time of day and altering the weather conditions to dramatically change the way a scene is illuminated. Although moonlight is fixed, the sun tracks across the sky to cast directional light and shadows as you advance the clock, while the weather options let you remove cloud cover or bring the rain in to change the mood. I find that the heavy fog option is particularly useful in neutralising a busy background...
Find different and interesting ways to present your shot
Experiment with Exposure Bias:
Whatever light you decide to use, don't be afraid to play with the exposure setting. Some photo modes are all too conservative when it comes to brightness and exposure options, but Ghost of Tsushima's very capable Exposure Bias range will let you over or underexpose most scenes. Experiment with it to find different and interesting ways to present your shot, oh, and don't forget about silhouettes and shadows too.
Movement is a huge part of Ghost of Tsushima, both in the game itself and in the photo mode thanks to some of its most novel features. Turn on the animated environment and enjoy seeing the character's attire and surroundings continue to react to the prevailing weather with real-time rendered animation. With the option to automate camera movement through 16 positions too, there is huge scope here to produce creative moving images ready to be shared as either video or GIF.
A living photo mode
Use the wind:
The legendary winds which helped repel the real 13th century invasion of Japan, and became known as kami-no-kaze (Wind of the Gods), are not only helpful in guiding the player in the game and creating the movement in animated scenes, but are something you can use to manipulate static shots too. Change the wind speed and direction to add dynamism with a fluttering cape and to drive the rain across the shot, or simply use it to bend trees into shape and move debris or a pesky blade of grass out of view.
Slow down the camera:
The aforementioned camera movement can be a little fast at times so, to give your moving captures that extra-smooth cinematic feel, it can be a good idea to slow things down. The Tracking Shot movement speed is determined by the distance to the next setpoint and the further away it is, the faster the camera moves to reach it. Place more points closer together to limit the auto-tracking speed or, if you prefer working manually, try setting the Camera Speed under the Gameplay options to Cinematic for a more controlled movement.
Be environmentally friendly:
While the detailed character models and dramatic combat make for plenty of great photo opportunities, the environment on show is easily one of the most beautiful found in any game. From rolling hills and vibrant forests to secluded steaming onsen, take a moment to absorb your surroundings and use them to your advantage as both backgrounds and subjects. With various forms of interesting wildlife around, the same goes for them too.
You can pet the fox...
Capture lightning bolts:
The wind is not the only useful weather condition and Tsushima's periodic thunder storms feature impressive fork lightning across the sky. It can be extremely difficult to capture in a shot but here is a method to reliably add lightning to almost any scene. Regardless of the current weather, enter the photo mode and turn off the Animated Environment; set the weather to Thunder and get ready to toggle the animation on / off (extremely) quickly. You will see a guaranteed lightning strike as soon as you switch the animation back on and, if fast enough, freeze it on screen. If you miss it or want a different style, simply repeat the process.
Speed on the D-Pad is key here...
Decorate with particle effects:
Should the existing environment not be quite what you were looking for, remember to make use of the 13 floating particle effects to compliment the scene. The selection of coloured leaves and flying insects will add airborne interest but can also be used to adorn the ground where they accumulate for a while before disappearing.
Sometimes less is more
Find some cinematic style:
With well-known inspiration from Chanbara cinema, Ghost of Tsushima is perfectly suited to shots with a cinematic style. Make good use of the one and only 2.35 : 1 crop, apply careful depth of field and try some asymmetrical compositions in the wide-landscape format. You can even add the missing classic B&W cinema filter, complete with film defects by switching the game to Kurosawa mode, something that really should be put into the photo mode directly.
Let the glint shine:
A classic Samurai movie shot, and something that Sucker Punch did themselves in the story trailer, is the glint of light across a highly polished katana blade. Although there are no tools to assist with this (yet), pay attention to the lighting direction and character orientation to find opportunities to add your own glint.
Hide your accessories:
Sometimes less is more and there are a couple of ways to hide some of Jin's accessories for a cleaner shot. His helmet and mask can be simply hidden from the photo mode menu while a quick trick can also remove the bow from his back if you would rather not have it protruding over the left shoulder. Just press L2 to select a ranged weapon and switch to thrown items. The bow will vanish from view and you can remove arrows by firing them away, although the empty quiver will remain.
Take advantage of the fast-travel:
As though a small primer for the SSD-driven next generation consoles, Sucker Punch have managed to keep load times remarkably low for an open-world title like this. Despite artificially extending some loading screens to make tips more readable, the game gets you back in the action more briskly than its peers and benefits from a fast-travel that is actually fast! With so many stunning locations to visit and return to, use this to your advantage to find the right setting for your shots.
It can be extremely difficult to capture, but there is a method to reliably add lightning to almost any scene
Speed is not everything though and Ghost of Tsushima is often best enjoyed at a slower pace; take inspiration from the Samurai's patience and wait for the right moment. If left alone, Jin will enter various idle animations that can give a much needed variety to his direction of look and, just occasionally, you may even receive a visit from a little feathered friend.
Thanks for reading and whatever shots you capture, why not check out my earlier article on The Photo Process: From Capture To Share to make sure you get the best quality...
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