Welcome to the Virtual Photography Archives, where I invite virtual photographers from across the community to revisit their back-catalogue of photo mode captures and pick out a few shots to reflect on.
With 5 short briefs guiding the selection, each photographer is encouraged to rediscover past inspirations, find flaws or mistakes, and appreciate their progress with a little self-critique and a few words about how they feel about each image now.
I am joined today by David, who may or may not actually exist, but that hasn't stopped him from being involved in all manner of things in gaming, as well as being a prize-winning in-game photographer. So David, let's take a look at what's hiding in your Virtual Photography Archives...
First up, tell us a bit more about yourself and how you are involved in virtual photography
Hi, I’m David! I’m from Leiria, Portugal, a city that many people in our country don’t believe exists (so I think I’m talking from some sort of a parallel universe). I’m a videogame and tech editor for a Portuguese portal called "Echo Boomer" and, in my spare time, I bring all the videogames with me for a bunch of projects, from the meme factory of my Twitter feed to co-hosting "Isto Não é Um Jogo", or "This Is Not A Game", a podcast dedicated to the art of the adaptation of videogames to cinema and TV.
- XAM3LPT // PODCAST -
Of course, videogame photography has also been a big part of my personal life for roughly 15 years. This hobby started with automobile photography, thanks to games like Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo, which led me to cover some real-life events. For a time, shooting cars was all I knew, from capturing all the little details of an exotic car to the raw violence of an uncontrolled muscle car. From there, I also developed a passion for video editing, and shortly after, I was doing a little bit of everything in the multimedia side of things.
The last couple of years have been really important to me with regards to videogame photography. Not only have studios been able to create powerful tools in their games that allowed me to experiment with new stuff, but the community has also grown, and I’ve made a lot of new friends. I've also been very lucky to have friends and family members who really enjoy, support, and even criticize this hobby in a very wealthy way.
- XAM3LPT // PORTFOLIO -
#1: A shot from a game you no longer play
- NO LONGER PLAY // BY XAM3LPT -
Game: Forza Motorsport 4 | Platform: Xbox 360 | Date: June 2014
Not only is this a photo of a game I no longer play, but it's also one of the oldest ones I have saved. Unfortunately, my lack of organisation and some storage mishaps caused me to lose a significant amount of material. However, I was fortunate enough to preserve a few cherished photos, such as this one from Forza Motorsport 4, which played a pivotal role in my successful completion of my degree in Social Communication.
After spending a semester working on a historical children's book, I encountered challenges with limited support and a lack of a concrete evaluation plan. With only 72 hours left until the project submission deadline, my course-mate and I made a bold decision to change our topic entirely. We shifted our focus to creating a YouTube channel dedicated to Forza content, an area where I had already been involved by creating captivating cinematics through replays and utilising the photo mode feature.
Our aim was to develop a strategic plan to monetize the channel, which was a groundbreaking concept at the time. To bring our project to life, we didn't rely solely on videos; we also leveraged the photography modes in various games like Forza Motorsport 4, Forza Horizon, and Gran Turismo 5. This particular photo became the captivating cover image for our project, ultimately helping me graduate with distinction.
#2: Use of a favoured technique
- FAVOURITE TECHNIQUE // BY XAM3LPT -
Game: Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales | Platform: PC | Date: November 2022
I love capturing action-packed scenes with a cinematic touch. After all, that's how I got started, photographing fast cars on the track, capturing daring manoeuvres and thrilling moments. When it comes to most recent action games like Marvel's Spider-Man, God of War, or Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, the same principles and techniques apply.
From using filmic filters to employing aggressive depth of field and motion blur, I always rely on these techniques to create a sense of movement and excitement. But one technique that I find particularly effective is adding a slight tilt to the image.
It's rare for me to capture action without tilting the camera a bit, even by just a degree, as it adds a dynamic touch, makes the scene more exhilarating, and allows me to evoke sensations that are not achievable at the horizontal level. Especially when up close to the subjects and combined with a wider angle, as it creates a greater sense of scale in the environment and even emphasises the strength of the characters.
This shot from Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales is one of my recent favourite photographs, captured on PC with the help of some Reshades to enhance the sense of movement. However, what truly sells the dynamism of the scene for me is its tilt, which also conveys the feeling that the camera is chaotically following the character's motion, something that would be less engaging if it were aligned with the horizon.
#3: A shot that isn't as good as you thought
- NOT AS GOOD // BY XAM3LPT -
Game: Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy | Platform: PS5 | Date: October 2021
I like to believe that I'm not the only one who takes dozens of different versions of the same scene or photograph, and when it comes time to select, whether for archiving or posting on social media, we end up choosing one or two photos that are not as interesting as we thought.
Sometimes, I even go as far as simply deleting "that photo" because I found something in it that I don't like. Perhaps it's something that only I or a more attentive eye would notice. However, there are photos that are, in my opinion, just bad, and by the time I realise it, it's already too late.
Like this atrocity from Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. In the moment I took it, I was so caught up in the emotions of the moment and so eager to capture the whole crew that I overlooked something as simple as poor lighting in the scene. Additionally, I feel like I went overboard with the depth of field, and the expressions of the characters aren't the best either. Well, the idea was good, in my head at least.
#4: Something you didn't like but now do
- DIDN'T LIKE BUT NOW DO // BY XAM3LPT -
Game: Horizon Forbidden West | Platform: PS5 | Date: March 2022
As time goes by, it becomes easier for me to identify the flaws in the photos I have taken. I notice things I should avoid, photos where I may have overused lighting or filters, and shots where I would now apply different techniques and use different tools. Because of this, the photos that I tend to discard quickly are often the ones I revisit with a more positive perspective. Photos that are simple, don't necessarily tell a story, or where I didn't invest much time or thought when capturing them.
One recent example of this one from Horizon Forbidden West. It resulted from a photo session when I was trying to replicate one of the final shots from the game's CGI trailer, where Aloy looks at the city of San Francisco with a Sunwing behind her. Amidst many trial and error attempts, I started taking random photos with unconventional angles and without paying much attention to the different settings; then this shot came out.
Initially, I found it relatively ordinary and unimportant until the day I needed to create a collage, and it ended up fitting perfectly into the style I was looking for. It's one of those cases that, for me, went from "zero to hero."
#5: Your most successful capture
- MOST SUCCESSFUL // BY XAM3LPT -
Game: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt | Platform: PC | Date: December 2022
By the end of 2022, CD Projekt RED challenged players and virtual photographers from all around the world to use the photo mode that had just been added to The Witcher 3 with its "next-gen update." The next-gen features alone were already a significant reason to revisit one of my all-time favourite games, and now, with a somewhat proper photo mode, it was even better.
So, even before the challenge began, I roamed The Continent and captured a multitude of shots. Without much thining, I submitted one of them to the World Category, as I believed it effectively conveyed that particular zone's atmosphere and, honestly, I was just satisfied with its documental / cinematic look. Little did I know that it would become the first-place winner of that category.
When the results were announced, I was overwhelmed with messages from friends and found myself in absolute shock. At that moment, I wasn't even aware of the prizes associated with the competition. I genuinely consider this to be the pinnacle of my involvement in this beautiful hobby, made even more special by the fact that I rarely participate in such challenges. Perhaps it's time to reconsider and become a little bit more confident.
Anything else that you’d like to add?
First of all, thank you very much for the invitation. I have been following your work on TheFourthFocus for a long time now, and I have learned a lot from this project, so I feel honored to be a part of it now.
I love how these questions / topics seem to have been chosen specifically for me. I felt that my work was not just superficially seen, which makes the experience extremely personal. The raised topics caught me by surprise, in a positive way, as they made me use the time machine in search of stories, made me look at works that I had forgotten about, and also helped me deconstruct and think about aspects of creating these photos that, to me, are often as simple as breathing.
- XAM3LPT // PORTFOLIO -
Thank you so much David, I'm thrilled that revisiting your archives was such a good experience for you and it was truly fascinating to hear the insights that you gave. It's also impressive to see that various different projects you are involved with and wish you the best of luck with everything.
I hope you all enjoyed this look back over the Virtual Photography Archives and if you enjoy David's work then please be sure to show your support on Twitter & Instagram and also check out more of his work on his portfolio website.
As always, if you think that you would like to take part in future editions of the VP Archives, please get in touch as I would love to hear from you.
Thanks for reading, until next time...