In-game photography

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In-game photography (also known as screenshot art, screenshot photography and professional gaming photography) is a form of new media art, which consists of photographing video game worlds. Screenshot photography has been featured in physical art galleries around the world. The validity and legality of this art form is sometimes questioned because in-game photographers are taking photos of artwork created by the game's designers and artists.[1] However, for the most part in-game photographers share the same motivations as "real life" photographers, including a desire to capture visually interesting images, preserve memories, and demonstrating technical expertise.[2]

One of the earliest known works of in-game photography was Thirteen Most Beautiful Avatars by Eva and Franco Mattes. It was exhibited in the virtual world of Second Life in 2006.[3] The exhibit featured photographs of Second Life avatars set in a virtual art gallery.

In May 2016, NVIDIA unveiled in-game screen capture software with professional features that would allow the average person to achieve the art quality of professional game photographers.[4] The software also features VR photography features that are smartphone and Google Cardboard compatible.[5] Ansel was released for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt in August 2016.[6] PlayStation announced a free-roam mode for the PS4’s Firewatch, in November 2016, for amateur use on its console system.[7]

Virtual reality tourism[edit]

In-game photographers are sometimes described as virtual tourists, because their focus is photographing games rather than playing them. Because virtual worlds often feature tourist attractions in-game, such as beaches and golf courses, it is not uncommon for a visit to be considered a form of vacation.[8]

Notable artists[edit]

The curator of Dead End Thrills, Duncan Harris, says that “a good screenshot is a liar by omission”.[9] Harris is English, studied engineering at the university level, and prides himself in being from a Britsoft background.[10] His technique, which he has been developing since he founded Dead End Thrills in 2008, is based in tweaking and modding games to make them as photogenic as possible (Wilbur, 2016). In 2012, he received an advance build of Arkane’s Dishonored so that he could showcase its virtual world before it was released.[11] He also served as an adviser on NVIDIA's Ansel project.[12] Unlike Sang, Harris does not have a background in photography.

Leonardo Sang is best known for his Backseats in Games collection, which features black and white photographs taken from Project C.A.R.S. and WCR 3.[13] His technique includes the use of FRAPS, post-processing, and sometimes a phone or camera. Sang started a Tumblr in 2011, which holds more than 470 images. He tends to add grain to his photographs to achieve a look closer to that of 35mm film. Sang, a Brazilian, has had his work exhibited in San Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul.


  1. ^ Farmer, D. (2015, November 22). Screenshot photography: where does it fit in the art world?. GeekDad. Retrieved from
  2. ^ Poremba, C. (2007). Point and Shoot: Remediating Photography in Gamespace. Games and Culture Vol 2 Issue 1 Retrieved from
  3. ^ Doyle, D. (2015). Art, virtual worlds and the emergent imagination. Leonardo, 48(3), 244-250. doi:10.1162/LEON_a_00708
  4. ^ Isacsson, D. (2016, May 8). NVIDIA Ansel introduces VR photography to games. Digital Trends. Retrieved from
  5. ^ Seppala, T. J. (2016, May 6). NVIDIA brings in-game photography to the masses with ‘Ansel’. Engadget. Retrieved from
  6. ^ Burnes, A. (2016, August 16). NVIDIA Ansel available now in the Witcher 3. Geforce. Retrieved from
  7. ^ J, P. (2016, November 11). ‘Firewatch’ adds free-roam mode and PS4 Pro support for 4k awesomeness! [video]. University Herald. Retrieved from
  8. ^ Gale, T. (2009). Urban beaches, virtual worlds and ‘the end of tourism’. Mobilities, 4(1), 119-138. doi: 10.1080/17450100802657996
  9. ^ Hamilton, K. (2011, December 9). The man behind the world’s best video game screenshots. Kotaku. Retrieved from
  10. ^ Wilbur, B. (2016, January 25). Dead End Thrills curates the sexiest video game screen shots. Inverse. Retrieved from
  11. ^ Sigl, R. (2012, July 25). The art of in-game photography. Video Game Tourism. Retrieved from
  12. ^ Spencer, A. (2016, June 9).Point and shoot: Hijacking virtual spaces with games photography. Alphr. Retrieved from
  13. ^ Bittanti, M. (2015, July 17). Interview: Leonardo Sang’s game photography. Gamescenes. Retrieved from