Virtual photography, also known as in-game photography, is trending worldwide with over one million posts on Instagram labeled with #virtualphotography.
And virtual photographers might found scouting the streets of Gotham (Batman: Arkham Knight), the hidden cottages of Tamriel (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim), or the war-torn Tilted Towers (Fortnite) for the perfect shot.
• Read more: Best photography video games
With travel and gatherings being restricted at the moment, photography is a tricky pastime to keep up. Luckily, this new wave of picture-taking exists completely independent of outside factors or cancelled travel plans.
So, in which games are you most likely to find the perfect shot to add to your unconventional COVID portfolio? To find out, the team at ShotKit.com measured the Instagram presence of the 100 most popular games from the last decade to discover which are the most popular for virtual photography…
1. Red Dead Redemption 2
Developer: Rockstar Games
Formats: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Google Stadia, PC
As you may have guessed, the number one game for virtual photography is Red Dead Redemption 2, originally released in October 2018. Red Dead 2’s historic Wild West landscapes, teeming wildlife and protagonist Arthur Morgan have made an impressive mark on the photography community, attracting 165,000 video game photography posts since its release.
Photographers have been pushing the boundaries with this game since its release, roping in friends (sometimes literally) to join them in the vast lands to pose, while making use of the game's first-person perspective mode to grab incredibly cinematic shots for their digital portfolio.
2. Grand Theft Auto V
Developer: Rockstar Games
Formats: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC
Pinching the second spot is another Rockstar title, Grand Theft Auto V, which raked in a total of 146,495 photography posts. It comes as no surprise that GTA V is so popular for virtual photography, being one of the trailblazing titles that kickstarted the movement.
The complete freedom that GTA V gives players makes it the perfect playground for keen but restricted photographers. If you haven't got access to golden beaches, gorgeous sunsets, Bugattis, tanks, jet fighters or Lamborghinis in the real world, don't worry – Los Santos has you covered!
Developer: Epic Games / People Can Fly
Formats: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
The smash hit Fortnite comes in at third place, with an impressive 135,007 photography posts. Arguably, though, this is mainly down to the sheer weight of popularity of the game, rather than the specific draw of its photography mode.
Fortnite is not just the world’s favorite battle royale game, it also offers a treasure trove of completely unrealistic but utterly stunning photo opportinities – such as the game’s range of colorful character skins and unusual architecture.
Best of the rest
The remainder of the top ten features plenty of familiar titles, from old favorites like The Sims 4 to recent blockbusters like Ghost of Tsushima.
What's interesting to note about the list is the split across different different platforms. Of these ten titles, five are multi-format, four are PlayStation exclusives and only one is an Xbox exclusive.
Will that balance shift, now that we've moved into a new console generation with the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X? And with the best graphics cards such as the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti setting new standards of visual fidelity, will the PC become the equivalent of medium format in the world of video game photography?
What makes the perfect game for virtual photography?
To find out more about what makes these games so well suited to video game photography, we spoke to professional virtual photographer Leo Sang, who is partnered with graphics card juggernaut Nvidia.
“A familiar and easy to use photo mode is less intimidating if you are getting used to virtual photography. The basic camera controls and settings should have easy access and be intuitive. Nvidia Ansel, which is used by games like Dishonored 2 and Watch Dogs 2, for example, shares the same interface with all games from its catalog, making it easier than having to learn a new interface from new photo modes.
“The camera's movement can't be too restricted; the wider the movement range, the easier it is to compose your shot. And the same applies to the other settings – field of view, roll angles, depth of focus, et cetera… being able to fine tune your shot helps you experiment and create a lot easier.”
However, simply having high quality graphics alone isn't enough. “An element of fun is always important, especially if you’re trying to do this professionally. If the game is fun, your motivation to find great shots increases as you kind of want to do the character justice. It’s probably this element of fun which explains why games like The Sims 4 and GTA V made it onto the list.”
If you'd like to share your own virtual photography efforts with us, let us know by tagging your shots with #dcwowVR and following DCW on Instagram!
14 best photography video games
Virtual Photography: taking photos in videogames is imaging's next evolution
Landscape photographer explores the rise of in-game photography