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Study shows most picturesque videogames for virtual photographers

Most picturesque games for virtual photography
Spider-Man PS4 (Image credit: Beth Nicholls)

Ever wondered what the most popular videogame is among those who partake in what has now become the widely known genre of virtual photography? A recent study by global consumer brand, Crucial, has revealed not only the most popular and picturesque games, but the most demanding games to run with hefty system requirements and the latest equipment needed to play them smoothly. 

Virtual Photography is something that should be on your radar, gaining immense popularity and traction in the industry. NFTs, digital images, screenshot art and AI-powered image generators are slowly becoming the new future of photography.

We need to talk about the Midjourney Discord-based AI image generator (opens in new tab)

If you aren't familiar with the concept of virtual in-game photography, here's a quick explainer. Many triple-A games over the last ten years have been released with a feature known as Photo Mode, with consoles such as the Nintendo Switch having a dedicated screenshot button and the PlayStation DualShock4 having a Share button designed for gameplay capture.

The act of screenshotting in-game action predated the implementation of Photo Mode, which is a far better feature and method than simply taking a screen grab (as DCW staff James (opens in new tab) and Rod (opens in new tab) will attest, being former videogame journalists!), as it enables gamers to essentially pause during a moment of gameplay and adjust the in-game surroundings. 

Ghost of Tsushima (Image credit: Alistair Campbell)
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Gamers can also adjust the current actions, positioning, and facial expressions of a character, or move the camera away from the scene and the main protagonist character entirely to focus on background elements and the landscape instead.

With Photo Mode, depending on the game, players are given the ability to customize features such as depth of field, aperture, brightness, white balance, color effects, aspect ratio, sharpness and motion blur – in similar ways to how we might configure manual settings on a digital camera. For further insight into this new and emerging practice, check out our feature 'Photography-based videogames are gaining popularity (opens in new tab)'.

Photo Mode in Biomutant (Image credit: Beth Nicholls)
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Now you're up to speed on what virtual gaming photography is, let's take a look at the research study from Crucial (opens in new tab) that comprises mostly Instagram post data for its findings. The company has not explicitly specified how it gathered and compiled the statistics for this data table, besides the mention of Instagram posts. 

It's unclear which exact hashtags were used on Instagram to search for each game, or what is meant by "Number of photography posts" or "percentage of game photography". This research should therefore be taken with a pinch of salt, though it does provide us with an approximate range of information and food for thought to determine the most picturesque and photo-worthy games. 

The table below shows the figures from Crucial's research, revealing the most popular video games for virtual photography in 2022:

The most popular and picturesque video games for photography
GameYear of ReleaseTotal number of Instagram postsNumber of Photography postsPercentage of Game Photography
Red Dead Redemption 220182,186,388457,00520.90%
Ghost of Tsushima2020380,39765,99017.35%
No Man's Sky2016195,55727,90514.27%
Cyberpunk 207720201,051,95583,1457.90%
Horizon Forbidden West2022148,8467,8245.26%
Spider-Man: Miles Morales202084,2832,7193.23%
Death Stranding2019379,7439,6572.54%
God of War20181,199,63724,5722.05%
Grand Theft Auto V20138,216,777164,4512.00%
Assassin's Creed Valhalla2020328,5976,1071.86%

Unsurprisingly, the wild west wonderland of Red Dead Redemption 2 claimed the top spot. The title is supremely popular among virtual photographers, with images from the game even earning a photographer the prestigious title of Virtual Photographer of the Year (opens in new tab) back in April at the The London Games Festival.

One of the most popular games in the world, Grand Theft Auto V has a surprisingly low rank. However, while the graphics and characters in this game might not be as photogenic as the beautiful streets of Cyberpunk 2077, the open-world and free-roaming elements of GTA V make it a great playground for virtual photographers. 

Spider-Man: Miles Morales (as well as its predecessor, Spider-Man) is again enormously popular not only among fans of the web-slinger but also virtual photographers. The game introduced the groundbreaking "Selfie" feature that enabled gamers to take a selfie-style image of Spidey mid-air using Photo Mode, with endless creative possibilities and camera angle adjustments to be made. 

Photo mode from Spider-Man on the Playstation 4 (Image credit: Beth Nicholls)
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See the full report (opens in new tab) from Crucial to learn what makes each of these games so great, and view the additional research the company has gathered to determine which games require the most hefty setups, by looking at the required CPU, recommended RAM and GPU, and suggested storage size needed for each title.

• You may also be interested in learning how Pokémon Snap is inspiring the next generation of photographers (opens in new tab), as well as the 10 best games for virtual photographers (opens in new tab).

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Beth Nicholls
Staff Writer

A staff writer for Digital Camera World, Beth has an extensive background in various elements of technology with five years of experience working as a tester and sales assistant for CeX. After completing a degree in Music Journalism, followed by obtaining a Master's degree in Photography awarded by the University of Brighton, she spends her time outside of DCW as a freelance photographer specialising in live music events and band press shots under the alias 'bethshootsbands'.