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A new virtual photography category has been added to Flickr as popularity grows

Flickr Virtual Photography category introduced
(Image credit: Flickr)

We've put a lot of research into video games and virtual photography over the last few years, and it seems that the photographic industry is finally beginning to take the genre seriously, recognizing and embracing its creative art form. 

Photo modes in games appear to be advancing every day, and as photographers, these tools are essential for those of us who enjoy capturing moments in virtual space, as opposed to the real world. 

These are the 10 best games for virtual photographers (opens in new tab).

Many would argue that virtual photography allows us to be that much more creative as photographers, manipulating a scene to fit exactly how we imagine it, by adjusting every aspect from the character's position, facial expressions, time of day, depth of field, and focus – exactly as we would in the real world when shooting manual, but with a little extra creative freedom and virtual flair. 

Flickr seems to have recognized just how popular virtual photography is becoming and has recently introduced a new image category on the platform, to allow users to find and categorize images that have been captured and uploaded to the site from their favorite and most popular video games and franchises. 

Photography-based videogames appear to be gaining popularity (opens in new tab).

Flickr has described the genre of virtual photography in its latest blog post as "an emerging art form specializing in photos taken inside a video game or virtual environment." And while this pretty much hits the nail on the head - there's so much more to it than that. Virtual Photography is now the fourth category that Flickr offers for image categorization upon upload. Previously the options were either 'Photos', 'Illustration/art', or 'Screenshots'. 

Confusingly, many people have previously (and still do) refer to virtual photography as "screenshot art", and while this is somewhat accurate and not entirely wrong as capturing an in-game photo sometimes requires gamers to take a screenshot, depending on their console, it doesn't quite represent the genre as a whole, and as Flickr puts it "doesn't quite meet the needs of this creative and growing community".

(Image credit: Capcom)
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We've recently argued that video games specifically designed for virtual photography could be the future of learning the basic elements of our practice. For example, games such as Pokemon Snap and Life is Strange to require the player to use a virtual in-game camera and snap pictures in order to progress through the game. 

For younger photographers, Pokemon Snap is the perfect gateway (opens in new tab) into understanding the fundamentals of photography and composition basics, in a fun and rewarding way. The next generation of photographers could learn the practice and be taught through virtual courses and video games, instead of a darkroom. 

The growing popularity of virtual photography may seem totally bonkers, or maybe even a little bit worrying to some, but until you try out virtual photography for yourself it's hard to visualize just how much these virtual spaces can replicate a shoot we may embark on in "real" life. From capturing the sunlight hitting a branch perfectly in the wilderness to vast desert-scapes, the virtual world is our oyster. 

Want to learn the basics of photography? Try using a video game (opens in new tab)

Flickr says it is introducing the new virtual photography category with two types of photography in mind: video game photography, and content shared by the Second Life community. For those unfamiliar, Second Life is an online multiplayer game that was massively popular in the early 2000s, allowing users to create an avatar of themselves and interact with others in a virtual space.

The platform has additionally announced that it has included virtual photography in this year’s World Photography Day contest (opens in new tab), whereby users enter and submit images via the  World Photography Day Contest 2022 group (opens in new tab) that meets specific category themes, tagging them with the appropriate hashtag. The deadline for submissions is September 19, 2022.

You should take a look at the 14 best photography video games (opens in new tab), as well as the most picturesque videogames for virtual photographers (opens in new tab) as revealed by a study. Other interesting virtual photography antics involve War photojournalists taking virtual pictures inside Call of Duty (opens in new tab), and how a Digital image from Red Dead Redemption 2 wins Virtual Photographer of the Year (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'.