Game Photography is time consuming. You don’t just throw a game onto a table, snap a photo and call it a day. So I thought it would be fun to document the whole process of how I planned my photo shoot of Dungeon Roll.
Step 1: Look at the Components and Brainstorm
Photography is the kind of Art that uses the capital A. To get the right shot you really need to think and plan.
In this case, game photography to me is more like food photography than product photography. I’ll get a few candid shots that would look good on a website or web banner. However most of my game photos are more like food photos than anything else.
In food photography you really are looking for a defining trait. When I take a picture of french toast, what should be the main focus? What do I want the eyes drawn to? Then what tools and things can I do to make the eyes focus where I want them to in a photo.
In the case of the French Toast photo I use the lighting and the syrup as a leading line to suck the eye right where I want it. The main focus should be that pool of syrup and that butter that is just about to melt. Then by using the depth of field your eye stays on that spot because it’s the sharpest clearest part in the photo.
So when I look at games I try to plan them out the say way. With Dungeon Roll, I knew right away that I loved the chest. The chest is awesome. So I knew I wanted to get some photos of just the chest being chest-like. In this case I envisioned it being deep in a dark dungeon and that it has glowing magical treasures in it.
In addition, the dice are very unique. They deserved to have a bunch of photos featuring them too. So I knew I wanted to get some shots with them and since they represent heroes and characters in a dungeon crawl I felt like they should be shot with stone or dirt or cool medieval looking weapons.
Step 2: Buying Props
I went to Wal-mart with two things on my list:
- 1) Glow Sticks
- 2) Medieval looking stuff
I had no problem with glow sticks but I didn’t find anything Medieval looking. So then I went to to Home Depot with this list:
- 1) Stone blocks or cobble
- 2) Chain links or Medieval looking stuff.
I got a sweet stone that I could use for a prop but again no luck with Medieval looking stuff. You can see the full stone in the photo above. It had a variety of textures and different colors that I thought would look really nice when doing close-ups of the dice.
From there I checked out an antique store and a cowboy store (I’m in Texas!) but even the leather looked too western instead of Medieval so I had to call it a day and just go with the props I did find.
Step 3: Learn the Rules
This is often the hardest step of game photography. You HAVE to learn the rules because if not I could accidentally set-up the game and shoot it wrong. That wouldn’t do any good.
In the case of Dungeon Roll, learning the rules was simple. I read them, felt confident and then to make sure I did a youtube search. I found a wonderful Watch it Played video. Watched that and then I was good to go. In fact this is the second or third time that Rodney from Watch it Played has helped me learn a game. He was a HUGE help in prepping for my photo shoot of BioShock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia.
Learning Dungeon Roll was easy, but I’ve had games where it took me an hour of reading and hour of watching a video before I felt confident enough to be able to teach someone else to play.
Step 4: Play the Game
I always do at least two game sessions of the games I photograph. I need to play them to preview them, but more than that I need to know how the game plays. Just learning the rules insn’t enough. I need to experience what its like to play the game too. So that takes tame.
Again in this case Dungeon Roll is quick and luckily it was easy to test out as several solo games and two two-player matches.
Step 5: Shoot the Photos
The more components a game has the more photos I take. In the case of Dungeon Roll I only ended up with about 100 photos. Of those maybe 15-20 are useable. That sounds like a low number but it’s about normal for photography.
A lot of shooting is doing different set-ups and trying to find the shots you want. Then once you get it you end up adjusting your settings, the game set-up, and have to find that shot again, which takes time.
Step 6: Copy Files to my Computer & Process them
My workflow is pretty simple…
- Copy files to my computer
- Import files into Lightroom
- Sort the keepers from the non keepers
- Process the keepers in Lightroom
- Import the Keepers into Photoshop to finish processing them.
- Export them from Lightroom.
This whole process can take an hour or hours depending on the number of photos, which again depends on the number of components a game has. When I shot Dice Hate Me Games’ Compounded it took me almost two hours to process the photos because there were so many.
Step 7: Interview The Designer
I don’t always interview the game designer when I do my previews, but when I can I like to. I hadn’t planned on doing it for Dungeon Roll but within minutes of tweeting that I got a review copy the designer of Dungeon Roll, Chris Darden, retweeted my tweet. Now that I had easy access to him I asked if he would answer a few questions and he said he would be more than happy to.
I worked as a newspaper reporter between college and grad school and so when I send interview questions I like to do my research first. I don’t just send the same generic questions to everyone I interview. I like them to be specific. So before I could even come up with the questions I needed to google and do some research on the history of Dungeon Roll.
Once I did that, I wrote my questions and sent them out.
Step 8: Write the Blog Post
Writing the blog posts takes about one to two hours. It’s a pain in the butt to do, but not hard work. The most tedious bit is uploading all the photos and making sure they are sized and look right. Then trying to figure out the order the photos should be in.
So there you have it. That’s the whole process. In the case of Dunegeon Roll, which is a smaller game, it was quicker than normal. If I had to estimate the total time it took in each step it would be something like…
- Step 1: 30 minutes
- Step 2: 1 hr
- Step 3: 45 min
- Step 4: 1 hr 15 min
- Step 5: 1 hr
- Step 6: 1 hr
- Step 7: 30 minutes
- Step 8: 1 hr 30 minutes.
Total Time: 8 Hours!
So as you can see, game photography takes time, but I kind of think it’s worth it.