Behind the Lens: Interview with DotPone
Taking screenshots has been a popular thing for a long time in the gaming world, though mostly limited to PC gaming traditionally since the consoles of the past didn’t have the necessary functionality. Fast forward to 2021 and photo modes are basically a part of every videogame. Console games look better than ever and through the ever-improving interfaces and functionalities of in-game camera movements, options and filters, camera modes are a blast to use.
Now with the new console generation, the hype goes on. Just look at games like Demon’s Souls for PS5.
The virtual photography community is also growing constantly and we have a lot of talented people and the results are epic. So naturally, we took the time to get some insight knowledge from one of our favourite virtual photographers @DotPone! Please enjoy this interview and show DotPone some love on Twitter, Youtube, Flickr or ko-fi.com.
Thanks for taking the time @DotPone to share some of your insights for this interview! Let’s dive right in and give us a little intro to yourself for our community.
Hi, everyone! I’m Ruben, known on social media as DotPone. I love video games and pop culture, but you might know me better for my love for taking screenshots in your favourite video games.
How did you come to virtual photography? How did it start, and did you have any prior experience with photography (in real life)?
I will start by saying that all my prior experience with traditional photography before finding out about virtual photography was taking pics with my smartphone and editing them on Photoshop. In 2018 I read somewhere that Insomniac was putting a photo mode on their upcoming Spider-man game, and I thought that was genius since Peter Parker is a photographer. I also thought that was the first photo mode in a video game… I was very wrong in my second assumption.
Quickly after getting the game, I started to take selfies in it and post them on Facebook. It didn’t take long for my friends and family to begin to mock me about taking photos of video games and asking me to stop filling their feed with pictures of Spider-Man. However, it was too late; I was already hooked to the photo mode. I remembered that I had created a Twitter account in 2016 and never made a single post. I started posting my shots on Twitter and found that there were hundreds of people doing the same. And that was it, I found a new passion and a new tribe.
Be honest, what is your current ratio between actual gameplay time and taking photos ;-)?
If you want me to be completely honest, it might surprise you. The first time I play a game it’s more or less 75% of gameplay and 25% taking screenshots. But very rarely do I play a game that I take screenshots of just once. When I play a game just to take photos I usually invert the ratio.
What game has the best photo mode and why? You can name two if naming one is just too hard.
For the longest time, I thought it was Days Gone. The advanced options on that game are incredible, and they allow a level of customization that is still unseen on current photo modes. The only real complaint I have about that photo mode is the orbital camera, which doesn’t allow for much freedom and, in this case, is weirdly connected to the waist of the character.
Nowadays, I give the award of the best photo mode to Miles Morales Spider-Man (or the remaster for the PS5). It has the same customisation level as Days Gone using different and more user-friendly tools while using a free camera. I also think it’s the best photo mode for people who want to take more diverse photos. There’s always a temptation to stick to Spidey, but you can do urban photography, do minimal shots, take incredible abstracts photos… the potential there is immense.
Last year, you’ve done quite an extensive series of Youtube videos; what kind of content are you planning to produce in 2021, be it video or other?
I’m debating the idea of streaming, but I need a better internet connection because I will do it using remote play and not PlayStation’s options for streaming. Let’s wait and see on that front. However, I am bringing “Oh, Snap!” season 2 back this year. I’m checking with the guests first to see who’s available to be on camera being interviewed, and then I will start filming. I’m hoping to post the first episode before the summer arrives.
What has been the best moment for you in 2020? It doesn’t have to be gaming related.
As a personal rule, I don’t usually enter virtual photography contests that often. However, when Ghost of Tsushima came out, and PlayStation Portugal announced a photo mode contest where the prize was a collector’s edition of the game, plus a set of posters from the game created by the main artist of Afro Samurai, I had to take part.
That was my one and only victory in a contest of any kind, so I cherish that very deeply.
Take us through your process of taking photos in games. Is it random? Are you looking for something specific when you play?
Most photos do come randomly. You are playing the game, entering a cool area, unlock a new attack, or meeting a new character, and you open the photo mode and explore the options. I would say most of your first time playing and photographing a game will be this loop of “advance the game — enter photo mode — explore your options — take a shot (that you probably won’t share) — close photo mode — repeat.”
But there are those shots that you imagine in your mind, you don’t even know if the game allows for that, but you will try it anyway. You look for that… and look… and look… opening the photo mode dozens of times, just to close it again without taking a single shot after you spend the last 15 min messing around with the camera and the settings. Then you finally get the shot, and you are filled with joy!
Or don’t get the shot and play the whole game again to try and get it.
What equipment are you working with — do you do any kind of post-processing, or is everything straight from console to Flickr/Twitter etc.?
Currently, I do it from the Playstation 5 to a flash drive and then post it using a USB Flash drive. For most of my time doing this, I would go from the PlayStation 4 to the Flash Drive, edit the shots on Lightroom mobile (I even created my own presets) and then post it.
The reason I stopped editing my shots was the PS5. With it, the images already look super crisp, and with all the resolution and format you might ever need to make your screenshots pop.
How do you feel about the importance of a photo mode in games in general? Is it a must-have feature, or do you think developers can or should ignore the trend?
This is a tricky question as my opinion about it changes constantly. Is having a photo mode necessary for a game to be good? No. Is having a photo mode in any way damaging to a game? Not that I can think of. Is having a photo mode only beneficial for your game? We don’t know.
Most people look at a photo mode as a “free publicity” tool that the devs have put in their games. Management gets one or two devs to put a photo mode in a game, and suddenly they have a tool in-game that people will use to promote their game across social media daily for free. It seems like a sure win for the dev, right? Well, some games are harder to develop with a photo mode than others, and then the community might not take to that game, and your “free publicity” tool actually costs you the time (and the money you paid) to the devs who worked on the feature. Then you might put a photo mode in your game that becomes a synonym of a lackluster photo mode (looking at you, Devil May Cry V).
To sum up, it is clearly a tool that most games should have as it becomes more relevant for the fans and the industry. It’s a way to keep the game alive long after its release. Horizon Zero Dawn is to this day one of the most popular games in the virtual photography scene, with hundreds of new screenshots being shared every day. But if it’s detrimental to your game, don’t risk it. Be honest with the people who go on social media asking for it and say that it is not on the roadmap.
Who are some of the other Virtual Photographers you look up to? Have you reached out to them and talked about your experiences?
There are so many that I really look for inspiration and advice all the time, but there are three that stand out to me.
@Raffu42 has been an inspiration since the first day I started doing this. Not only are his shots amazing in quality, but he always brings a certain quality to each shot that is outstanding. I barely even talked to him, but he seems like an awesome dude that I would very much like to interview on a future season of “Oh,Snap”.
@TheFourthFocus is someone I’m constantly looking at for inspiration. His shots have unmatched quality, and he does more for virtual photography than most with his website, competitions and overall resilience. I don’t think most people are aware of just how much he did in reaching out to devs and other brands to get things moving. I’m always on edge to see what his future project is.
@hoffman_vp is a friend but is also an inspiration. I’m always saying that my weak points are action shots. I never feel that they quite have the same impact as others do. But Hoffman has a knack to make every shot look super dynamic, no matter the game. For that, I often go to him for advice and a good chat.
Tell us about your dog and when he’ll get his own Instagram channel? Asking for a friend…
Well, my dog, Chewie, is almost two years old and has been with us for close to one, and we have around 800 pictures of him, so that might be a great suggestion. I don’t know if it will ever happen, but I share my favourites on my Instagram Stories, so you should just follow me there to see cute puppy pictures.
If someone has never used a photo mode or doesn’t know how to approach virtual photography, what would your advice be for getting started?
Start with Horizon: Zero Dawn or Ghost of Tsushima. They both are excellent games with very detailed photo modes that are very intuitive to use. Even if you don’t know the first thing about photo modes, those two games have you covered with fantastic all-around art so that you can just pause the game, enter photo mode, mess around with the angles and settings, and come out with very nice pictures.
What upcoming games for PS5 are you looking forward to the most and why?
I will go with the ones that have a release that was already announced and don’t seem to have a delay coming their way.
The first one is Returnal. The game looks to be a visual marvel and takes advantage of everything the PS5 has to offer. And there are rumours of a photo mode since Housemarque’s last game, Resogun, had one.
The second is Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart. I like to think I have an excellent relationship with whoever manages Insomniac’s Twitter account since they support me like very few devs do. So when it was revealed that yet another one of their games is having a photo mode, I completely lost it. Plus, the game looks to be super fun, so that’s right up my alley.
Anything we should be excited for in 2021 coming from you or someone you know? Event, organisation or person?
I received a very good proposition at the end of last year that it will be super cool for everyone that takes screenshots as a hobby if it plays out. It still is too soon to reveal anything because it all depends on how the pandemic situation unfolds.
What is the best thing about taking photos in games for you?
To see what others miss. When I started to understand some of the most advanced photo mode techniques, I decided that I should always seek to show the little details in games that others might have missed.
So, now every time I play a game, I search for something the usual player misses. The eagle you find the second time you visit Hell in God of War, the Faro Logo on Horizon Zero Dawn’s enemy machines, the animations on Miles Morales… etc.
It’s really fun to post a shot of something on Twitter or Instagram and have someone comment: “I never saw that! I need to replay the game.”
Thank you so much for your time! We wish you all the best for your future journey and only the best photo modes to work with
This concludes the interview @DotPone. As already mentioned in the beginning, make sure to check out DotPone’s various social channels and make sure to give him a virtual hug from us.
Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter if you would like to see more interviews from your favorite Twitter people and leave a suggestion.
If you liked this interview, we have several other interviews on our website and would love for you to check them out. Here is a small selection of various topics we covered:
More virtual photography?
Are you into Audio?
Do you enjoy Twitch Streamers?
Originally published at: https://www.obilisk.co/behind-the-lens-interview-with-dotpone