Is virtual photography real photography?

Flickr, one of the world’s most popular photo-sharing sites, introduced virtual photography as a category in 2022. Their blog posts state that “virtual photography is an emerging art form that specializes in images captured within a video game or virtual environment.”


But is virtual photography really photography? Let’s discuss the issue below.


What is photography?

Before we talk about virtual photography, we should first lay a foundation of what photography is. According to the words of its Greek root, φωτός (picture or light) and γραφή (graph or writing), photography is writing with light. It is true that the shape, this How does the camera workEven if it’s digital.

But apart from the mechanical act of taking a picture, the purpose of photography, when it was invented, was to depict real life as it is. Photography allowed people to see the world as the photographer sees it – not through an (sometimes unreliable) interpretation of the painter.

Photography can also serve as a medium for visual arts. Since photography is in 2D format, it easily follows the concepts, theories, and principles of drawing.

Over time, photography has evolved from being merely an artistic skill to recording moments for future generations in art. With this said, some photographers created art for art’s sake, while others combined all three disciplines to create truly wonderful masterpieces.

Now that we’ve defined photography, let’s judge how virtual photography stacks up against these criteria.

Recreating physical camera technologies in a virtual world

When you take a photo in full manual mode, you are playing with three things on the camera: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. also called exposure triangleThese are the basic elements that a photographer needs to master to turn their vision into an image.

Since virtual photography is captured in a virtual world, how can he recreate the complexities of physical photography? Some games allow you to get what it’s like to have control over how you take a screenshot with cinematic or photographic mode—like letting you change exposure and contrast, similar to editing a photo.

Many other titles only allow you to take photos in automatic mode – that is, if they have a photo mode. Most games snap a screenshot button and save your image as it is.

However, virtual photography is still in its infancy, while real photography has already been around for about two centuries. With the development of technologies such as ray tracing and advanced game engines, the virtual world is rapidly catching up with the real world in visual acuity.

And if you play the latest AAA games like Gran Turismo 7 and Forza Horizon 5 at maximum quality, there are instances when screenshots from the game can be hard to distinguish from the real world in a jiffy.

Indeed, virtual photography is already gaining a foothold in the commercial industry, where companies can simulate their products as they appear in the real world. During virtual photographyEntrepreneurs can save costs as they can see how their items will look, even before manufacturing begins.

Soon, we expect more games and software to take advantage of ray tracingwhich can accurately recreate the way light behaves in the real world, thus further blurring the line between physical and virtual light.

Does virtual photography serve the original purpose of photography?

As discussed earlier, the primary goal of photography was to capture events and memories untainted by the painter’s interpretation.

While this is debatable, given that a photographer chooses what to include and leave out in a photograph and image manipulation already existed roughly 150 years before Photoshop, the fact that cameras capture images as they are makes it the perfect medium for recording memories.

This is why photography has been useful in recording history. From the American Civil War to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, photos have captured a single moment in time and saved it forever. And more than just record the date, some pictures, like this compilation It’s all so interestinguntil the date changed.

But since most historical events happen in the real world, there’s almost no chance for virtual photography to record anything affecting the human race — at least for the time being. However, this does not mean that virtual photography has no place in making memories.

As the world turns increasingly online, especially as people were forced to stay home during the 2020 pandemic, many have built real friendships in online spaces, such as Second Life, Grand Theft Auto Online and Forza Horizon 5.

Although their activities were only within the confines of the virtual world they had chosen, the relationships they had established there couldn’t be more real. And since everything they did with their friends was done online, the only way to memorialize their experiences and accomplishments was through virtual photos.

virtual photography as art

One thing that has transformed photography through the years is art. according to Britannica DictionaryArt is something created with imagination and skill, is beautiful, or expresses important thoughts or feelings.

With this definition, you can say that gaming is an art, making it an art One of the reasons why many people love modern video games. And if one lived and moved in a beautiful virtual world, even for just a few hours a day, one could be moved to capture their surroundings and create more visual art from it.

It is not only beauty and imagination that makes virtual photography an art. Even the chaos and destruction of first-person shooters, such as Battlefield 1, can be captured in a way that depicts the true horrors of war. By doing so, we can remember the pain and horror our ancestors went through, and thus remind us that peace must prevail.

Can virtual photography apply photography concepts in the real world?

By definition, video games are art. But when these titles began to create worlds that allow players to take amazing or even controversial images within these virtual worlds that make people think and feel a variety of emotions, then virtual photography became an art.

When it comes to technology, virtual photography still lags behind the real world, but not by much. In the next decade, you can expect hardware performance and software advancements to create realistic scenes on the go. With that, developers can create algorithms that allow players to recreate realistic camera effects in the virtual world. Besides, smartphone makers are already doing it with computational photography.

One thing virtual photography lags behind is capturing history as it unfolds. That’s because most events that affect huge groups of people simultaneously tend to actually happen. Although people do capture memories using virtual photography, it is usually only among small groups of friends.

Only when the metaverse takes over our world will we see virtual photography become a major part of human history – when politicians campaign and elections are held within a virtual world, and where people’s lives are radically changed by the events within it. And as it stands, it seems unlikely that it will happen any time soon.

Should virtual photography be considered real photography?

In some ways, yes, virtual photography is comparable to real photography. Developers can implement algorithms within their games that simulate the behavior of light and cameras in the real world. Virtual photography can also be used to record events, albeit personal, and humans can always create art, whatever the medium.

While virtual photography has not yet reached the mainstream where it can grace the front page of newspapers or be included in breaking news coverage, it is slowly gaining momentum among millions. From online gamers and social media butterflies to companies using simulation to take virtual photos of their products, virtual photography will slowly take root in our society.

Just as it took photography nearly two centuries to become as ubiquitous as our smartphones, it will also take time for virtual photography to take root. But once virtual photography takes off, it may become so popular that many won’t even notice or even care whether the photo is real or virtual.

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