February 27, 2024

7 Min Read

inside ubisoft

Ubisoft Photomode Contest 2024 – How to Craft a Winning In-Game Shot

Ubisoft's Photomode Contest 2024 is open now until March 4, and in-game photographers are invited to submit their best and most creative in-game photos for a chance to win prizes including a Ubisoft Montreal studio tour, a copy of Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, and more. If you've taken a perfect action shot, a breathtaking panorama, or just found a fascinating new way to re-frame in-game scenes, there are three ways to enter: submit your in-game shots via Instagram or X (formerly Twitter) by tagging @Ubisoft and using the hashtag #UbisoftPhotomodeContest; post to the Ubisoft Discord in the official Photomode channel; or use the submission form at Ubisoft.com/Photomode.

But where to start? Say you've lined up the perfect shot - is that enough? What more can be done to make it stand out, to make it uniquely your own? This year's contest is being judged by a jury of four experts - Blind Magazine Managing Director Jonas Cuenin; Art Director Amélie Sorel of Ubisoft Montreal; Ubisoft Community Manager Shauna Jones; and Jack Harrison, one of the winners of the 2022 Ubisoft Photomode Competition - who shared some thoughts on what they're hoping to see from this year's submissions, and what in-game photographers might do to catch their collective eye.

First Impressions

When the jurors are looking over thumbnails, what draws their attention first? Sorel looks for originality in submissions - not only in their choice of subjects, but also in their composition, choice of color palettes, and their ability to present their subjects outside of a "game" context.

"[I'm hoping to see] creativity and the capacity to capture a moment in a game that is not necessarily important story-wise, but has the potential to create a memorable moment out of an ordinary world-roaming," says Sorel, who has directed and contributed to the visuals on series including Assassin's Creed and Watch Dogs, and has a background in fashion and graphic design. "It's about the emotive reaction a particular image creates."

While Sorel downplays the importance of capturing a game's story, Cuenin - whose online magazine tells visual stories from photographers and journalists worldwide - emphasizes that an image should be able to tell its own story. "If it's a landscape, I need a strong scene. If it's a portrait, I need real emotions in the look of the person. If it's a still life, I need a beautiful atmosphere," he says.

"The bold use of colors, shadows, and captivating shapes immediately seize my attention," says Harrison - aka Virtual Tourism - whose 2022 Photomode Contest submission from Ghost Recon Wildlands placed him among the previous contest's winners. "It's the ability to first captivate the viewer's gaze, and then lead them on a journey through the photo's composition that truly elevates the experience."

[UN] Ubisoft Photomode Contest Jury Tips - Jack Mouat-Harrison

Above image courtesy of Jack Harrison.

"I like to see photos that leave you guessing which game they came from," says Jones. "Using different angles and depth of field to bring the subject into focus is something I find compelling. Being able to feel an emotion from a photo is what sets it apart."

Jones, an avid in-game photographer and promoter of photomode creations in the Ubisoft community, uses an approach to evaluating images based on The Photographer's Eye, a book by photographer John Szarkowski, which outlines key aspects of photography across five chapters: The Thing Itself, The Detail, The Frame, Time, and Vantage Point. Jones encourages in-game photographers to take these concepts into account as well, for example by thinking carefully about their photo's object of interest ("It's important to understand that the subject is different from the picture," says Jones) and any details that can reveal or recontextualize something meaningful about their subject.

Exposure, time of day, light and shadow, and the impression of captured motion are also important to how a photo is perceived, as is the framing: "What are the imaginary lines which lead your eye a certain way?" says Jones. "Have they used the Rule of Thirds, Golden Triangle, or Golden Ratio?"

Vantage point - or rather, abandoning a traditional vantage point - is an opportunity to be truly creative, adds Jones. By shooting from unusual angles - from above or below, through objects like branches, or by capturing a reflection - photographers can help their subjects stand out.

[UN] Ubisoft Photomode Contest Jury Tips - Youssef Maguid

Above image courtesy of Youssef Maguid.

Tips From the Experts

"I would encourage entrants to first use the composition mode to explore the different ways they can achieve the photo they are thinking of," says Jones. "Play with the different angles and set up grids to help align framing within the shot. Once the shot is lined up, switch to edit mode and really play around with the values in there to enhance your shot. See how much you can change things up with the depth of field, exposure, and contrast. How can you make your photo pop?"

Harrison and Sorel also encourage exploring the features of different photomodes to become familiar with what's possible - including whether your photomode of choice has a grid overlay to help with composition techniques (like the above-mentioned Rule of Thirds).

"Tools like those found in the past four Assassin's Creed games can really help you transform your photo," Harrison says. "Assassin's Creed provides sliders for adjusting brightness, contrast, saturation, and even adding atmospheric effects like fog. For games like The Crew Motorfest, utilize photomode features like motion blur to enhance the sense of speed and motion of your vehicles. Each photomode is different, and experimenting with their tools and features can result in stunning virtual photography."

"Depth of field helps place the main subject pretty nicely, especially if someone is going for a portrait look," says Sorel. "Playing with filters can also generate a whole different mood than the game initially intended, and I find this really cool. It's really about being creative with the tools."

Another good way to experiment, particularly for beginners, is to study and try to emulate existing works to discover how professionals approach composition, framing, and so on. "Open a book by a great documentary photographer, and try to copy their way of photographing the world; that is the best way to learn," says Cuenin. "Just to name a few: Robert Frank, William Klein, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Raymond Depardon, [and] Christopher Anderson."

[UN] Ubisoft Photomode Contest Jury Tips - Dario_OtherEyes

Above image courtesy of Dario_OtherEyes.

Also, while it's generally a good idea for entrants to squeeze as much visual fidelity out of their submissions as possible - by bumping up PC settings, for example, or switching from "performance" to "quality" on consoles - an interesting image is more important than a pretty one, and a game's age isn't necessarily a strike against it.

"Personally, I find myself drawn to a well-crafted photo from an older game over a poorly executed one from a newer release," says Harrison. "The ability to capture a compelling moment and convey emotion through thoughtful composition and editing is what stands out to me, regardless of the game's graphics."

"It's all about bringing out an emotion," says Sorel. "You can achieve compelling shots regardless of the graphical quality. It's even more of an interesting challenge to tackle older games - try to find what will make them shine."

Ubisoft's Photomode Contest 2024 runs until March 4. Check out some additional tips from last year's jurors, and for more information, including contest rules and ways to enter, visit Ubisoft.com/Photomode.

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