TheCrazySwede's Guide to Forzatography - A visual guide to capturing that perfect Forza moment!

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  1. TheCrazySwede

    TheCrazySwede

    Messages:
    580
    Location:
    United States
    DISCLAIMER:
    The suggestions used in this guide are catered towards Forzatography ONLY and should not be used as a guide to real-life photography. Although the two share many similarities, they each have their own do's and do not's that should be taken into consideration.

    Introduction

    Hi there fellow Forzatographers! Some of you may or may not know me, but I spend a great majority of my time taking photos – especially when it comes to cars. As video games start to rival real-life in terms of visuals and game developers implement lighting techniques that really bring their world to life, it becomes easier and easier to implement real-life photography techniques when fooling around with the in-game photo mode. In this guide, I hope to share with all of you some tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years as an ‘amateur’ photographer and how to properly implement these talents when shooting photos in Forza Motorsport and Forza Horizon. I hope this guide will prove useful to you! Thank you for reading and have fun!



    PART ONE: LIGHTING



    As the name suggests, photography is the very study of light. You can imagine, then, that lighting conditions play a vital role in taking great looking photos – and you’d be right. A common misconception is the idea that more light equals better photos. This is not true as it’s more about how the lighting is used, rather than how much of it there is. In this chapter, I’ll guide you through some basic steps to ensure you make the most use of lighting conditions.




    "Everything the Sun touches is our Kingdom"

    The sun’s positioning plays a vital role in where and how you take your photos. Based on where the light source is coming from, several factors like shadows, exposure and contrast get affected. Ideally, you want as much light as possible to really make the shots of your car bright and detailed, but at the same time you don’t want too much exposure ruining the color. A great way of doing this is allowing the sun to shine brightly upon your car, but then choose an angle where the car is the darkest and rack up the exposure. You don’t want the camera facing the sun when doing this, as this will most likely blind you! But doing this allows you to capture a lot of detail, without ruining the shot with over exposure. Having the sun directly hit a subject is a common amateur photographer mistake. Instead, allow the light to bounce off of your environment and rack up the
    exposure. I’ll demonstrate with the following photo:
    [​IMG]



    Take a good look at the spot of leaves cutting through the trees in this shot. Notice how much lighter some parts of my car are as opposed to others? Those lighter spots are from the sun shining through the leaves, whereas the rest of the car is in the shade. Now why would I want to take a picture in the shade? Because it allows me to utilize the natural light illuminating the world around me, without having the sun blast my car with brightness. From here we can increase the exposure slider to permit more light, making the car shine and revealing smaller details in its design, without having the whole car (and the whole environment) shine as bright as a candle.

    You want to make sure that the parts you want brightly lit get the light and the parts you want darker left in the shade. Sounds simple enough, right? It can be a bit tricky, however, especially with these motion shots. If you pay closer attention, you can see that the front lip of the car, along with the right side intercooler, remain lit up by the sun. This allows you to see the weaves of the carbon fiber. The parts that are in the side, however, remain dark. This is a nice trick to 'force' details out on a car to make them pop!

    When taking shots of the front with the headlights turned on, make sure to capture the light at an angle so that it doesn’t blind the lens. Remember, we want high levels of exposure in these shots! Increasing the exposure also makes the headlights brighter, so make sure you catch them at the right angle! Be careful, though, as the environment might shine, too. Shots like these are really tricky to pull off in places where parts of the environment are very bright, like the sands in the outback or white flowers in the grass, etc.



    Now, take a look at this second shot:
    [​IMG]



    Notice how bright the front end of the car looks as opposed to the rest? That’s because the front is no longer in the shade! We have identical photo settings, but here we have too much exposure on the front end of the car. The car model also looks softer and more brushed as opposed to the sharp look we are going for here.



    Here are two more shots to illustrate my point. Same car, same color, same conditions, but one is in the shade while the other one is in the light.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]




    Keep in mind that this doesn't mean you can't get good shots out of cars that are in the light, but it means you have to keep in mind what you can and cannot do with it. You cannot produce darkness, for it is the absence of light. You can, however, produce light (in this case, exposure) so plan accordingly! To show what I mean, here's the identical car, with almost identical settings, drifting a turn in the middle of the afternoon. Oh and I painted the car black so you get to really see what I mean.
    [​IMG]



    See the difference? Again, almost identical settings. I get asked what type of settings I use all the time, but that proves that there is no "perfect" setting around. It all depends on what exactly you're shooting.

    Now, let's consider an area that is bright everyone else, but perhaps has a much larger area of shade. This allows us to direct the camera towards the darker areas and, again, allow the environment to bounce off its light onto our car. In these two photos, exposure was set between 95-100, and yet the shots do not look over-exposed. This is because they were taken in shady areas and faced away from direct sunlight - under a bridge and under the shade of trees.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    Now you've seen the difference lighting can make in a photo. Remember that Forza is a game and learning how the lighting engine works is vital to getting the best shots out of it. To keep things simple for beginners, I won't dwell into night photography just yet. I'll save that one for a future lesson!



    Alright guys, now it's your turn! Hop into any car of your choosing (it can be a volcano orange McPlaren P1, if you want) and snap a picture of your car using the techniques discussed here. Upload your photo to a image hosting site of your choice and share your photo in the comments. Together we can see if the guide proved useful and also if anyone has any questions regarding any of the parts.

    Hope this helps; until next time - Cheers!


    BONUS SHOT: http://i.imgur.com/4bcs5te.jpg

    MY FAVORITE FROM THIS SHOOT: http://i.imgur.com/KFSlfr0.jpg
     
  2. TheCrazySwede

    TheCrazySwede

    Messages:
    580
    Location:
    United States
    PART TWO: SETTING UP THE SHOT
    In this edition of the Forzatography guide, we are going to be looking at what each of the different effects sliders do, how to make the most use of each one and how to properly utilize focal lengths to capture that perfect shot!


    [​IMG]


    Table of Contents

    1. Shutter Speed
    2. Aperture
    3. Exposure
    4. Brightness and Contrast
    5. Color Saturation and Sepia
    6. Vignette
    7. Focal Length
    8. Camera Roll



    I'm going to start off by going through each effects slider one-by-one, resetting each slider as we go down the list. Here is my new Porsche 911 at Prague with all settings set at a default value of 50:

    [​IMG]


    Not that interesting, is it? Well let's begin spicing things up!



    1. Shutter Speed

    The 'Shutter Speed' slider is what gives your shots a sense of motion and speed. You can be traveling at 200MPH and have your Shutter Speed set at 0 and the shot will seem still. I've noticed that a lot of people like to rack up the Shutter Speed to 100 because the car will seem faster (or because it looks cooler??) but this not only blurs out a lot environmental details, it also tends to ruin the composition of the shot. Your Shutter Speed should be proportionate to the speed of your vehicle. If you're traveling at 20MPH for your shot, give it a higher Shutter Speed. If you're traveling at 160MPH, then give it a lower Shutter Speed.

    I was traveling around 30-60MPH in this shot, which means somewhere near the middle is exactly where you want the slider. I'll show you what 100 Shutter Speed looks like below.



    - Shutter Speed @ 48:


    [​IMG]


    - Shutter Speed @ 100:


    [​IMG]




    2. Aperture

    Aperture dictates how much light goes through your lens. What this means to us is that it dictates our depth of field. Let's look at that default photo one more time:

    [​IMG]

    Notice how everything in the shot remains in focus? In order to achieve that sweet bokeh effect (blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens) you'll often find when shooting with DSLR's, we are going to amp up the Aperture setting a bit. Too much Aperture, much like Shutter Speed, can ruin your shot and your composition - as seen here:

    [​IMG]

    Again, this is a setting - like all others - that requires you to alter it based on the shot. You want just enough to achieve your desired level of bokeh. This also goes hand-in-hand with focal lengths, but we'll cover that later in the guide. For now, focus on adjusting your Aperture slider so that your eyes rest on the area you want the viewer to focus on - in this case it's the car. This is your focus point - too much blur is rough on the eyes. You want to guide the viewer's eyes to your focus point as gently as possible.

    For this shot, an Aperture setting of around 30 will work for now:


    [​IMG]

    Be careful not to mistake Aperture with Shutter Speed. When both effects get applied to a shot, be sure to adjust each one accordingly to fit your desired effect.




    3. Exposure

    I went over Exposure quite a lot in my first guide, so this shouldn't be anything new. In short, you want to position your car in a spot where it isn't being hit with direct light and then amp up the exposure to have the world illuminate the car through its surroundings. Be wary of a car's headlights, for too much exposure can cause them to blind the viewer! Again, no such thing as a perfect setting for Exposure, but find a shady spot and rack it up as you see fit. To see the effects of Exposure, below are the shots at the opposite ends of the Exposure slider:

    - Exposure @ 0:


    [​IMG]


    - Exposure @ 100:


    [​IMG]


    Exposure is a setting that you want to adjust based on your desired Brightness, Contrast and Vignette. For my shot - with the rest of the settings at their default 50 value - an Exposure setting of 60 gives it a natural look:

    [​IMG]

    Speaking of Brightness and Contrast....




    4. Brightness and Contrast

    These two - in Forza's camera settings - are polar opposites. Lowering contrast increases brightness and washes out colors, while increasing contrast decreases brightness and saturates colors.

    To demonstrate this, here are a two sets of shots comparing low/high contrast to low/high brightness to show they work pretty much the same.



    - Low Contrast w/ default Brightness:


    [​IMG]


    - High Brightness w/ Default Contrast:


    [​IMG]


    - Low Brightness w/ Default Contrast:



    [​IMG]


    - High Contrast w/ Default Brightness:


    [​IMG]


    The values in my examples aren't exactly opposites, but you get the point. Since Forza games tend to have overly saturated environments, the balance between Brightness and Contrast can get tricky. The trick is trying to avoid having your shot linger in any extreme. You don't want too much contrast or too much brightness. Personally, I opt for leaning a bit more towards the contrast side and compensate by adding a bit more Exposure to the mix:

    [​IMG]




    5. Color Saturation and Sepia

    This one is pretty self-explainatory. Rack up the Color slider increases saturation and decreasing the Color slider makes photos Black and White.

    - Color @ 0:


    [​IMG]


    - Color @ 100:


    [​IMG]


    A trick I tend to use for pretty much all of my shots is to increase the color slider a bit and then increase the Sepia slider within 50% of the increased Color value. So if default Color value is 50 and I increase it to 70, then I've increased it by 20. Based on this, I will increase my Sepia within 50% of 20 - which means my Sepia will be between 10 and 20 in value, as seen here:

    [​IMG]

    You don't always have to follow my 50% rule - I don't always follow it either - but if you're not sure how much to apply, it's a good rule of thumb.




    6. Vignette

    This setting darkens the edges of the photo to essentially eliminate the boarder. For us Forzatographers it also allows us to dim the environment a bit and allows us to increase our exposure just a tad bit. Bump up the Vignette just enough to where the area around you darkens (not enough so that it bleeds into your photo) and then increase the exposure just a little. Remember, too much Vignette and you'll end up with something like this:

    [​IMG]




    7. Focal Length

    Now that we have our camera effect sliders all setup, we are going to be taking a look at setting up our camera's focal length. Now Forza insists on calling this feature camera "zoom," which is a bit inaccurate. Take a look at the "Zoom" number right above the "Take Photo" symbol:

    [​IMG]


    Notice how it says "2.7x" right now? Well, what happens if we keep the camera in the same spot, but zoom out? Here's that same shot, from the same spot, at "0.5x" zoom.

    [​IMG]

    Notice how not only our composition changed, but also our Shutter Speed effect altered, along with our Aperture. To show you how this is a matter of Focal Length and NOT zoom, let's keep the same level of 'zoom,' but the camera up close to the car:

    [​IMG]

    See how we achieve more of a 'Fish Eye' effect now? This is because we just changed to a 'Wide-Angle' lens by altering our Focal Length. Much like actually using a DSLR, the Focal Length of your lens will dictate the angle and Aperture of your shot. In Forza, Aperture doesn't actually change the amount of light in your shot, so this is way easier.

    Now here's the same shot, but with a much higher Focal Length, with the zoom set at 5.2x:


    [​IMG]

    When capturing your shot, keep all of the above factors in mind, adjusting each one as you reposition your camera. I've seen a lot of people adjusting their Focal Length and Field of View, but not adjusting their Shutter Speed or Aperture. If you're using a Wide Angle lens or trying to replicate more of a Telephoto lens, then be sure to MOVE THE CAMERA to the desired location. This is something I've noticed even a lot of real life photographers have trouble with. In real life, you cannot get away with just standing in one spot and shooting with a 35mm. You have to move into the shot. Keep these things in mind!




    8. Camera Roll

    Finally we have Camera Roll. This is the fine-art of tilting your camera (do a barrel roll!) to one side or another. On that same horizontal line where you can see your Focal Length, all the way to the right you have your roll angle:

    [​IMG]


    This is all about artistic preference. Keep in mind that the roll angle will tell you how much your camera is tilting compared to the ground:

    - Roll @ 0 Degrees:


    [​IMG]


    - Roll @ 2.7 Degrees:


    [​IMG]




    That's it for this Edition of Forzatography, folks! Hope ya'll enjoyed it. If you have any questions, please go ahead and ask me. Feel free to post your own shots here and I will do my best to give advice.

    **PHOTOS FROM SHOOT**

    - http://i.imgur.com/PiFG7Zh.png
    - http://i.imgur.com/0PiKigP.png
    - http://i.imgur.com/aBX9TIU.png
    - http://i.imgur.com/klnuvwX.png
    - http://i.imgur.com/fsSCP9z.png
    - http://i.imgur.com/Q0DGHql.png

    *BONUS SHOT:* http://i.imgur.com/EIYJRBG.png

     
    cosme, Drex124, GTracer38 and 3 others like this.
  3. ImaRobot

    ImaRobot

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    Great in-detail write ups! This is a great addition to the community, and should help greatly for some. Glad to see someone taking the time and effort to do this :tup:
     
    Minty and TheCrazySwede like this.
  4. TheCrazySwede

    TheCrazySwede

    Messages:
    580
    Location:
    United States
    Thanks bud!

    Hoping it'll help many new comers who are getting their feet wet with Forzatography, and maybe it'll even teach the seasoned guys a thing or two.

    Part 3 is going to be covering composition. Will post it as soon as it's ready!
     
    ykiki, Minty and ImaRobot like this.
  5. ykiki

    ykiki

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    677
    Location:
    United States
    In-game photography is something that's interested me for a while, but only on a "hobby" level and I haven't really dived into it - probably because I never really knew where to start. Thanks for taking the time to write up a guide and providing those of us on the periphery with a good base from which to expand our skills.
     
    ImaRobot likes this.
  6. TheCrazySwede

    TheCrazySwede

    Messages:
    580
    Location:
    United States
    You're very welcome, bud! I'm glad this guide's getting positive feedback. I'm still working on Pt. 3 (GT Sport has delayed that effort a bit, I must admit!) but hopefully I'll have it up as soon as possible!