Four Tricks for Taking Gorgeous Skyrim Screenshots
Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world fashion
Skyrim is one of the most beautiful games I've ever played, and it's even moreso with the addition of some mods and enhancements I've added to the Dawnguard expansion. I've also been perfecting my technique for sharing this new slice of an already stunning world via screenshots (or pics, or photos, or simulographs, or whatever you'd like to call them). I love taking pictures in almost every game I play, just as much as I love taking pictures in reality, so I take my screenshots pretty seriously. And at this point, the only game I've taken more pictures in that Skyrim has to be Second Life.
While my Skyrim snapshots are nowhere near as inspired as James Pollock's, I've still got a few tricks worth sharing whether you're an avid virtual photographer yourself or you simply want to share a few fun shots from the Dawnguard expansion with your friends. Keep reading to find out what!
Hide the UI
Unless you want to screw around with the clone tool in Photoshop, toggling the UI off is key. Hit the "~" key to access the game console, then simply time "tm" and hit return. Accessing the console has the bonus effect of freezing the scene, so you don't have to worry about losing that perfect candid shot while you hide the UI. Just remember that hiding the UI also hides the console, so to get things moving you'll have to hit "~" again to close the console. Once you're done, get the UI back by opening the (invisible) console and entering "tm" in once more. And voila, no more cloning or cropping, just a sprawling, gorgeous screenshot.
Skyrim on its own isn't bad looking, but if you have the hardware to support it you should definitely consider some serious detail-oriented augmentations. Bethesda's own free HD Texture DLC is a good start, but mods like Pure Waters , Skyrim Flora Overhaul and the Static Mesh Improvement Mod can make the world look even more lush and deep than it is on its own. There are so many of these texture and model upgrade mods, that it's well worth taking your time to do a little research to find out which ones suit your personal aesthetic style. Even if your computer isn't terribly extreme, try a couple mods out to see which ones work for you and which ones don't-- surprisingly, many won't even make a noticeable dent in the game's performance.
ENB is your BFF
Though this technically counts as a mod, I couldn't help but make it a category of its own. I'd stayed away from ENB and lighting-related mods up until very recently, and I'm absolutely kicking myself for it. I was under the impression that they would be a pain to install and that they would kill my game's performance, but I was incredibly wrong on both counts, and the overall effect is overwhelmingly gorgeous. My jaw dropped when I started up the game, the difference was just that unbelievable.
The hardest thing about getting your own ENB + lighting effects suite for Skyrim will be choosing which one you want. I use the rather straightforward Superb ENB, which offers varying amounts of light as well as different shader and depth of field effects that makes talking to NPCs and exploring a much more realistic and immersive experience. If you want something that you can fine tune a litle more, other ENB lighting/shading mods offer mind-boggling amounts of customization so, once again, do your research. Be sure to read the instructions when installing as well; these are a little more involved than your run-of-the mill mods, so make sure you've got everything where it needs to be for it to work. Seriously, though: If you're playing Skyrim without an ENB/lighting effects mod installed, you're playing it wrong!
Snap Early & Snap Often
Finally, be patient. Things like landscapes and portraits can be framed easily while you're out and about, but if you're after that perfect action shot, keep one finger on the screenshot button and be ready. Just like a real photographer, don't be afraid to have 20 deleted snapshots for every 1 worth keeping. It's not like you have to worry about wasting the film, right?
Iris Ophelia (Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.