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Photo Modes let amateur photographers pursue two passions at once

The Last of Us Part II Photo Mode

Most Sony first-party releases include or are eventually patched to include a Photo Mode. So what’s the hubbub about?

Photo Mode is one of the best ways for players to utilize the content creator features that all of the current generation consoles (PS4, Switch, Xbox One) have implemented. And pretty soon, players are going to want to show off all of the fancy new games on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.

The first game to have included a dedicated Photo Mode was Gran Turismo 4 in 2005. That being said, it was not particularly robust nor was it popular since regular players were not accustomed to sharing content online. In 2007, Halo 3 for Xbox 360 revolutionized Photo Mode, essentially recording online matches and then allowing players to retroactively manipulate the subsequent video in order to capture the perfect screenshot.

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Fast-forward to today, one of the most anticipated games of the entire year, Ghost of Tsushima, released together with a Kurosawa filter (which pays homage to the famous samurai-movie director by rendering the game in black and white) and a feature-complete photo mode to boot. Subsequently, this means that ever since the release, Twitter and the Ghost of Tsushima Subreddit have been set ablaze with wonderful screenshots and small clips showcasing just how beautiful the game is.

This makes photo mode a very effective tool for publishers like Sony to garner interest in their games. Cinematic, story-driven single-player games like Ghost of Tsushima often trend on Twitter as a result of people posting and then subsequently interacting with content created and edited from within the game. It’s great free social media exposure.

What’s more, from a player perspective, those who tend to tinker with the photo mode tend to spend more time in the game world than they normally would. At least for some, photo mode brings to video games what’s most wonderful about real-life photography. Therefore, it essentially enables a hobby within a hobby.

This being said, the added benefit of photo mode in video games over real-life photography is that it also allows for players to observe intricate details that might have been otherwise glossed over. For example, in Marvel’s Spider-Man, zooming on enemy rockets reveals a sweet easter egg.

Photo Mode also allows for players to capture cinematic moments of their own gaming experiences. For example, my cover photo on PS4 (and the picture header for this article) is the result of me experimenting with the photo mode settings in an attempt to capture just how brutal a particular scene in The Last of Us Part II is. And unlike a screenshot from the official press kit or a photo I could easily search for on Google, I keep it around as a background because it reminds me of a particular moment in time. It brings me back – even if only for a brief moment – to the experience of actually playing The Last of Us Part II.

Now, of course, very few Photo Modes are as impressive as the ones found in Ghost of Tsushima or The Last of Us Part II. (On Xbox One, Forza Horizon 4 stands out.) The way things are going, it is more likely than not that Photo Mode – with all its added bells and whistles – is going to become a mainstay feature for years to come. And I, personally, cannot wait to capture more memories.

What do you think? Are you a fan of photo modes in games? Let us know in the comments!