Tips & Tricks for Taking Screenshots

Some things to keep in mind when deciding to capture a screenshot:

1. Subject

2. Theme and Location

3. Lighting

4. Composition and Cropping

5. Posing and Timing

Subject: Choose your subject. Perhaps you'd like to keep a memento of some beautiful scenery, holiday attire, friends group, or a favorite armor set. For my Tips & Tricks, I'll focus on my favorite subjects, my vanity pets. Even if it's not a special occasion, screenshots of your World of Warcraft experience will turn out much more interesting with a bit of preparation and creativity.

Theme and Location: You've chosen your subject to capture - now think about what kind of setting would best compliment your subject. For instance if it's a Winterveil theme, consider setting up your shot in the snow of Winterspring or Dun Morogh. Color is also an important consideration. Consider landscapes that will compliment your subject, and effects or objects in the background that might enhance the colors or theme. The golden leaves in Elwynn Forest, the pink sunsets in Eversong Woods. Maybe even something elaborate like a fireworks displays or a boss kill.

Scouting out the perfect setting for your subject can be time-consuming. I've been known to put on some music and spend a great deal of time riding my favorite mount through places I haven't visited since leveling there. I even climb hills and towers so I can check out views of the landscapes below.

Keep your Warcraft video settings optimized for speed while playing, but for your screenshots, consider turning up your video settings as high as your hardware can handle. It's nice to have all the weather effects, scenery, glows, shimmers as you can get. Just don't forget to turn it back down once you're done.

Lighting: Once you've found the perfect spot, investigate the lighting carefully, it can make or break the shot. Sometimes you'll want to shoot at night by moonlight for a cool glow on your subject. Sometimes daytime shots are best with full sun, especially when shooting shiny armor sets or bright colored subjects. At dawn and dusk, some areas have a warm, ambient glow to the atmosphere that compliments a variety of subjects.

The above two screenshots were taken at the same location at different times of day. In Image A, the screenshot was taken at night in moonlight. In Image B, the screenshot was taken in late afternoon in sunlight.

Avoid taking screenshots in shade or shadows unless it's intentional for the mood. Shadows tend to dim the contrast and colors of your subject (see below). Ironforge is a cool town, but screenshots taken there are typically unflattering to a subject because of the poor lighting options. Backlighting and sidelighting can add drama, so try a few different angles when setting up your shot.

The above two screenshots were taken at the same location at the same time of day - late afternoon. In Image A, the subject is standing in sunlight. In Image B, she's standing in shade. Note the difference in colors, especially on the armor and weapon.

Composition and cropping: Once you get your subject in the ideal location, with the best lighting possible, it's time to consider the composition of your shot. First of all, consider zooming in just far enough so your subject is prominent, but still within the frame entirely. Avoid cropping out feet or chopping your subject off at the waist! You can always crop more later, but you can't add once the shot has been taken.

Find the right camera angle. Play with the camera angles to add a bit more interest to the scene.

Clean up your scene. I've seen so many potentially good screenshots ruined by UI, text, or a distracting mob or object in the background. Here are some tips on getting a clean shot once you set it up:

A. Go to your World of Warcraft interface menu and turn off all the names. You can turn em back on when you're done.

B. If you plan a pose when taking the screenshot, make a macro with that pose and bind it to an unused key.

C. Flag yourself <Do Not Disturb> (/dnd) so your friends won't pester you while you get your shot.

D. Kill, loot, skin all nearby mobs and work quickly before a respawn once their corpses vanish.

E. Wait until players move out of your shot, or ask them politely to step away while you get a screenshot.

F. Turn off your UI (alt-Z).

Posing and Timing: After you've composed the scene, position your subjects to show off their best side. This can be difficult, especially when capturing subjects with their pets. I recommend positioning the pet first by moving your subject around until your pet lands where you like and is facing the right direction. With vanity pets, once the pet is positioned, then move your character in tiny increments, taking care not to disturb the vanity pet. Hunter pets are easier to work with, as you can put them on "stay" once positioned. Stand as close as you can to your pet, but try not to overlap.

Be prepared to take multiple screenshot captures to ensure the best image. If you're posing, keep in mind that many poses are animations, and have a "peak" where the pose looks best. Find that spot and try to capture that moment. Characters and pets also randomly blink, sigh, fidget, perform, etc. It's up to you whether you want to capture one of those moments or avoid them:

If you capture your character in a less flattering random movement, simply retake the screenshot a moment later.

Waiting for a random movement can be very time-consuming, but worth the effort. For instance, capturing my baby elekk at the perfect moment where he rears and trumpets took ages. Luckily, I had the shot set up and all I had to do was wait!

Finally, save the original version of your screenshots and rename the cropped versions. When cropping, keep a nice amount of space around your subject, but not so much that the subject is too small to see well once the image is resized.

Taking the perfect screenshot is rarely an accident. It takes a bit of effort and patience, but the results are worth it!

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