ByAlex Ziebart, writer at

In an action-adventure title like Horizon Zero Dawn where you explore a post-post-apocalyptic landscape while trying to survive amidst robot dinosaurs, it's unlikely your first thought is to stop and take pictures. Really, though, Horizon Zero Dawn's Photo Mode is one of the game's best features. While in Photo Mode, the game world freezes in place and gives you free rein over the camera to position wherever you'd like. In addition, while in Photo Mode, you can adjust the following settings:

  • Field of View
  • View Roll (Tilt)
  • Depth of Field
  • Focus Distance
  • Brightness
  • Overexposure
  • Colorize (Think Instagram filters)
  • Time of Day

In addition, if you simply want to capture the majesty of the landscape without Aloy in-frame, you can turn her off. Yes, you can disable her character model entirely.

For demonstration purposes, I took the nighttime shot below of Aloy on robo-bull-back with a bonfire behind her. I cranked the overexposure up a couple notches to get some crazy contrast between the blue and red.

Afterwards, I decided to see if I could come up with a substantially different picture in the same scene. I moved the camera, changed the time of day, messed with the Depth of Field and Focus, and ended up with this without ever unpausing the game:

Then I decided to apply a tilt effect, change the time of day, and add a border in preparation for Valentine's Day 2018.

This arrow's aimed straight for your heart, lover.
This arrow's aimed straight for your heart, lover.

The Horizon Zero Dawn subreddit anticipated the flood of photos and created a centralized megathread for sharing them. Sifting through everyone's photos, it's a fascinating way to see a range of aesthetics: some people clearly have a preference for moody evening pictures while others prefer the bright vibrance of daylight.

Horizon Zero Dawn's Photo Mode is also part of a welcome, fascinating trend. Prompto, one of your party members Final Fantasy XV, documents your adventures with photographs in his own scrapbook-style. Indie title Firewatch took it a step further and allowed players to actually print the photos they captured on in-game disposable camera.

Photography, whether it be amateur or professional, has become a central part of human existence. We use photos to save fond memories and to share experiences with friends or family. With so many of us having perpetual access to cameras via our smartphone, those shared experiences have become an even greater part of our lives. Through pictures, we can feel connected to others even when we're physically alone.

Photography finding its way into video games feels natural. In these games, we can share the beauty of a virtual world with our friends beyond simple screenshots. And, in a way, composing the perfect shot can be as rewarding as beating a difficult boss. There's nothing stopping you from composing that perfect shot while posing in front of that boss's corpse, either.

Beyond that, everyone sharing their great Horizon Zero Dawn photos is pretty damn good marketing, too.

Read more about 'Horizon Zero Dawn':

Which other games should really have a Photo Mode?


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