Flickr announced this week that it will be adding a new category to its platform: virtual photography. “Photographs” captured in video games or other virtual platforms like Second Life will now have a place on Flickr alongside other photos, illustrations and artworks, and screenshots. It’s a big sign that the once-niche genre is on the rise. 

What is virtual photography?

As modern video games have become more visually impressive and photorealistic, developers have added photo modes to let players show off the beauty of the world around them. This has created an increasingly popular photographic sub-genre called virtual photography (or just video game photography). 

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Some games, like Horizon Zero Dawn, The Last of Us Part 2, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and Red Dead Redemption 2, enable the player to pause the game, position the camera anywhere, adjust camera settings like the depth of field, and even pose the character how they like. It allows for a huge amount of creativity, and it’s what separates virtual photography from simple screenshots. 

What does this mean for Flickr users?

Until now, virtual photography didn’t fit neatly into any of Flickr’s categories. Virtual photographs aren’t really photos, nor are they quite digital artworks or screenshots. 

Flickr created the new virtual photography category with two types of works in mind: video game photography and “content shared by the Second Life community.” Although users are free to categorize their work how they like, the virtual photography category is now a handy option for video game photographers as it allows their work to be found, shared, and seen for what it is.

In its announcement, Flickr highlights the fact that virtual photographers will now be able to search the site to see video game photographs from other artists, without having to look at “real-world photography or other art and illustration”.

A genre on the rise

Flickr’s announcement isn’t the only bit of big news for virtual photography this week. Ubisoft has just announced a new in-game photography contest and exhibition called PHOTOMODE. Players can enter virtual photographs from “any Ubisoft game that features Photomode” including Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Far Cry 6, and Steep.

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Like any other photo contest, there are multiple categories including Portrait, Outdoors, and Action, and some pretty cool prizes. The top 20 entries will get fine art prints of their work and will be displayed in a gallery exhibition in New York, while the three overall winners will also receive an invitation to the exhibition opening and an MSI Raider laptop

You can enter from now until October 16. The winners will be announced in November.