Sooooo, maybe you’re aware that I take Sims photos sometimes. A few of them here and there, not much. Recently Lila Remonn of the Kingston Legacy fame did a little tutorial on taking photos. She’s pretty awesome at what she does, so I think you should definitely head over there and read it. Especially because then I won’t have to talk too much about composition and the rule of thirds and such. I’m lazy and ignorant. Derp.
There are, however, also some places where I differ from Lila. Specifically, she goes for a more realistic feel, while I’m more about trying to convey mood, emotion, and a romantic, cozy atmosphere. So I figured that I would add my two cents to this whole thing. This is how I, personally, take photos. I’ll focus primarily on lighting and colours, because they’re things that I spend most of my time on perfecting.
First I’ll list a few mods that I use which are helpful when I take photos, then I’ll talk about lighting my scenes, light colour, and my use for it. Then I’ll get into colours and my use of ReShade to enhance them. Finally, I have a few tips that don’t fit with the other stuff, but which I think could be useful. Sooo, let’s get to it, shall we?
Mods that Help Me
No Drift/Lower Level Free Cam: This mod prevents the camera from drifting when in camera man mode (tab). It also allows me to move the camera lower and to zoom very far out. It also enables you to lower your camera very close to the floor.
No Drift/Lower Level Live Camera Mode: This mod does the same as the other camera mod, but for live mode. It’s handy when you initially set the pictures up.
HQ and No Glow Mod: This mod gives both lovely, lovely high quality on my simmie’s faces, and it removes the dumb bloom effect which makes everything shine and look terrible.
Blue Skies and Sunshine Lighting Mod: Gives an overhaul to the sky and light in the game. Lighting mod comes in many flavours, though I chose this for the vivid blue sky. As you might know, I like colours.
Sixtyteen’s Photo Backdrop: I use this for character pictures and it’s how I get a perfectly white background for shoots (or other colours, for that matter – it’s recolourable).
These are just the mods I use for photos in the game. If you want a list of other mods, defaults, and so on, you can have a look at my resource page. And now onto the actual meat of this… thing.
I like to take pictures that are vibrant and well lit. I personally don’t like squinting to be able to see what’s in a picture, so I nearly always light up my pictures as much as possible.
I use the invisible lights that you can find under the debug menu a lot. If you haven’t already, I suggest you create a collection and add the invisible lights to it. That way, you don’t have to type in the cheat over and over again or sort through the menus to find them. In my collection, I also have the poseplayer, the photo backdrop, as well as all the different OMSPs for easy access.
When I make my rooms, I add invisible lights overhead until my picture is evenly lit. I don’t worry so much about whether it’s realistic, especially not for daytime shots – I think more of my rooms as movie sets where everything needs to be visible. You can see that I’ve distributed the invisible lights pretty evenly in the Mancini villa’s living room below, but I don’t necessarily do it so nicely. It depends on the shape of the room. I place the light where it’s needed. I still place lamps, but more for the sake of decorating, and I always set them to ‘dim’ so they don’t interfere. The small invisible lights overlapping that you can see serve a different purpose, but I’ll get to that later.
I prefer lighting in my pictures to be warm, cozy, and romantic, which is why I regularly use the option to change the light colour. You can do all kinds of funky things with coloured lights, but one colour I liked to use a lot is the flame option. To change light in live-mode, just click the light and there’s an option to do it in the menu. To do it for an invisible light in build/buy, hold down shift+ctrl and click the light in question to get the menu up. (I know you guys probably already know, but just in case, there you go).
The flame colour isn’t intense or strongly coloured, it’s less harsh than the standard white light, and it makes everything look warm and more homey as you can see below:
I only use white or other light colours if it has a point. White light I would use for a setting that’s sterile, cold, or unfeeling. You can see an example below of white light in action. It’s from a setting that I never got around to using. In generation 2, I’ve used blue lighting in the pool scene with Gina and Enzo, and in CoM I used coloured lighting for one of the final chapters. The examples are all below (click them to enlarge and read my comments – may work better on the blog proper, rather than in the reader).
Finally, in my scenes, I don’t just settle for using overhead lights. I want to light the sims’ faces up as well. Now we’re getting to my overlapping lights. These suckers:
I place them like that to distribute the light evenly and it also lights up a potential third sim in the scene nicely. I’m sure there are other, better ways of lighting up faces, but that’s how I do it. When taking the pictures for a story for real, I probably wouldn’t place the sims that close to the light source, though.
For night scenes, I do things a little different. For these I nearly always try to have a light source that makes sense. Take this picture that I ended up not using (it’s Gina to the left, the sim to the right is a sim whose appearance I changed later):
For this scene, I have a single light source, the fireplace. What might not be obvious is that I have an invisible light right in front of the fireplace with the colour (of course) set to flame. The fireplace itself doesn’t light up enough. For night scenes, I always use light to set the mood. This is a cozy scene between two friends. I get a different mood in one of the nighttime scenes in the final chapter of generation 1. Here I had only one lamp turned on in the living room where Carlo is, while Vittoria (well, her legs/feet), coming down the stairs, are in darkness. It has significance to her character that she comes out of the shadows and into the warm, cozy (flame coloured!) light that Carlo is bathed in.
I generally tend to add lamps in the game and then place an invisible light on top of them to make the nighttime scenes look nice (particularly outdoors), though for this last picture, I used only a lamp. It depends a lot on how well the lamp works in-game.
Nighttime scenes are my favourites to shoot. They’re a chance to have dark, inky blackness up against an explosion of colours. Speaking of colours…
Colours and ReShade
Time to talk about ReShade. Besides having warm, cozy pictures, I like the colours of my pictures to really pop. I used to edit all my pictures in Photoscape. I would lighten them up (the game is kind of dark) and up the saturation. I still do this with model pictures, as ReShade’s settings make my backdrop greyish and I want a pure white.
The example below shows the difference between a typical in-game photo and the photo after a bit of editing.
When I edit in Photoscape, I go under ‘Bright, Colour’ and select ‘Colour Curves’, which gives me a small menu:
In this menu, I adjust the curve until I’m happy with lightness and then I do the same under the ‘Saturation’ tab. After I’m done I resize the picture, but that’s about all I do. I used to do this for all my pictures, so I wanted a method that wouldn’t take too long. The Luminance tab I tend to avoid, as it makes the pictures too light for my taste.
Besides for model shoots with a white background, though, I always use ReShade. The advantage of using ReShade is that I generally avoid editing the pictures at all besides editing out clipping, resizing them, and adding a frame. I’m not going to go into how to use/install ReShade here – there are plenty of tutorials online to help you. Feel free to ask if you want me to point you towards one.
I have two ReShade presets that I change between. One is free of effects apart from anti-aliasing and it’s for when I’m doing actual game stuff – like moving sims around, redecorating, and so on. ReShade can be a little heavy on your system, especially with effects like DOF turned on.
The other one has these effects turned on:
Clarity: Lightens up the game a little.
MagicDOF (Depth of Field): This makes my objects further away a little blurry and gives the pictures depth. This is the one I adjust the most. First, because it blurs the UI (it’s a quirk of ts3’s engine), and second because I have to adjust the focus point so it fits the picture I’m taking. There are other variants of DOF in ReShade, but I use this one because I find it the most subtle and least distorting.
HDR: Gives the pictures a little more intensity – the colours are richer!
FXAA/SMAA: Anti-aliasing (edge smoothing). I don’t use the in-game anti-aliasing because it prevents DOF from working. I use both, though it might be silly – it just looks vaguely better to my eyes.
Vibrance: This is what really makes the colours go pop. I’ve adjusted it a little to be less yellow, because my lighting mod makes the light slightly more yellow – and it’s even more so with ReShade turned on.
The difference between my nothing setting and my colours setting:
Extra Things You Might Like to Know:
- While in tab-mode in the game, you can save a camera position with ctrl+5-9. When you’ve saved the position, you can press the keys 5-9 to return the camera to that exact position. Perhaps this is common knowledge among all the cool people out there, but I only learnt it fairly recently :’) Because I’m a noob.
- I take my pictures as large as I possibly can and then I resize them afterwards. Because I like to play in windowed mode, I have my window set to 1600×900 in resolution. The advantage of taking really big pictures, then resizing them, is that you can’t see the hard edges of the game (they’re there, even with edge-smoothing turned on) and if I do little edits (like removing a hole in a skirt or fixing some clipping), it’s not as visible. There’s also just the matter of saving space on my blog. I resize them all down to 1000×563.
- I generally take a lot of pictures of each scene from a lot of different angles. I often take a picture that I think is super good and well composed. Then look at it later and realise that nope, it wasn’t – one of the other pictures was much better.
- I use tilting and angling a lot to avoid clipping. When I can’t, I make sure to only have minimal clipping that I can fix with the clone tool in PhotoScape.
- I’m an extremely nerdy nerd, so I have a gamer keyboard with programmable keys. Basically it means I can map certain actions to certain keys. I have keys set so I don’t have to type in the cheats I use most often. The most important key for taking photos is my first one, though.
ReShade sets the photoshooting key to Print Screen. Because of the way the ts3 UI works, though, it takes pictures of the UI as well unless you hide it with f10. Make a big, fat guess as to how many times I forgot (if you think anything less than three digits, try again). I now have a programmable key that presses f10, takes a picture, presses c to give the ‘click’ sound, and presses f10 again – all in one keystroke. I bought my keyboard with macros because of that. Feel free to lose all respect for me.
Now, I’m not saying to go buy an expensive gaming keyboard. This is just one way of solving the problem.
Well, so, that was long and maybe boring, but I hope it gave you an idea of how I do my thang. If this isn’t your thing – I totally understand and respect that. I like me some colours and some bright light, but that’s not everyone’s cup of… pictures(?). I hope it’s at least inspiring to somebody. If you’re going more for the realism and want some more on composition instead, go check out Lila’s tutorial on photos because it’s pretty damn awesome (also, just read her stuff, because it’s beautifully written and her pics are a feast for the eyes).
For now, that’s what I had for you guys. I hope you’re having a great old time and now go… take lots of pretty pictures! That look however you want them to 🙂