Virtual photography – valid or not?

Sunday 21st May 2017

I think maybe an image created within a virtual world environment should be referred to as ‘screenshot photography’ or ‘screenshot art’ rather than simply ‘photograph’. Because the image is not made with a camera, but via a monitor.  (Possibly a fresh name for this burgeoning new art form should be considered?)

But both require human input. A degree of skill is required with both methods. They both follow the same rules of composition and lighting/ exposure etc.

And they both fulfil a desire to capture a scene, a place or moment in time, a memory – whether that scene has been constructed or simply happened upon.
Is a scene constructed for a photographic picture any different from one constructed within a games engine? Photographs are taken of statues, of inanimate objects……..are they any different from an image taken of an avatar?
It can perhaps be argued if an avatar is regarded as a prop rather than a ‘human’ ,the gap between the two art forms lessen .
And as many photographers use a PC to store, edit and maintain their images, do not use film or developing-room techniques, the gap between the two methods draws even closer.

Is a screenshot art? That depends upon who is viewing it. All art is subjective . It’s only of value to those who value it.

Likewise how an image is processed or edited is subjective. There is no loss of validity if someone uses a filter, or a fancy lens. Both can be used creatively.
If just one person has an emotional response to an image – it IS art. Be they the creator or a viewer.

I personally think that how a piece of art is created, the tools used and the methods employed are irrelevant. The perception of what can be considered as Art is ever changing, so too are the methods of achieving it.

Artists throughout history have constantly pushed the limits of their processes, their materials and their perceptions. Many great works of art are in danger because the artist used untried techniques and unstable pigments. Artists by their very nature seek to push boundaries and provoke a reaction for their work.

All methods are valid.
All processes are valid – because they are merely construction techniques.
And just because a method of construction is complicated does not mean someone conquering that method can produce Art.
A camera is a just a tool. Learning to use a tool is a skill, not an art. It is one’s selection of what to make an image of, and the way it is processed or edited, that can make it art.

Does the fact that making such images is now available to millions – rather than  the relatively few who could afford, and use a camera and to then develop their own films – make that form of producing an image  any less of an art form?

Are images made within  a virtual world platform valid as an art form?  Absolutely yes!


I think the problem of legitimacy for screenshot images is more the crux of the matter.For an art form to be taken seriously these days – and by that I mean that it has the ability to generate money – it has to be quantifiable. If the Art World cannot make money on an image …….it is regarded by the art community as worthless. But financial worth does not equate to artistic merit.


Limitless copies can be made of a screenshot image. But isn’t that fact also true of a photograph taken with a camera?
An artist, or a photographer, or a print maker, can put a limit on the number of copies of an image he or she will produce. The copies are numbered accordingly, and the artist is trusted that the copy ‘run’ is adhered to. They are trusted.
It would seem that those of us who use our PC monitors cannot be trusted in this way. Are those of us who use this new technique less than honourable? Sadly, I think perhaps the perception is that we are.
But are we less of an artist?  Nope.


Does selling an image for pennies lessen that image’s possibility to be regarded as Art And more importantly to be taken seriously?
Personally for me the answer is yes.
I was taught that any creative, any artist, should value their own work. That if they did not value it……neither would others. It’s about respect for oneself and one’s craft.
Therefore if you offer an image for sale it should be costed on the hours spent making it, plus the cost of materials used – and have those costs applied to it before considering how much possible profit one can make from the project.
And  it should be limited in copies. Not endlessly churned out like doughnuts at a factory.
If screenshot artists value their work – eventually the Art world will too. Their fate is in their own hands.

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A pixel girl in a Virtual World

8 thoughts on “Virtual photography – valid or not?”

  1. Lots of thoughts here; I think I’m probably in agreement in most areas, in particular your views on what makes something art or not (I sort of avoided this particular issue because I know what a hornet’s nest it is!).

    Interesting views on limiting copies of images, which have got me thinking. I haven’t come to any particular conclusion yet, but here’s a wonder: if we regard a novel or a piece of music as a piece of art and are ok with the author/musician selling limitless copies, why do we take a different view for visual art?

    1. Great point re. selling limitless copies…..Maybe because those books and music are intended to be sold in volume, and their creator receives a small fee for each unit sold.
      Whereas an image conceived as a piece of art is intended to be sold only once?
      I think it is about intention rather than eventual use?

  2. Love this Bou. I feel that screenshots is a term that is abused and used to describe it as less worthy than purely photographic works, but most often this is by people who have never worked on the set up of a shot in second life, for instance, people who don’t realise that the creative process for a virtual artist begins much earlier. When each windlight for each picture is created and tweaked, each prop positioned, to make a vision become an image. I don’t class myself amongst the virtual art great and good, but I do appreciate the artistic vision and work that goes into it.

    1. Thanks Meri.
      I do feel that there needs to be a better term for what we in Second Life regard as photos. Screenshot, as you say, has become almost a derogatory term, hinting that all we do is press the PrtScn key ……….. how little they know!
      Some of my images take a day to set up, possibly hundred’s of shots, and then hours in post editing. And I know I am not alone in spending this amount of time and work.

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