Obscura promises to be a photo mode lover's paradise

A green cactus forest in Obscura
(Image credit: Danny Bittman)

I do love a good photo mode. But over the last year, I've started to increasingly appreciate games that put the camera in your character's hands, rather than offer a free-flying omnipotent lens from which to snap the world. That's why I've fallen in love with Obscura, a work-in-progress photography sandbox that looks like a virtual camera-lover's dream come true.

While currently just developer Danny Bittman's personal project, Obscura is an Unreal Engine camera plugin that's spiralled into a full-on shutterbug sandbox. 

Last year, I fell in love with stylish photo romp Umurangi Generation, largely because of its wonderfully analogue handheld camera. Obscura takes those sliders and lenses and ramps them up to an extreme, seemingly letting you fiddle with everything from lens types, contrast and saturation down to world-adjusting tweaks for lighting and atmospherics.

But while Obscura might be missing a carefully curated world of scenes to snapshot, I'm fascinated by its promised ability to import entire new worlds to explore behind the lens of a camera. Many early screenshots show vibrant, lo-fi worlds, but Bittman also shows off some detailed photogrammetry-scanned environments. Ideally, this means you could download real-world locations from across the globe and have a go at shooting 'em up.

The ability to import and snapshot entirely new scenes might make some of the scenes a little less lively, but it's also appealing to the part of me that wanted to plug Umurangi's camera into every game under the sun. I'm hopeful that crafty photographers will find to import models and maps from other games, letting them take Obscura's cameras everywhere from City 17 to Cyrodiil. 

Bittman doesn't yet know how Obscura will pan out, contemplating a full app available for both flatscreen and VR photography. But he's very much pitching it as a piece of software rather than a game, though—a nifty educational tool for teaching composition, lighting and colour. That's fine, really. I'm entirely here for a photo mode without a game.

Until then, resident shutterbug Rachel has put together a list of the best photography games on PC, whether you feel like snapping squirrels, the apocalypse, or sentient burgers.

Natalie Clayton
Features Producer

20 years ago, Nat played Jet Set Radio Future for the first time, and she's not stopped thinking about games since. Joining PC Gamer in 2020, she comes from three years of freelance reporting at Rock Paper Shotgun, Waypoint, VG247 and more. Embedded in the European indie scene and a part-time game developer herself, Nat is always looking for a new curiosity to scream about—whether it's the next best indie darling, or simply someone modding a Scotmid into Black Mesa. She also unofficially appears in Apex Legends under the pseudonym Horizon.