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Get the most out of photo mode in Red Dead Redemption 2

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

Red Dead Redemption 2 is finally on PC and its sweeping slice of the Wild West has never looked prettier. This is an immensely photogenic game and Rockstar knows it, bundling an exclusive photo mode with the long-awaited PC release. You can take great screenshots with the default settings, but diving into the advanced options really opens up the potential of the tool. So for all you budding virtual photographers out there, here's a guide to every setting in Red Dead's photo mode and tips for getting the most out of them. 

Camera

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

Pressing V will switch between two camera modes, each of which behaves very differently. In orbit mode the camera is locked to Arthur, who will always be in the centre of the screen. You can spin it around him, but not much else. However, switch to the free cam and you can move it anywhere you like, which gives you more freedom when it comes to composing shots.

The only restriction with the free cam is distance. Move far enough away from Arthur with it and you'll eventually hit an invisible wall. Modders might find a way to bypass this at some point, but for now you're going to have to live with it. Honestly, free cam mode is the way to go. Orbit is too limited.

Zoom

This option is only available in orbit mode, letting you move closer or further away from Arthur while composing a shot. Again, free cam gives you much finer control over the distance between camera and subject, making this option fairly redundant most of the time. But hey, it's there if you really need it.

Height

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

This lets you move up and down on a vertical plane. It's great for quickly elevating the camera to capture a vista like the one above. Height is bound to the scroll wheel on your mouse, which you'll find yourself using constantly to fine-tune your compositions. Just remember that height is restricted in the same way as distance, so you can't fly for miles into the air.

Reset

An obvious one. If you want to start over, hitting reset will revert the camera back to its default settings and position.

Lens

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

This is one of the most powerful options in Red Dead's photo mode. You can press Z and X to cycle between lenses, each of which has a wildly different field of view. If you want to capture a big, impressive landscape it's best to use a wide lens to squeeze more of the vista into the frame.

But if you're capturing the finer details of the world, or a portrait like the one above, use a close-up lens instead. Selecting the appropriate lens is key to taking great screenshots. For instance, if you use a wide lens to take a close-up of something or someone, it'll just look warped and unnatural.

HUD

Press H to hide the HUD. Easy.

Roll

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

Pressing Q and E will roll the camera, which is great for action shots. A landscape will always look better with a level camera, but when the focus of a screenshot is something like, say, a person riding a horse or a steam train roaring along the tracks like in the screenshot above, a touch of roll gives a nice sense of motion and drama to the image. Just don't overdo it.

Save Photo

This will save a screenshot to the Rockstar Social Club, which can then be uploaded to your profile. But don't bother, because the images are quite heavily compressed and can't easily be uploaded elsewhere. Instead, hide the HUD with the H key and use a third-party tool like ShadowPlay to take your own shot. This will give you an uncompressed image that you can share wherever.

View Photos

This option will take you to the Rockstar Social Club hub. Any photos you've taken using the in-mode Save Photo option, or with Arthur's in-game camera, will appear in here. But as I said before, take your own instead.

Blur Strength

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

This option simulates the aperture settings on a camera, letting you focus on a subject in the foreground or background while intentionally blurring the rest of the image. It's great for portraits, letting you make the background behind your subject slightly out of focus. Use it well and you can create almost photorealistic images. It looks especially good in Saint Denis at night.

I often use depth of field to make details in the foreground of a landscape shot slightly out of focus. You can see this in the image above. Notice how the tracks are softly blurred? This is an effective way of creating a feeling of depth. Use the focus distance setting to determine which part of the scene the camera focuses on. That's how I ensured only the tracks were blurred in this shot.

Send us your best shots

Now that you've mastered Red Dead's photo mode we want to see your screenshots. Mail your best snaps to letters@pcgamer.com with the subject line RED DEAD PHOTOGRAPHY and we'll feature our favourites on the site.

Of course, how you use the blur settings is up to you, so get creative with it. This is one of the most fun options in Red Dead's extensive photo mode to experiment with. But it's also easy to overcook. Too much focal separation between the subject and the background can end up looking overly fake.

Exposure

This option simulates how much light is being let into your lens. So if you have a daytime shot with the sky in the frame, increasing the exposure will brighten it. But go too far and it'll completely white out, making it look like a nuclear bomb has just gone off. This goes the other way too, letting you reduce the intensity of any light visible in the image. But lower it too far and your shot will be plunged into darkness. Tweaking exposure is all about balance, so keep it subtle for the best results.

Contrast

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

If your image is looking washed out and you want to deepen the blacks, this option lets you tweak the contrast. It's pretty handy, but I prefer to bring my shots into Photoshop and adjust the levels, colour balance, etc. myself. Real photographers use post-processing on digital images, so there's no reason why you shouldn't do the same. But if that's too much hassle, this'll do.

Filters

Red Dead's photo mode includes a bunch of visual filters. Many of these attempt to simulate the vintage look of period-appropriate cameras, and they're pretty cool, if a little too heavily stylised for my tastes. Filters are fun to mess around with, but really, your images will look better without them.

Filter Intensity

If you do apply a filter you can make the effect more tasteful by adjusting the intensity. At the lower end of the scale you'll only see traces of the selected filter, which can actually accentuate your images in interesting ways. The key here is, again, subtlety. When it comes to photo modes, a little goes a long way.

And finally, a few snaps from my personal collection.

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)
If it’s set in space, Andy will probably write about it. He loves sci-fi, adventure games, taking screenshots, Twin Peaks, weird sims, Alien: Isolation, and anything with a good story. He lives in Yorkshire and spends far too much time on Twitter.