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In an age where video games have become the perfect medium for compelling stories and robust social experiences, perhaps the most powerful tool players have at their disposal is the humble screenshot. They can be indispensable tools, beautiful art, or perfectly preserved moments in time. This guide is aimed at making the average person better at taking screenshots -- not only for their own purposes, but also for the benefit of those in the community who will ultimately be the audience for these pictures.
While this procedure may seem daunting given the length of this guide and the detail in which things are explained, I promise that when you go to apply what you have learned from this tutorial, it will occur instantaneously and not as a long, drawn-out process. With over two thousand hours of taking screenshots under my belt, this manual is the result of all the knowledge I have gained being distilled into textbook information that you can learn at your own pace.
The best thing you can do for your picture-taking skills is to keep practicing. You will grow through trial-and-error just like everyone before you, and this guide will serve as a reference tool any time you need it. Above all, do not be afraid to accept criticism; your abilities will grow when you are able to identify your shortcomings and seek out ways to overcome them.
Much like a real photograph, there are a number of elements that go into taking the ideal screenshot. Let's talk about the process one part at a time:
1. Getting Started
2. Health, Condition, & Equipment
3. Location & Position
4. Subject, Background, & Framing
5. Balance & Composition
6. Lighting & Weather
7. Visual Noise
9. Field of View
10. Altering the Environment
11. Setting the Scene
12. Capturing the Action
13. Camera Perspective
14. Video Settings
15. Advanced Configuration
16. Touch-Up Editing
1. Getting Started
First and foremost, you will of course need to know how to take a screenshot. The easiest way of doing so is through the Steam in-game overlay. If you are unfamiliar with this tool, here’s how it works:
-Enable the Steam Overlay in your settings on Steam (Preferences -> In-Game).
-Assign a screenshot shortcut key (it's set to F12 by default).
-When playing in-game (any game on Steam, not just DayZ) hit the shortcut key on your keyboard to take a screenshot. Be careful not to assign a key that you already use for something in-game (and vice versa).
-Your screenshots can be found in this folder by default: C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\userdata\<Your Steam32id>/760/remote/221100/screenshots Though it is optional, there is also a checkbox in your settings to save an uncompressed PNG copy of the screenshot in addition to the standard JPEGs. On the same note, it is also possible to use third party software to capture images as well, such as Fraps, Bandicam, or Dxtory. These other programs allow for much more adjustability than the Steam overlay, and offer options like supersampling to save your images in a higher resolution for even better quality when sharing.
You'll find as you read this guide that I go to great lengths to create beautiful images using nothing but the game itself. As such, I do not use third party programs such as SweetFX to alter the appearance of the game. These are available if you want them, but I personally feel that the visual style of DayZ is best left to its natural state. You can always edit your pictures later if you wish.
2. Health, Condition, & Equipment
It is not enough for you to bring expert image capturing skills into the field. The photographer’s avatar (that is, your character) must be in perfect health in order to give you the best version of the images you desire. Specifically, having full blood — and thus having full screen color — is crucial to producing a vibrant image. On the other hand, low blood could be used to produce a certain visual effect, but it's one that could otherwise be replicated through editing after the fact.
Good health is important to being able to explore and experience Chernarus for these screenshots to occur, so it is to your benefit to maintain it. If you stay in good health, it will make it easier for you to sustain a high blood level as well. A healthy photographer has no injuries, ailments, or other negative conditions that may affect the end result. Maintaining a healthy status also helps you in other ways such as boosting your resistance to disease, so there are plenty of reasons it's worth the effort.
Much like the character's health, maintaining your clothing and equipment is crucial as well. Even more so, this applies to your subjects and their equipment because they'll be the ones appearing in your images. Be mindful of the condition of their gear, as you may end up portraying a more "worn" look than you originally intended.
In addition to keeping yourself and your belongings at their peak, there are a few basic items that a good photographer will keep with them whenever possible:
-Light sources (chemlights, lantern, torch, etc.)
-Knife for clearing bushes; ax for clearing trees.
-Binoculars/optics for seeing something up close or scouting for safety purposes.
-Snacks! ... maintaining peak physical condition requires calories & hydration regularly.
3. Location & Position
Perhaps the most important aspect of taking a screenshot is choosing an appropriate location. This will help provide context to the subject of your image. The location that you choose will most likely be determined directly by what your subject is. In picking a destination for your image, consider what it is you would like the location to convey about the subject and consider factors like how and where this image will be used once it’s taken. For example, if I want to take a Halloween-themed picture, I might go to a pumpkin patch with a scarecrow. If I wanted to show players at ease in a casual setting, I might employ the use of campfires, depict them goofing around on a football field, etc.
Choosing a good location alone won’t make for the perfect shot, though. Give thought to how you'll want to frame the subject so you can determine where in the environment to position yourself in order to achieve the necessary angle. You may need to seek out a higher building or hill to stand on to reach a suitable height. There may also be times where you need to crouch or go prone to produce the desired angle. Additional heights and angles can be achieved by doing things like walking while crouched and tilting your body left or right.
4. Subject, Background, & Framing
Choosing a subject should occur simultaneously with determining a location because the two must be thought of as one in the same when trying to create a memorable image. The subject can be an object, a person, a zombie, a place (e.g. a whole town), or any combination of these. Generally, if you are capturing an event as an image you are going to have multiple subjects and it is important to frame your shot in a manner that gives appropriate weight to each of those subjects. Try to include as much of the event as possible unless you’re going for a close-up shot.
Once a location has been determined, background elements must also be scrutinized. Questions have to be asked: does anything in the background draw attention away from the subject(s)? Does anything in the background clash with the subject or make it difficult to see (e.g. similar colors or patterns)? Is there anything that could be added to or removed from the background in order to make the subject look better or improve how it is presented?
Different subjects need to be presented a little differently. This is one specific of screenshot-taking that must be learned through experience. As a rule, subjects should be framed near the center of the image — but as I noted earlier, context is equally important as subject, and sometimes the subject needs to be placed off-center in the frame in order to better display elements such as weather or lighting that greatly add value to the context side of the equation.
5. Balance & Composition
The hardest concept to learn, especially if you’re not inherently artistic (I’m not!), is balance. It is something that must be felt out and is difficult to quantify or put into words. It is a sense of rightness with the array of colors, lighting, angle, framing, clarity, and every other aspect that I discuss in this guide.
If you truly want your images to look great, you will want to follow many of the same rules that real life photographers do. The “Rule of Thirds,” for example, calls for you to imagine your image as a 3x3 grid separated by intersecting lines; all points of interest in the image should be along those lines or at their intersections in order to draw attention and appeal to the eye. Much the same, there is a mathematical principle known as the “Golden Ratio” or the “Fibonacci Spiral” which seeks to bring order and harmony to an image by framing a shot such that its subjects and background follow a particular spiral pattern.
6. Lighting & Weather
These two components can make or break an image entirely. The most common mistake I see made with novice screenshots are inappropriately calibrated brightness and gamma settings. I’ll discuss those again in a later section, but the gist is this: failure to pay attention to this crucial factor will result in either bright, washed-out images or dark, difficult to see images. Next time you play, try drastically altering your gamma level on a sunny day and see for yourself just how different the world looks.
In addition to getting your gamma properly adjusted, situating yourself to account for sunlight is very essential. Positioning yourself on one or the other side of an object relative to the sun can greatly alter how that object will appear in the picture and how much shadows will be an influence on the appearance of the image. This applies to any subject. To view this for yourself, run around the outside of a building and see how much the light levels change both on the building itself and the area around it. It's a good idea to avoid looking in the general direction of the sun when taking pictures as it greatly darkens the foreground of the picture and washes out the screen with light rays.
Choosing a specific time of day (say, 10:00 vs. 14:00) will determine the position of the sun in the sky which directly affects the angle that light will hit objects in the environment. Time of day will be a factor you determine for yourself. This is entirely personal preference, but keep in mind that the lighting of your image is going to change completely throughout the day/night cycle based on what time it is. In the morning, the sun will be shining from the southeast and in the afternoon it will be in the southwest. Ask yourself which side(s) of the subject you wish to have light focused on, then choose a corresponding time of day to meet those lighting needs. If you find it difficult to get the lighting you want, such as in a forest where much of it is blocked, try shooting with the sun directly overhead (~12:00).
Weather can directly influence the light in a shot, and is something to be reckoned with unto itself. While bad weather may seem inherently detrimental to producing a quality screenshot, the spirit of the game demands that all weather types be taken into consideration when creating a good picture. What you come up with should accurately reflect what it is you are portraying, and DayZ is many things… including a variety of weather conditions. Take time to think about what weather conditions are best for the theme of your image. If you are capturing a moment, this part will be taken care of for you.
One neat trick for altering the light in a picture as you're capturing it is to take advantage of how the game mimics the pupils of your eyes. This is best used at times where there is low light or when you absolutely have to look towards the sun for a shot. What you do is look at the ground, or in general away from the biggest source of light (usually the sun); this will open your pupils more and brighten your vision. Your pupils will quickly close up and darken your vision once you look towards the light source however, so you must quickly turn your view and snap a picture before the brightness dims. This has the effect of overexposure to light, brightening everything in your vision but also washing it out a little bit in terms of color. Used sparingly and in appropriate situations, it can be quite helpful, but you should avoid relying on it because it has a tendency to make the picture grainy.
As of version 0.61, between the many differences in light and color due to time of day, differences in overall weather types, and the effects of individual weather elements (clouds, precipitation, fog), there are likely dozens of unique appearances that the game environment can assume. There are even minor variations on what seems like similar weather -- a bright, colorful sunny day versus a slightly overcast and more drab looking "sunny" day, for example. Creating your ideal backdrop will almost certainly require some trial and error, and you may not even know a particular look is possible until you happen to experience it for yourself.
7. Visual Noise
Another frequently overlooked aspect of taking good screenshots is what I’m going to refer to as “noise.” This is a number of semi-related things that all conspire to drag down your beautiful image with an ugly blemish or unwanted filter of some sort. It should be your goal to completely eliminate these things if you want your image to be as good as it can be.
Examples of blemishes include status messages (bottom left), the hot bar (bottom), the weapon indicator (top right), weapon zeroing range (top right), the crosshair, and visible breath. Thankfully, there are solutions to each of these. Patience to wait out the status messages will see them disappear eventually, the hot bar can be cleared by default with the ~ (tilde) key, the weapon indicator will disappear on its own, the weapon zeroing range number can be cleared by removing the weapon from your hands, and breath can be avoided with careful timing. You cannot be rid of the crosshair through your own options, but it can be “hidden” in the image with a careful choice of placement within the frame of the shot or by placing it off-screen by using the free-look function to tilt your head (with the * (asterisk) key on the numpad by default). Some servers also have the crosshair disabled.
By unwanted filters I of course mean degraded color due to low blood, but there are other factors to consider as well. If you have Postprocessing enabled at all in the video settings, you can have a blurry screen at times due to being hit, being sick, or any other number of reasons; this can be reset by simply disabling and then re-enabling Postprocessing. Strong lighting can also cause haziness in the image if you aren’t careful about choosing the angle, an example of which would be glare from the sun.
The idea of depth in a video game screenshot is mostly an artificial one, but it's just as important here as it would be in real photographs. Working within a 3D environment displayed on a 2D surface, there are of course some challenges to incorporating this element. Depth is inherent at all times in order for the game to be a convincing representation of a 3D environment, but your job as an in-game photographer is to bring emphasis to that depth.
Throughout the images I create, you'll notice some common themes. Much of this is a direct result of how I choose to emphasize depth. Each of these themes is an example of ways to draw attention to the depth that's already there. These can be used individually or in combination depending on the affect you want to have:
-Layering objects within the shot. An example would be crouching in the grass to highlight environmental density, or standing at just the right angle to make buildings overlap within the frame.
-Position yourself at the corner of an area or building, at either a 45° or 60° angle, to show multiple sides of something. This is otherwise known as a "3/4" shot.
-Utilizing a height advantage, up or down, to show depth in a more literal manner.
9. Field of View
Now that we've talked about depth, let's discuss something that goes hand-in-hand with it: field of view, or "FoV" for short. It is defined as "the extent of the observable world that is seen at any given moment," or in other words, it's the scope of what you're able to see on the screen in front of you right now. This is an aspect of the game that is under continuous change for balancing reasons, but the basics outlined here should remain the same over time.
The most recognizable aspect of FoV to most players is the visual zoom that is possible without utilizing a scope or binoculars. While not technically realistic, this is the result of giving players the option to decide what fits best for them. I don't want to go into too much detail since it's a dry subject for most, so instead I'll let a member of the development team's design group explain if you care to read it (here: https://forums.dayz.com/topic/226553-status-report-30-jun-2015).
As of 0.61, this characteristic has some adjustability. You are able to set what you would prefer your default field of view to be, but all players must abide by a minimum and maximum field of view. In terms of taking screenshots, this offers you as a photographer the opportunity to decide what feels most comfortable to you, and allows you to take advantage of the full range of FoV by making quick adjustments to your default setting. No matter what the default is set at, you will always zoom in and zoom out to the same maximum/minimum visual depths; meaning if you set your default at the max value, you will not have the ability to zoom out (and the same applies for the minimum and zooming in).
There is some adaptability built into the visual zoom that you can utilize to get just the right picture. There is of course a "default" of sorts corresponding to whatever Field of View you have assigned in your video settings. From there, you have two levels of zoom-in and one level of zoom-out. You can fully zoom in on a subject by holding down either the + key on the numpad or your right mouse button (by default), or you can "half zoom" by combining the right mouse button and the - key on the numpad. If you need a wider view, simply hold down the - key on your numpad to zoom out.
While it is great to have that kind of flexibility, be aware that changing the field of view can create visual distortion in your images. Zooming too far in or out can warp the edges of buildings, trees, and other objects, generally creating an image that looks less realistic. The only way to know what fits your purpose best is to play around with this setting and observe the results.
10. Altering the Environment
Something that many don’t think to do when taking screenshots is to modify their surroundings. If your goal is simply to capture a scene exactly as it is, then this is not necessary or even recommended. Some of the best screenshots I’ve taken have had some sort of in-game scenery manipulation however, and a little change here or there can make a big difference to the end result.
Though I mentioned earlier that a good photographer keeps themselves in excellent health, ideally you should also carry around a number of tools for the purpose of setting the scene for your shots. Many of these are things you are likely carrying anyway such as a knife, axe/hatchet, matches, and rain gear. Basic items like those will go a long way in helping you survive and stay in good shape, but have you ever thought to chop down a tree that was in your way? Sometimes it seems like you’re so close to having the perfect view of something if it weren’t for a tree or bush being in the way – so get rid of it! Be careful where you drop the tree since it may block your view once it falls, though. Similarly, you can crawl over grass in the prone position to temporarily flatten it, which may be desirable if the grass is obscuring your view or covering something up that you want to be seen.
Light sources are also an area that is important to improvise. Being that the only environmental sources of light in the game are the sun and moon, everything else must be created by the player. Campfires are a great way to set the scene and give off a softer glow, and by contrast gas lamps are a more sterile and harsh bright white tone but depict more accurate colors. Chemlights are ideal for adding color to a night scene because they come in many varieties, and road flares (along with gun-fired flares) can contribute a sense of chaos or urgency to a situation.
11. Setting the Scene
In addition to making changes to your environment for a better picture, you can create a scene for yourself as well. This is useful in setting a theme for your picture or if you need an image to use for a specific purpose: an event, a video thumbnail, etc. By setting things up in advance, you have an opportunity to control as many variables as possible towards creating the image you want. Be careful though, as staging a picture often has the undesired byproduct of looking exactly like what it is: fake. A big part of making the scene feel real will come down to your ability to direct your actors.
Truly the toughest part of this process is translating an idea in your head into a plan of action. Of course, the better you plan, the more likely you are to succeed in producing what you want. Step one: write down, in detail, exactly what it is you're hoping to portray in an image. Then you can determine a location for your scene and begin looking for actors to assist you if they are required. The final step is usually acquiring any items you need either for the environment or for your actors to use as props/costumes.
When enlisting others to assist you in creating an image, remember to always be considerate, cooperative, and grateful for their help. Also, try to make it worth their time and effort; minimize the cost to them as your volunteers -- it wouldn't hurt to offer them transportation by vehicle if you have one, for example. Above all though, don't boss your actors around; nobody responds well to directions when you're a jerk about it and they'll be a lot less likely to help you in the future. Don't forget to give credit to your actors (and anyone else that helps) as well.
Collecting items that are needed for your scene is usually the most time consuming aspect of this process. Depending on what you're portraying, it can be as simple as a couple of common items, a whole list of rare clothing, a large quantity of something specific, or anything in between. Some time can be saved by asking your actors to pick up needed items on their way to the pre-determined location, but ask politely.
Part of collecting the necessary items is placing things in the environment as you need them. An example of this would be digging a garden plot for a picture that involves horticulture. The plot would need prepared ahead of time, and having the necessary tool to create it should be factored into your item search. If you need to collect a large number of items, it may be helpful to create a cache somewhere nearby (or on the way to) the location where you ultimately want to capture images.
As of 0.61, you are very limited in your ability to place items in the world. This will change at a later time, but for now it is only really possible to drop things and hope they land where you want them (and try again if they don't). If something is sitting at a crazy angle or floating in the air, it may be better to simply not include it at all than to compromise the picture by including it.
In future iterations of this guide, when it's possible, we'll talk about precise object placement to better set up a scene for a photo shoot.
12. Capturing the Action
While most of this guide is based around the idea of setting up a shot just the way you want it, it's pretty obvious that perfectly arranged still shots aren't the only situation where you'll find yourself wanting to take pictures in DayZ. In fact, they're probably only a small part of the screenshots you'll find yourself taking. Instead, most of your images will be the aftermath of something cool that happened or, hopefully, pictures of the action itself if you're able to capture it.
The ability to sense opportunity when it comes to action shots will have to come with experience, but generally veteran players of the game are able to get a feel for when things are about to get heavy. Unfortunately, focusing on getting a great picture in the midst of something happening means that you'll probably be unable to fully participate at the same time -- shooting back at an enemy, for example. That doesn't mean you can't be prepared to defend yourself or jump in, but for the moment of taking that picture you sort of have to surrender yourself to the situation entirely, good or bad. That may even mean putting yourself directly in harm's way to get closer to something for a better shot.
Action can be faked or replicated to a certain degree as well, of course. Rarely can chaos be rebuilt from memory, because it lies in the unpredictability of a player encounter, but you can at least approximate events if you have a vivid recollection of them. Instead, its best to focus on crafting a scenario from scratch in which you can control all (or at least most) of the variables.
Having a concrete plan in advance will ensure that everyone involved is on the same page, but you may need to direct your actors in order to get exactly the shot you want. Take advantage of various states of movement (slow walk, jog, sprint, jump, etc.), player actions (eating, reloading, throwing, etc.), and poses (wave, salute, sit, kneel, etc.) to get exactly the kind of action you want in the scene.
13. Camera Perspective
As anyone who has ever played the game is aware, there are two available camera perspectives available to players in DayZ: first person and third person. I won't go into detail describing these, but I would like to offer a few observations regarding the use of each of them. Most of what I have described up to this point applies to the first person perspective, so this section will instead focus primarily on the third person camera view.
Some players will dismiss the third person view outright because they feel it isn't immersive or because they don't think it is appropriate for screenshots, but each perspective has its advantages. First person allows an opportunity for a clean slate image with no trace of the person taking the picture, it gives you a straight-on shot, and it's closer to being representative of reality. On the other hand third person has a wider range of views using free look (almost 360 degrees), flexibility through the use of left/right shoulder perspective (Q & E keys by default), and offers an alternative point-of-view from which to take pictures.
The biggest advantage of third person is the nearly-unrestricted view you get in free look. At any time when taking 3PP pictures, you can use it to drastically alter the angle at which you're taking the shot. This is useful for taking pictures of something behind you, taking pictures of yourself (selfies!), or for seeing over/into something that you do not have access to. All of the same tricks discussed in the Field of View section apply in much the same way to 3PP as they would 1PP.
14. Video Settings
While a well-taken shot is mostly the product of good technique, video settings and limitations like display resolution can greatly affect the final product of your efforts. I recommend finding a good balance between visual fidelity and smooth framerate, but you can secretly crank up the settings when taking screenshots in order to better capture what it is you're viewing, then turn them back down and continue on your way. Below, I detail a specific few settings that you can adjust on the fly in order to maximize effort versus improvement.
Before we continue, it is important to note that as of this writing the game is in Alpha and the components of the game’s graphics engine are in flux at all times. That means these instructions may become out-of-date at any time as the game is updated.
The groupings below are actually obsolete as they are no longer used as part of the in-game menu, but they are still useful for understanding what each setting does. Let's discuss each group of settings in greater detail...
This is the first thing you'll see when looking at the Video settings and is used for making high-level changes to your graphics.
-Overall Quality: Changing this will adjust all other settings to fit preset levels. "Custom" is recommended and is automatically assigned when you make changes to any other setting.
-Brightness: This will exaggerate all existing colors towards either dark or light extremes in a uniform manner, including black and white. This brightens and dims everything on your display.
-Gamma: Turning up the gamma will lessen the difference between the darkest and lightest parts of the display, meaning less contrast. This results in extremely light/dark images with less color.
-VSync: Short for the term "vertical sync." By enabling this setting, the game does its best to match the framerate (FPS) to the refresh rate of your monitor (i.e. 60Hz). This can mean a perceived reduction in performance, but the idea is to eliminate visual artifacts from your display. This setting will only potentially affect screenshots which include a moving subject or those which are taken while you are on the move.
Changes made to this group affect how terrain, sky, and objects are rendered.
-Objects: Changes the level of detail for things like buildings, trees, etc.
-Terrain: Alters the level of detail for ground textures.
-Clouds: Modifies the level of detail for clouds in the sky (mostly density).
-Shadows: Adjusts the level of detail for shadows.
This smaller group is for making alterations to how the game is shown in the context of your specific display.
-Resolution: This determines the amount of screen space covered by the entire UI of the game, independent of the resolution that the game itself is rendered at. If you set this smaller than the game's resolution, elements of the UI may not display in their intended place on the screen, so set this to match your Rendering Resolution.
These options are for fine-tuning how object and terrain textures are rendered.
-Video Memory: Use this to tell DayZ how much of your video card's memory it is allowed to use. It is recommended you leave this on "Auto."
-Texture Detail: As its name implies, this is a master setting to change the resolution at which textures are rendered. This will mostly affect the clarity of textures up close.
-Texture Filtering: Brings clarity to textures (especially ground textures) which are viewed at an angle. Where a given pixel on a texture (2D) doesn't correspond neatly to a pixel on a model (3D), this samples the pixels around it to determine color much like antialiasing. Filtering primarily affects how you view things at a distance.
The most advanced settings available in-menu, these are for tweaking the various visual "tricks" employed by the renderer for smoothness, color, etc.
-Antialiasing: Refers to a specific kind of antialiasing: MSAA. Smooths jagged edges by by supersampling nearby pixels, but ignores most large surfaces to minimize performance loss.
-Alpha to Coverage: This is the density at which the game renders grass, small plants, and tree foliage.
-Edge Smoothing: A different kind of antialiasing: FXAA. This is an edge smoothing technique applied after the game is rendered, rather than before like MSAA.
-HDR Quality: Attempts to balance the amount of light in a picture so that all areas, both light and dark, are displayed in equal detail. (NOTE: As of 0.61, HDR is currently locked to "Very Low.")
-Postprocess Quality: A master setting that effects several others, such as bloom and AO. This adds a softer tone to the entire display and also allows for things like screen blur when your character is low on health.
-Ambient Occlusion: This attempts to simulate the effect of ambient light on objects for more advanced shading, resulting in softer shadows. Using this requires the Postprocess Quality setting to be on at least "Low."
-Bloom: This settings simulates the how bright light sources can seem to "spill" over the edges of objects.
-Rotation Blur: Exactly what it sounds like; this blurs the edges of your screen when you move.
Ideally, you should take the time to calibrate all of the above settings carefully to meet your needs. When taking screenshots however, certain video settings can be adjusted on-the-fly to make a major impact on image quality. I feel that these four do the most good towards making the environment feel realistic and full, and should be turned up to maximum for screenshots when possible:
-Objects and Terrain under Quality.
-Texture Detail under Textures.
-Alpha to Coverage under Rendering.
15. Advanced Configuration
This section of the guide is not for beginners. Be warned that everything ahead is to be done at your own risk. I take no responsibility if you break your game by attempting any of what I am about to discuss. That said, if you are obsessive about detail and want the absolute best visuals the game is capable of, keep reading.
While most guides discussing configuration files would be arguing in favor of a higher frames per second (FPS) number, I am going to take the road less traveled and discuss how to use these configurations to instead produce the highest quality images possible. Keep in mind that for most pictures, tweaking these files would not be hugely beneficial; these higher settings would be most useful in pictures where you have an incredible view across a large area and wish to render additional background details, such as when you are at the top of a tower overlooking a city or the countryside.
Running with these tweaked settings is not recommended under any normal circumstances. Even with an extremely capable machine, you will likely suffer poor performance with a tweaked high-fidelity configuration. My recommendation is to save a copy of the default configuration file before you get started and keep it along with the modified version so that you can simply run the higher settings when you want while still enjoying “normal” performance the rest of the time.
The file that you want to modify can be found at the following location by default:
C:\\ -> Users -> [Your PC Username] -> Documents -> DayZ
The name of the file that you'll want to modify will include your first name as it is entered on your Steam account (so “Patrick.DayZProfile” if my name were Patrick, for example). Open this file in a text editor such as Notepad and scroll down until you’ve found the settings values I will outline below. Be aware that values may exist outside the ranges I discuss here, so what I have listed as a maximum or minimum is the point where going any higher or lower has no discernible visual impact.
This value dictates how much detail is rendered for objects that are in the distance. A higher value is better for detail. Be aware that no matter how high you set this value, players will not be visible from further than 1000m.
Changing this value will alter how far away shadows will render. A higher value is better, and a value of at least 250 is necessary for semi-transparent water to render for ponds and lakes (clearer water with dark edges).
This is simply how far your character is able to see. This may be the single most important value to change if you would like your images to have a grand scope to them. A higher value is better. Beginning around 1100, depth fog obscures objects and landscape far in the distance, making 1200 the realistic upper limit.
Object View Distance
This will determine how far away you are able to see players and infected. Unless your image involves people or infected at extreme distances, this is probably not a value you will need to modify. A higher value corresponds to a farther distance. As stated above, no matter how high you set this value, players will not be visible from further than 1000m.
16. Touch-Up Editing
The deliberate alteration of images is something that I avoided for a very long time, until I realized that a tiny bit of effort could make a huge difference in the presentation of my pictures. With that said, my mantra is "fewest edits possible." I don't want to transform my images through editing, I just want to make the best version of that picture that I possibly can. Anything that is done to my screenshots is in the name of removing blemishes and minor enhancement to correct for less-than-perfect conditions. Ideally you avoid needing to do these things in the first place, but you'll almost never take a picture that couldn't benefit from at least a tiny amount of help.
You don't need powerful tools to do the kind of editing I am discussing here. In fact, much of my work is done using free online editors. For things like minor touch-up work or correcting light levels, something simple like Pixlr (pixlr.com) will suffice and can serve as a good practice tool for more involved programs like Photoshop before you decide to make the investment.
When I talk about blemishes I am mostly referring to things on the screen that couldn't be hidden or removed from view. This includes thing like text or icons in the corners as well as your crosshair (if it isn't already disabled on the server you're playing on). In a previous section I discussed how you can avoid having these things on the screen, but if you do, using a touch-up tool to carefully remove them gets rid of a huge visual distraction that may otherwise sour the image.
Never forgetting that we are playing a game in its alpha stage that includes elements from other games that may not work together perfectly, it may be helpful to correct for in-game model clipping as well. Examples of this would be two pieces of clothing that don't quite line up, or a player's hair sticking through the hat they are wearing. This is technically cheating a bit because it's not showing the game in its 100% natural state, but for the purpose of a fun picture there is little harm in it. Fortunately most clipping is not hugely obvious and therefore shouldn't be too noticeable.
Users who already have some experience with image editing may take things a step further and do some minor correction for color and lighting as well. I won't be covering that here because its easy to take it too far, and more importantly it is best learned through the process of trial and error. If you wish to go the extra step, find an editor you can get comfortable with and start playing around with settings. I will also not be covering image alteration -- things like artificial depth of field (DoF), artificial weather effects and lighting, etc.
Anyone with the means can spend a lot on a powerful PC and crank up the settings, but hopefully this guide has taught you to make good use of what you already have available. Much of what I have demonstrated here will help make you a better DayZ photographer in general, but the hard part –- the part I can’t teach you -- is how to make your images seem real. Video games can have an innate feeling of fakeness to them, but when you immerse yourself in the occasion it becomes possible add another dimension to the image that transcends pretty visual effects.
Your screenshots can say as much about you as they do about the subject of your pictures. Keep at this long enough, and you may just develop a recognizable style all your own. The only way to get better is to persevere; no matter how good you are you can always become better. The DayZ community can never have enough good photographers either, so get out there and start taking pictures!
v1.0 - Initial guide posted.
v1.1 - Updates and improvements to "Weather/Lighting" and "Noise" categories.
v1.5 - All new pictures for the guide (mostly re-shoots).
v1.6 - Many small updates and some new pictures.
v2.0 - "How to Take a Screenshot" and "Improvise" sections added. "Settings", "Balance", and outro all majorly overhauled thanks to feedback. Many new pictures.
v2.2 - "Advanced Configuration" section added.
v2.3 - "Depth" section added. "Lighting & Weather" section updated.
v3.0 - "Field of View" and "Setting the Scene" sections added. Major overhaul of all other existing sections, including some name changes and a re-ordering of the list. Examples of some techniques added. Many new 1440p pictures.
v3.5 - "Camera Perspective" section added. "Video Settings" section greatly expanded.
v4.0 - "Capturing the Action" and "Touch-Up Editing" sections added. "Health, Condition, & Equipment" and "Lighting & Weather" sections expanded. Corrections and enhancements throughout, including updates for new renderer & UI. All-new images.
So I got a new PC the other week and I just installed DayZ. I was told it would run DayZ fine but I tried just now and it runs at an average of 17/18 FPS on "Very Low". I was wondering what graphics card you DayZ players use. Also, if I need to upgrade, what card do you recommend for DayZ and other games?
(My Graphics card: Nvidia GeForce GT 630)
Has there been any progress into why the game display has yellow-ish stuttering when in CFX mode?
A soon as the second card is disabled all is well.
This is a new development for me since the new renderer as I have been using CFX for over a year without any issues.
I just updated to the latest AMD drivers and checked my in-game settings for any anomalies, but all seems in order.
I7, Asus Sabertooth, R290X, R290X, 8Gb Ram, SB X-Fi, SSD
Thanks in advance, guys.