Guide + Suggested Changes to Photomode

If you haven’t used the Beta Photomode yet I would definitely give it a shot! It’s extremely cool and I’m glad it was prioritized, since AoE3 has so much incredible detail.

I wanted to create this short guide to using Photomode since I’ve had a few questions from people about how to make things work.

Step 1: Turn up your graphics settings to what your computer can handle, and set “Obscured Unit Alpha” to zero. This will hide unit outlines through buildings, which are great for gameplay but make screenshots look like crap. Set Camera Acceleration to slow-- this is important. If you’re very zoomed into a shot, you don’t want your camera jumping across a whole frame when you barely touch the side of the screen with your mouse.

Step 2a: Open Skirmish, and compose your scene. This is the easy way. Use cheats like “a whole lot of love” and “speed always wins” to quickly make the buildings and units you want to capture.

Step 2b: Alternatively, go to Tools → Scenario Editor and compose a scene with the thousands of unique embellishments that AoE3 has. Then go to Load → Custom Scenario to open this scene, and use “x marks the spot” cheat to reveal the map.

Step 3: Open Photomode in the in-game menu

Step 4: Compose your shot. Mostly, I use the Alt+WASD keys to rotate and tilt the camera, and the mouse scroll wheel to zoom in and out. You can also use Q and E to change elevation, and you can set the lighting as night or day. T to turn off the UI, Print Screen to take the shot, which sends the file to C:\Users\name\Games\Age of Empires 3 DE\a string of numbers (something like 45739853458) \Screenshots

Step 5: Edit and crop the image in software of your choice!

Here are some images I just took in Photomode, reusing scenes that I made a while ago in scenario editor.

Some recommendations I can see that could improve the PhotoMode:

  1. An ability to easily toggle between “Photo” settings (mentioned in step 1) and normal gameplay settings. Right now it’s a pain to switch back and forth. Things like camera acceleration, obscured unit alpha, and graphics settings are all very different when I want to actually play this game compared to when I want to take good photos.

  2. A way to hide HP bars when units are in combat. It’s possible to turn off HP bars on rollover, but I haven’t yet figured out a way to turn off HP bars when units are actually in combat, which is often what I want to capture in photos. I’ve had to resort to just photoshopping out the bars which is a pain.

  3. A way to hide hero/explorer golden circles, which ruin the realism.

  4. More lighting presets. There are hundreds of different lighting options available in the scenario editor, so its a shame that only two presets are available in photomode.

  5. A skybox that deals better with shadows near its edge. As you can see from the first image of the desert, when there are no cliffs or obstructions on the horizon, the skybox casts black shadows on the ground where it connects. I wonder if this could be fixed somehow.

  6. There’s also the issue that units in a scenario don’t really stay where you place them in the scenario editor, if you have more that one of a type. They bunch up into formations. So like, when I place a row of outlaws in a line in scenario editor, when I open the scenario as a skirmish test to get to photomode, the outlaws all run together into a formation (or run around and do other weird things) I’m not really sure how this would be fixed though, it might just be a part of how the Photomode works that will need to be worked around since unit formations are such a basic part of the game.

I wonder if this thread might be a good place to discuss any other changes that would be good?

Have fun taking screenshots and make sure to submit your creations to the screenshot contest! The 2022 Spring DE Screenshot Contest is Starting Now! - #21 by BjornViking20