We've discussed a variety of technical methods you can use to enhance your screenshots. Now let's talk about something a little more complicated: how to use the limited tools available to us in-game to enhance and improve our screenshots, turning them into something just a little bit more emotional or a little bit more special than a normal shot.
Courtesy of Cynwise.
The simplest tool at our disposal, but it's a good one! You can do it anywhere, on any character, at any level, but toggling RP walking (which is bound to the / key on the number pad by default. Sorry Mac users, no idea what it is for you.) immediately adds some powerful emotional weight to a scene.
Walking characters are calm and collected. They don't fidget or glance around, they don't scratch themselves or shrug their shoulders, they stride forth with purpose. They exude confidence and attitude, and when you screenshot a walking character, it shows!
Remember Bolvar walking through Stormwind on the way to confront Lady Prestor? How much less impressive and awe-inspiring would that event have been if Bolvar had been jogging through the streets like some pathetic errand boy?
It's that whole "walk away from explosions" feel.
Another nice thing about walking is that the animations for most races are surprisingly fluid and smooth, and many actually look more natural and relaxed when walking than when just standing around idle. Of course, different races also have different walking styles - a blood elf's bold strut is quite a bit different than a Forsaken's faltering gait.
Finally, since walking is nice and slow, you can carefully time your shot to capture the exact moment you want - a certain leg forward, no armor clipping through your chest, etc. Fans of the slow walk shot will likely also pair it with auto-run (or auto-walk, in this case) so they can pan the camera around and screenshot freely as their character solemnly trudges ahead on their own. (Auto-run is default keybound to the Num Lock key on the number pad.)
Fabulor using /bow, central framing, and an Up Shot.
Besides walking, performing animated emotes are probably the next easiest way to set up a scene. Clever use of emotes can add a great deal of variety to your screenshot toolkit, but for optimal use you really need to do some homework. Know which emotes are animated, and how your character's specific race/gender performs said animations! Every race/gender combination has their own animations, so what looks really cool on one character might look totally silly on another.
Emotes I usually experiment with when setting up shots include:
Don't be afraid to use these emotes in a variety of situations! Sure, sometimes the context is obvious - /cry when you're creating a sad scene...
Fab having a /cry about Judgement.
But even something as simple as altering when during an emote you take the screenshot can drastically affect the scene's emotion! For example, here are two more shots of Fabulor hating on Judgement, both using the /shrug emote. In this first one, he seems exasperated, he's leaned back, he's rolling his eyes, etc. You can all but hear his heavy sigh.
But in this one, he looks actually angry. He's leaning forward, and his hands are frozen in a perfect "what" or "are you effing serious" gesture. He's not exasperated - he's legitimately annoyed now.
And here's another example of Fabulor using /shrug, but this time it's being used (with a drastic Up Shot) to portray him talking and explaining himself to a Cloud Serpent.
Very different range of emotion, and that's just from one emote!
Another trick that can be very helpful is capturing a specific moment in an emote's animation and using that pose to imply a different, entirely unrelated meaning. In the following shot, Fabulor is playing with his Cloud Serpent drake, right? He's reaching forward and gently holding the little baby drake's claw in a tender, comforting gesture.
But there's no "play with drake" emote in the game. That is actually just a /bow emote, very carefully positioned and timed. Here's what it looks like when Fab's hand and the drake's claw aren't lined up, and from a different angle.
Combining Emotes with Other Tricks
A Fabulor /bow is one thing, but a /bow with a flower? /swoon
Emotes are powerful when utilized creatively. But why limit yourself? Start combining emotes with other manipulations and expand your screenshot bag-o-tricks even more!
This is a bit of a weird one, but as you can see in the above screenshot, you can actually draw your weapons while in the middle of an emote. They usually glitch out and vanish again a split-second later, but you can get some interesting, unusual combinations with a little perseverance. (Draw/stow weapon is default keybound to z.)
A /charge with weapons drawn, something not normally possible.
You can also perform many emotes while running or walking, which can make for very dramatic action shots. (Though they can also look really strange if the emote clashes with the run/walk.)
In this shot, I could have had Fabulor standing still, cowering from the tiger, but then he wouldn't be fleeing. And I could have had Fabulor simply running away, but he wouldn't have looked afraid. Neither shot would have been as effective as this one that combined /cower with the standard auto-run.
Every race and gender has their own special set of idle animations. Some are small head turns, while others are full-on crouches and drastic torso movements. Regardless, you should absolutely familiarize yourself with your character's idle motions, and think about how you can use them in screenshots.
Most races have head turns, which is good! Because a character who is blankly staring straight ahead is boring. It's just a small change, but I feel characters who are actively looking around and checking out their surroundings feel so much more alive and immersed in the game world.
You can also use idle animations to easily achieve the ever-popular "I'm paying attention to something else, but I just spotted you so now I'm glancing in your direction" shot. (There's probably a better name for this, but eh.)
Remember that NPCs have idle animations too! And since we can't make an NPC run through a list of emotes or otherwise manipulate what they do, these idle animations can often be our only means of livening up an NPC shot.
One of my favorite screenshots from Letters from a Shattered World was the one for Wabang, the orc who used to be an auctioneer, but had been converted into a Grunt as of Cataclysm, guarding the Orgrimmar Auction House.
The story in Wabang's Letter was that he didn't want to be a Grunt, that he really missed being an auctioneer. Now, Wabang in-game doesn't DO anything. He just stands there, or maybe walks around a bit. But by waiting for his idle animation, I could take a shot that made it seem like he was glancing over wistfully at the auctioneers, sadly remembering the good old days when he was the one up there counting coins and selling goods.
Here's another sample. At one point during Wrathion's Legendary questline, he spawns a bunch of images of the Horde racial leaders in the Tavern in the Mists. It's nothing remarkable, they just stand there for a few seconds while he monologues, and then they vanish.
However, I noticed that the image of Garrosh would occasionally do his idle animation, which was a head turn to either side. With some serious dedication (I'll touch on this more in Part 4), I was able to get these two shots.
Again, it's only a small change, but it makes a difference!
What does it mean, that Garrosh is shooting furtive, uneasy glances around the room at his fellow racial leaders? Now, this was pre-Siege of Orgrimmar, so at this point everyone was still technically on the same side. But it's not like Garrosh was best friends with any of the others or anything.
And look at what the other leaders are doing while Garrosh is peering around - nothing. They're just staring straight ahead, ignoring him. Garrosh is the only one in the room who's looking around, scoping out his companions, maybe a little uneasy, maybe a bit suspicious and distrusting.
To me, it felt like a really strong, symbolic scene - we don't often see Garrosh exhibit uncertainty or doubt, but here we see a small glimpse beneath the brash exterior, at the person who maybe, just maybe, isn't quite as confident and fearless as he wants everyone to believe.
(Or at least, that's what I wanted people to think when they saw these screenshots.)
The half-turn is one of my favorite screenshot poses. It's similar to the head turn found in most idle animations, but this involves the whole torso. When you turn your character with the keyboard, only their torso initially swivels. After about 90 degrees, their legs rotate as well and "catch up". By taking a screenshot right before your legs start to move, you end up with these poses, where your character is half-turned.
Why do I love this pose so much? I feel that it's a much stronger emotional implication than the idle animation head turn. Wabang and Garrosh in the earlier screenshots, they're merely glancing around. But Morgion, in the above shot? She's concentrating on the Omnotrons in the background. She may be facing toward us, but you can tell she's not paying any attention to us. She's deep in thought about those golems, focusing solely on them.
Is it dread? Excitement? Anticipation? We don't know, but we know it's something.
Meanwhile, here we have Rades sitting right next to the giant magic orb in the Eye of Eternity. What can we gather from his half-turn? It could be a scene where he's guarding the orb, and keeps looking back at it to make sure it's safe. Or maybe the orb is super dangerous, and he's nervous as hell standing that close to it.
Like emotes, abilities that you can cast any time you want can be awesome screenshot tools. Dig through your spellbook and learn what cool poses or effects you can add to your shots!
Paladin dispels are multi-colored and bright, which is perfect for Fabulor. Mages can channel a Blizzard off-camera to get their channeling animation. Hunters can Feign Death to be "dead" in shots whenever they want. The list goes on and on!
Remember, you can always start hearthing to get that channel animation! And if a Hearthstone's swirly green leaf animation isn't what you're after, you can cast Mass Resurrection instead to get a cool golden glowy spell effect.
That does it for Part 3! The 4th and final post will be about giving 110% effort, how to use NPCs, and how Fabulor manages to have so many /say conversations with his fans.
How to take Awesome Screenshots
Part 1: Through the Lens
Part 2: Composition
Part 3: Posing Tricks
Part 4: Going the Extra Mile