Taking Great Screenshots

I’ve had lots of lovely comments about my screenshots over the years, often trying to make each one unique although more often than not, I use some sort of image manipulation in them (usually to clone something out). If you look back over my library of ‘Silver Dragon‘ shots, you’ll see a discernible difference in the quality of shots. As I’ve mentioned before, around the time I started my screenshot collection of rares, it all began with a Rak’shiri pic from Winterspring. Hugadarn actually takes credit for the pic after I asked him to take it. It was also instrumental in my desire to try and capture every rare in the game. This collection has taken on a life of it’s own since then and was probably the hardest part about migrating my blog over recently – it holds over 400 images alone but it’s still a collection that I’m proud to maintain.

For those of you who are looking to improve the quality of your in-game shots in WoW, try these tips, if you haven’t already. I’m going to assume that your computer is capable of running/displaying high quality graphics.

  • Set your video settings to ‘Ultra’. Found under ‘Game Menu’ > Options > Graphics > Ultra.
  • In your graphics settings, bump Multisampling to x4. Anything less will give you jagged edges – even if the rest of your settings are on Ultra.
  • Also set your resolution to a higher setting to give you better clarity for images.
  • Highlight yourself (or whoever is the focus of your shot) with your mouse.
  • Turn off your in-game UI using the Alt+Z (or ⌘+V) command.

Since 2.1.0, WoW defaulted to saving your screenshots as .jpg, (JPEG format). This cut down the file size but will also destroy some detail due to JPG being a lossy format. People who want to change the format back to TARGA (TGA) will need to use the following command:

/console screenshotFormat tga

You may also set the format to JPEG but change the quality (decreasing compression and increasing size) with the following commands:

/console screenshotFormat jpg
/console screenshotQuality 10

You can also look for and edit (or add) the 2 lines in config.wtf:

SET screenshotFormat "f"
SET screenshotQuality "q"

Where f is the format (jpg or tga) and q is the quality (1-10). Note the double quotes. The change will be reflected the next time you start the game.

Note that screenshotQuality only affects JPEG screenshots (TGA screenshots always use lossless quality). There are reports that an older version would compress the images to JPEG and then save them as TGA (causing a loss of quality) but this does not happen with the current patch. Also, note that anything other than “tga” in screenshotFormat sets it to the default (JPEG).

If you want to revert to the original settings you can use these commands:

/console screenshotFormat jpg
/console screenshotQuality 3

Let’s compare the quality of JPG vs TGA

Standard JPG Quality (3)

Best JPG Quality (10)

TGA Quality

You’ll notice at normal resolution (100%) you won’t always see much of a difference but let’s have a look when we zoom in at 400% resolution.

Comparing JPG with TGA

You’ll notice a lot more artifacts in the top picture being a JPG. But personally I like using JPG for my screenies (at the highest quality setting of 10). Mainly because it offers me the quality I need and you can easily see the thumbnail versions in Windows Explorer without having to open it in a secondary program like Photoshop.

OS X / Mac limitations for screenshotFormat & screenshotQuality

As of 10th March 2012 (4.3.3)

  • .tga is not a supported format for screenshots on Macs. This is due to the removal of the QuickTime APIs that was used for this.
  • The screenshotQuality cvar is not supported on Mac.

Source : http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/4366252520#5

Lastly, one of my favourite addons is Multishot – a tiny addon that automatically takes screenshots of memorable events in your World of Warcraft career. It’s a photo diary of everything you come across in Azeroth, Outland and Northrend. It’s great for boss kills and can even take a pic when you ding or various other achievements – although its also one of the fastest ways to get a huge screenshot folder.

10 Comments

  1. MOAR SCREENSHOTS!

    Reply
  2. Mac users take picture perfect (or so I’m told) PNG screen caps by a standard OS command, much like the print screen key. Since I play windowed, though, I have to crop out the background before I can do anything else. (First world problems, anyone?)

    Nevertheless, great info; I had no idea this was an option!

    Reply
    • No the standard is JPEG, just checked my folder. Average about 700K for a 27″ screen on ultra, so the detail isn’t high. It’s something I’ve been noticing for my own screenies when I’ve cropped them. Hadn’t got around to investigating it.

      Reply
      • Oh, reread that, I hadn’t thought of using the OSX command. The in game gives jpeg. The OSX one PNG yes, I think. Have to try that.

        Reply
        • @Rio – hehe will do :)

          @Töki – ah ok, PNG is great (quality wise) then. I like using PNG for icons :)

          @Mabaho – that’s one reason I like MAC, the inbuilt vids :P

          @Aygaren – I usu choose JPG due to the amt of pics I upload. My storage for the Blog would be full in no time otherwise :)

          @Evilitis / Dragonray – Glad you found it useful :)

          @Tzufit – Yeah exactly, I still tend to use auto-contrast or sharpen edges before I save though.

          Reply
  3. Argh, was all excited until your last para… not compatible with Macs. I guess it’s a trade off, we lose screenshot detail, but gain built in – in game – movie making. No need for fraps etc.

    Reply
  4. Always looking for ways to better my screenshots, I use the TGA and higher quality settings. After i view and crop or resize as needed though, I ‘save as’ in .png format. I find the file size is more space conservative than the TGA.

    I still have a ways to go with improving mine though, and always appreciate seeing a post about our “screenshot addictions” :)

    Reply
  5. Some great info here. Thanks for sharing!!

    Reply
  6. Thanks for the tip on quality size :) Didn’t even think to see if it could be changed!

    Reply
  7. This is great, thank you Cymre! I had no clue about the image quality settings that you could choose from, and your last few pictures there really demonstrate what a difference they can make.

    Reply

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