rambling — picture tutorial.

note: please read this post in my blog, not reader, as the galleries do not show up properly. 

Hello, friends! Here is the promised tutorial for how I take my screenshots.

The way this tutorial is set out will sorta be in a ‘bad and good examples’ manner, based on how I used to take pictures compared to now. However, this tutorial is purely my opinion for what makes a nice picture — my ideas will probably change in later generations —  and this a creative process, so there is no true right or wrong. The things I say are ‘bad’ only refer to my pictures, not anyone else’s! My intention is not to say my way of taking pictures is right, because it really isn’t, and I hope I don’t sound patronising. This is just a collection of personal tips. Also, since most people don’t use ReShade, I will include pictures without the software in the examples, so you can see my game without ‘makeup’ for the first time in a while 😀 You can click on the galleries to expand if you want to examine the pictures more closely.


I’m an amateur photographer so don’t take my tips too seriously. Here’s a great photography article that covers every composition technique I use, and probably explains them way better. Remember, though, that sometimes purposefully breaking the rules can achieve striking images. Composition is the most crucial element in taking a picture, so here are my key tips:

  • Eye Level 

I always try to keep the camera at a level that a person could take photos from. That means eye level for portraits, and generally for story pictures as well — I never go above eye level unless I absolutely need to. Aligning the camera to look straight into the characters’ eyes is my top technique to inject humanism into them. Here’s a cinematographic theory I learned in English: high angle (above eye level) makes the character look small/weak and the viewer feel like a ‘god’. That’s basically what Sims is, so I tend to avoid this shot because it makes the pictures look obviously from a game, although there are times that high angle is effective. The low angle shot (below eye level) makes the character look big/powerful, which is great for evil characters.


  • Balance

The way I balance pictures is how ’empty’ and ‘full’ areas are distributed inside the frame, the ‘full’ usually being the people and light sources. I always aspire to achieve a sense of symmetry. If there is only one person, I either put them smack bang in the centre or angle the camera so the person is to one side and a distinct background feature is on the other side. If there are any bright light sources (like lamps) I try to balance them out in the same way. In this example, Lilith is the focal point, with the distinct background features being Raphael and the bright green plant. Currently, both features are to one side of Lilith, with Raphael being mostly cut off. To balance this out, I move the camera so there is one feature on each side and both aren’t cut off (+ down to eye level). Now the ’empty’ and ‘full’ areas are evenly distributed.


  • Rule of Thirds 

The Rule of Thirds is a fundamental aspect of balance. For me, balancing your pictures is simply a natural instinct you gain with time, but the Rule of Thirds is a good point to start. Essentially, you imagine a 3×3 grid and align focal features to the lines and intersections. With the same example for balance, we can see Lilith’s eyes and Raphael are located on lines (the plant maybe should have been taller).


  • Natural + Artificial Lighting

I’m sure all of us know that EA’s outdoor lighting is crap. I almost always avoid taking pictures outdoors in daytime, unless I really have to. Night and indoors is preferable since you can control the lighting. When I’m shooting indoors I often use floor/ceiling lamps to light someone’s face the way I want, but outside at night I don’t, unless it’s in a setting that could logically explain the lighting, such as street lamps (just a personal preference).

  • Coloured Lighting

I recently began playing with the game’s coloured lighting system (from Late Night?), and it is super helpful in setting the mood. I have used red + yellow several times in the flashbacks, for the drug running / gang / Ebony scenes — excellent for creating a dangerous atmosphere.


  • Back Lighting 

I just discovered backlighting (accidentally haha), so I don’t know the full potential of it yet. I moved the lamp around many times before finding a position I liked — Luc and Cherry’s features are picked out and sharpened, without the harshness of frontal lighting, and the whole image has much more contrast.




I think all of you know what ReShade is by now. The software is, in my opinion, just so versatile and simple to use. I found it super easy to set up, it just took a while to select and fine-tune effects to my liking. There are tons of options — I haven’t even tried half of them — so you can really do anything with it. I have two presets: one for modern day, which is warmer, and one for flashbacks, which is colder and sharper. These are my favourite effects right now:

  • Depth of Field 

The main reason why I love this effect is because of the resulting light bokeh. It means taking pictures at night, especially in the city, is super pretty. And in any case, DOF removes the flatness of the game and adds realistic depth. There are some issues concerning weird blurriness around the sims, but I think that only happens to a noticeable degree if there is glass in the background.


  • HDR

Firstly, I need to note that my Sims graphics options are set to maximum, and I also have an HQ mod. HDR further ‘sharpens’ the images.


  • Filters

I don’t know all the exact options, but you can fiddle with saturation and colours! I use Sepia on my modern day chapters to give them a similar warm hue to my early non-ReShade pictures.


  • Distance

In general, I usually keep the camera very close to the sim, unless there is something else interesting in the setting/background or I want to show their outfit; or else the picture might look empty, particularly if it’s indoors with plain walls. Of course, if you want to create a sense of emptiness or void, then stepping backwards often results in far more impactful pictures. In this example, a close up of the diner looks okay (save for the townies, yuck) but the diner is located by itself at the end of a wharf. I wanted to take advantage of that isolation and also the leading lines of the wharf.


  • Tilting 

I tilted my camera during the first part of Generation Three (after discovering it halfway through Gen 2), but I switched back to level. Whether tilting is a good technique or not really depends on what effect you are trying for. My intention right now is realism, and once I began working harder on the details of the setting, I didn’t want to distract from it with a theatrical camera tilt. In technical terms this is called a Dutch Angle, which is often used to create a sense of disorientation  / uneasiness, so I think it’s great if you are going for a more dramatic look rather than realistic. In this example, Caden appears slightly more dangerous with the tilt, but I will stick with level so the focus is directed more to his face.

  • Zoom

I don’t tend to zoom out the camera much since it can warp the image. Sometimes, I slightly zoom out to include more things inside the frame, or for dramatic effect. For ReShade users, I have found that zooming out increases the DOF strength.

  • CC

This is not explicitly related to picture taking, but the quality of cc (mainly decor) plays an important part in how good a shot looks. I do recommend searching for excellent quality cc — high polygon meshes and well decorated settings — especially if you don’t want to use ReShade.


To finish off, I will show my thought process for one of my fave pictures, which was of Ebony. The mood I wanted for the picture was dark and ominous, since it was the serial killing scene. The first obvious choice was to shoot it at night. Here’s a picture without lighting, ReShade, or a composition that I like:

First, I turned all the lights on the lot red. This was to set the mood for, you know, a bloody murder 😛 Also, it somewhat covered the ugly mismatched wallpaper that I forgot to change. Now that I think of it, I should have changed it to brick for a more urban, even, and textured background. I made the choice to not artificially light her face because 1. there are no viable sources nearby (location for a murder) and 2. I wanted her to look more scary.

Then, I improved the composition. The camera was not directly focused on Ebony and was high angle, which meant she just looked like a sim casually walking along the street. It was also quite impersonal and Ebony didn’t seem that important, if that makes sense. To fix this, I brought the camera right in close, and down to just below eye level. There are two areas emitting or reflecting red light in the background, so I aligned the camera so one was either side of Ebony.

Finally, I switched on ReShade. My preset for the modern day chapters has HDR, DOF, Sepia, Tonemap, and Lumasharpen checked.

Before and after!


Alright, that’s the end of my tutorial! I hope you enjoyed it and that it was helpful! As a final note, I want to clarify that I don’t literally think of all these techniques + theories while taking a picture. I simply move the camera around and change the setting until I feel the shot looks good — so do what you feel looks good! Again, none of what I said is guidelines for right or wrong, it’s just my preference. I hope that I didn’t make anyone feel like their pictures are bad, because that’s not true. For me, so many different, unique styles of pictures is a big reason for what makes Simlit fun to read.

Thank you for reading, I wish everyone a lovely day/night ❤

PS: The super talented Louise has also created a picture tutorial. Her one is more focused on colours and mood, and she has covered several aspects of lighting that I didn’t talk about, so I suggest you check out her awesome tutorial (+ stories)!


37 thoughts on “rambling — picture tutorial.

  1. Oh no, you reminded me of my awkward beginnings with picture-taking. I was so lame and people told me how I couldn’t use the TAB key properly and asked why I couldn’t get a good angle. Fortunately, I started working with my story past this stage, so I think my angles have been quite good. I always aim for the camera to be directed straight at the Sim, however last chapter I experimented with it so that it looks like Reggie’s looking down on us and shouting. It was because Hailey was kneeling on the floor and I figured I wanted things to be from her perspective. When I went through the pictures again, though, I thought that totally looked like he was abusing her with her kneeling and crying and him standing and shouting. I wonder if anyone paid attention to that.
    For balance – okay, first I have to share my personal pet peeve – the awful, awful effect windows have on Sims’ hairs. It just drives me up the wall and I always avoid taking pictures with windows right behind my Sims, and if I am forced to, I try to blur the hairs as much as possible. Ugh! Hm, I’ve never thought about the ‘Rule of Thirds’, but I guess it makes sense. As you’ve mentioned, it’s practically just an instinct.
    I don’t use color lighting, but there’s a handy lighting tutorial, which I take advantage of in my photo studio. I don’t use it for scenes in my story, as it would take way too much time 😛
    Oh, you reminded me of back lighting. I’m pretty sure it was achieved by turning around one of the invisible lighting lamps from buydebug and placing it behind your Sims. I think it looks great, too!
    Okay, so don’t take this personally, but I’m going to voice my honest opinion about ReShade. For me, the depth of field effect is just disturbing and looks like an effect from the movie, when a camera turns to another scene and it becomes blurry for a second, and then it sharpens. But in ReShade it never sharpens and it’s bothering me. I just don’t think it’s too realistic, but I guess I’m in the minority here. I will found a single person group called Anti-ReShaders, then. Lmao. Honestly, if I am ever going to use this program, I guess I would just make use of the lighting and contrast options which are part of my usual picture-editing anyway.
    And here I will get right to another of my pet peeves – cutting the head. I NEVER let my Sims’ head be cut. It’s a habit I acquired, I think, from the time I made Sims for the Exchange and posted a bunch of silhouettes in one place with the use of Gimp. It just looked bad when your Sims head was cut, because then it looked completely edited. Now I can’t stand cutting any part of my Sims’ heads.
    Again, I think ReShade’s effects are too heavy at night and the pictures are too dark.
    Okay, I guess it’s time to stop my ranting about ReShade. As you’ve said, everyone has their own preferences and I just voiced mine, nothing to be taken personally about them, it’s just what I think. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think your angles are quite good — I didn’t specifically notice your use of high angle, but I did think those pictures made Reggie look rather scary, so nice job with that!
      I totally agree with you about the hairs and windows! It always looks so gross, it bothered me quite a bit in Lilith’s photo.
      The DOF definitely isn’t perfect, it’s difficult to work with and it can look quite weird at times. Yeah, I guess it isn’t that realistic, depending on what type of picture I think. I’m sure there are other people who don’t like ReShade as well 😛 The main reason why I use it is because I’m a person who is always focused on change and progress. I do hope that I don’t sound like I’m trying to force ReShade on anyone. As I said in the tutorial, and as you concluded there, it’s all about personal preference.
      I read in an article that cutting off limbs/heads is bad, you have a good point. I think that is maybe what I sacrifice for composition… it’s never bothered me, not sure why…
      Good to hear your opinion, it’s always interesting to see how other people take pictures!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You have some really great thoughts on all of this. I personally use some of this stuff as well. I often take pictures of my sims from below, because my sims are generally going around intimidating each other. Because criminals. I also use way too much tilting :’) I’m doing my best to cut it down, though sometimes a picture just looks too boring and I end up tilting it anyway *shrugs*
    I agree on outdoor light being AWFUL in ts3 as well. It especially doesn’t agree with my ReShade settings – I up the saturation of my pictures a bunch which just means ‘very yellow’ outside… I’ve adjusted it a bit but eh… it’s still very, very yellow. I just want to take pretty landscape pictures, but life is haaaarrrrdddd…
    Anyway, great stuff you talked about here. I’m not as concerned with realism, so for example I’m happy to take overhead shots and shots of just like… feet and stuff, if it conveys the mood I’m going for. Still, this was great ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much ❤
      No, I think your tilting looks great! As you said, you aren't going for realism, so I think it works super well for your story.
      I've been worrying a lot while making this tutorial, and when I posted it — I even questioned making one — because I feel like I might be coming off snobby or trying to say that my way is right, when of course it's not. I really hope that I don't sound like that… maybe I should make that clearer in the post.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Aw, thank you ❤ Admittedly, the tilting is also often to hide clipping… shhhhhh, don't tell anyone.
        I don't think you come off as snobby or anything at all 🙂 Doesn't seem to me like you're telling people how to do stuff or anything. We all have our unique takes on the medium, and we bring something unique to the table 🙂 I'm sure everyone will love to hear your take on things 🙂 ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This was so exciting to read! 😀
    I recently went on reading a couple of my earlier chapters, and I noticed that the first picture of my very first chapter was actually in build/buy mode, lmao!! And I published that, no problem! 😂
    But, as much as I’d like to think I’ve improved, I have still a great way to go – so you’ve given me a lot of food for thought there! 😉 ❤
    My area of sensitivity is the sims' expressions actually. I try to make them as alive as possible – that's why I usually insist on taking closeups of them (another reason is that I don't think I'm that good a decorator, lol)!
    And you guys make me feel so bad, haha! 😂 I never edit my pictures apart from cropping them – I'll only edit when I want to show a scene from the past or something like that. I'd totally try ReShade though if I wasn't scared s**tless of what it might do to my poor laptop's graphics card! 😁
    That was such a great tutorial – I think I've said that before, but you've got such an eye for beauty, it's amazing! Thank you so much for sharing your process! 😘

    Liked by 1 person

    • Build/buy!? Oh wow 😂
      Yep, I’ve noticed that you have a really great knack for expressions! I’m always impressed by how emotive your characters’ faces look.
      Better safe than sorry, to be honest, just the game already does quite the number on laptops 😛
      Thank you very much! I’m glad you liked the tutorial ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ooh~ nice new header btw 😊 Haha I just went back to my uber old stories to compare 😂 I tended to and still tend to do above eye level shots. I feel like it’s difficult to encompass all you want to show in the shot without doing so. I never really thought about it as weakening the characters, an interesting thing to keep in mind. A lot of your tips reminded me of one my old art & photography classes – like the rule of thirds and symmetry. EA outdoor lighting is forreal the worst 😂😭 but I have to give them props for their game design because any time you adjust an extra lighting source, even slightly, the tone/detail of the photo changes completely which is really cool. I also recently started playing around with colored lighting! Haven’t found a way to organically include it in the story much, but it’s fun to tinker with. I’d definitely incorporate a lot of the things you mentioned if my computer was up for the task which it isn’t 😭 You’ve definitely nailed the realism of your story both in photos and writing~ it was nice to see some ‘make-up’ feee shots of yours as you put it. I was beginning to have sneaking suspicions you weren’t playing the sims anymore 😏 Thanks for sharing! ❤️ Looking forward to your next chapter 😄

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you!
      You have a good point on showing everything in the scene. I’m lazy so I rely more on my writing for the setting, and the pictures for characters emotions, which is why I like to go eye level so the full expression is shown.
      That’s true! I was admiring the sensitivity of indoor lighting design the other day, it’s just a shame we can’t do anything about the outdoor lighting.
      One of my requirements for my new laptop was that it could handle Sims, and now I’ve used up all my money 😂
      Definitely, I haven’t played the game in a long time. I’ve never had a lot of expansions (CC is free, EPs aren’t lmao) so I got bored pretty easily. The game is literally just a visual medium for my writing now haha.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for this tutorial! I’m always looking for ways to improve my pictures without doing any editing because, well, I don’t have time to edit every single picture these days. I’ll keep depth and close ups in mind, and the rule of thirds is interesting. Still figuring out what I can pull off with the in-game lighting but you’ve given me some good ideas. I would totally use Reshade if my poor laptop could handle it…. It poops out just from using high poly cc >.< I wish my pictures could be as beautiful as yours, but I'm content with just staring at your pretty pictures for hours lol. Nice tutorial, can't wait for your next post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Me too! That’s one of the reasons I use ReShade — it would take wayyyy too long to manually edit each picture. Yeah, I know personally that it’s a super bad idea to push your computer in regards to Sims… we don’t want your laptop to explode or something 😂
      Thank you so much! I’m happy you liked the tutorial ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Your pictures are so stunning. This was a neat tutorial! It’s interesting to see how different people approach picture taking for their stories, and I agree that that’s what makes them fun to read. It would be boring if everyone’s stories looked the same! ReShade sounds like a magical tool, and I’ve seen the amazing things it can do on Tumblr. I just don’t know if it’s for me or not! 🤷🏻‍♀️ I’m sure I’ll try it one of these days if I can ever find the time lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you ❤️
      Yeah, Tumblr is where I first saw it, and it’s become so common that it’s weird not to have ReShade. But here, it’s just been introduced, which is funny to see!


  7. Thank you so much, Lila. I really am glad you wrote this tutorial. It’s very useful. I have ReShade but I’m not a huge fan of my own pics. lol I’m still experimenting so my pics are all over the place. Ah, well. 😀 I have always thought your pics were outstanding. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This tutorial was super helpful. Like pretty much everyone I look back at my old pictures and gag at how bad the quality is.
    I haven’t tried using Reshade yet, but I might give it a go. And I like your idea of using different color lighting to set the mood.
    I obsess with the background more than I should. I struggle with trying to keep the background looking realistic with clutter, but not too distracting at the same time.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Tutorial | How I Do My Photos | Not Just a Book Sims

  10. Pingback: Sight Bonus: Quick Note & Photoshoot – AQ Stories

  11. Thank you for taking the time to explain – it’s been really helpful. I’ve been playing around with the camera until I got the hang of it, that’s partly why I’m re-shooting my old chapters, they were so poorly made that I marvel at people continuing reading after looking at them! Hopefully it’s better now, and I don’t have as many left now…
    I’ve been thinking about using ReShade, but I’m still uncertain about the settings, they seem so complex.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: Tutorial | How I Do My Photos – NotJustaBookSims

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