Under The Cover Of Darkness: Sim Racing Screenshots At Night

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Photography at night commands a lot more than the average daytime session. Here's what we do to get some of our favourite shots in sim racing under the cover of darkness!

Photographing cars during the day is hard enough, but have you ever tried to take good-quality photos of race cars at night? Whether in sim or real life, the skillset is entirely separate and can define a photographer's portfolio. An event like this weekend's 24 Hours of Le Mans is the perfect example of an event that requires a few additional skills once the sun sets.

In our recent photography piece on 'Six Simulators to Practise Your Photography', we did not mention the art of night photography. To complete the picture, here are some of the most important things to know before getting stuck into night time shots in your favourite sim!

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Assetto Corsa Competizione at night - and in the rain!

Correct Camera Settings​

ISO​

The settings used for night photography are significantly different to what you would use during the day. If the sun is out, you could be shooting as low as 100iso, depending on your placement in conjunction with the sun. However, if it is dark, you will find that the number is upwards of 3400.

A lower ISO value means less sensitivity to light, while a higher ISO means it is more sensitive. Be careful though, too far up the ISO scale and that crucial shot will be overexposed and ruined. The plus side of shooting within sim racing? Just hit rewind and try it again!

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#100 Tom Ingram, Thruxton. Image: C. Minniss Photography

Sim racing photo modes are the perfect playground for budding photographers to nail down a rough settings guide for real photography. Getting your ISO right is an essential skill, especially as you cannot shoot in RAW when taking screenshots. RAW files are highly customizable image files that is commonplace for photographers in the real world.

Aperture​

The 'Aperture' setting can be a physically moving mechanical piece of the camera, or a digitally-controlled one. This parameter of photography lets in more or less light depending on which lens you are using. These can range from F0.8 up to F32. The F at the start of those numbers detail what the 'Focal length' is.

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Automobilista 2 at night. Image: Reiza Studios

Although we do not usually have the issue of hardware restricting our photography within sim racing, it is still important to recognise what these sliders do. If you ever decide to take your photos out of the virtual world and into the real one, you are going to need that photography knowledge.

You will isolate your subject in the centre of your frame if you shoot at a much wider aperture, for example, f1.8. If you are shooting a badge or even a glowing brake disc that requires more detail, ensure the background is sufficiently blurry with a low focal length. Having a low focal length is essential to create the effect that many photographers aim for in their photos, both in the sim and reality.

Shutter Speed​

When shooting in the real world, I start shooting at 1/100 of a second. This gives me sufficient working space to explore what the framing can do for me and what the lens is capable of keeping in focus with the settings I have. I slowly make my way down the ladder of shutter speeds until I reach around 1/30. When shooting at night, I try to stick to this philosophy the best I can. The shot below was captured with 1/40 shutter speed.

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Ford Mondeo, National Bangers. Image: C. Minniss Photography

Using such a slow shutter speed at night can start to produce light trails, although I would recommend using multiple seconds worth of delay in your shutter speed. Headlights, taillights, brake discs and sparks all make great photo subjects at nighttime, especially with your shutter speed dialed in. But what about sim racing?

The shutter speed can often be previewed, which is helpful, depending on which simulator you are shooting in of course. The shutter speed settings within sims are generally fairly accurate. Just be ready to go through a lot of trial and error to find exactly what you want, especially if you are coming from the real world instead of the other way around.

Just remember that if you are photographing a static subject in the pitlane, at the scene of an accident or on the starting grid for example, you have to change your shutter speed accordingly. Make sure to adjust your aperture as well. The photo below was shot at 1/100 shutter speed but would likely have been adjusted upwards at night.

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Wrecked Ford Mondeo, National Unlimted Bangers. Image: C.Minniss Photography

Look For Things That Are Not Visible In Daylight

The composition of night-based motorsport photography is drastically different to regular photos, even in sim racing. You have to have an eye for things that appear under the cover of darkness that normally do not stand out during the day.

These photos are rare, and catching the perfect moment is never easy. For example, a glowing brake disc is difficult, if not impossible, to capture in the daylight. Make sure you make the most of it in sim racing to learn the angles that work the best. I would recommend Assetto Corsa to practise in, simply because you can adjust the time of day whilst still in the session.

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GT3 Bentley's front brakes glow in the dark. Image: Kunos Simulazioni

Conclusion​

A lot of the included photos are not from night sessions - that is obvious. I have not had the opportunity to shoot any races at night that I am allowed to share photos of publicly. Therefore, writing this piece and practising in sim racing's photo mode has certainly helped prepare me for when I can shoot some more photos in the dark.

If this guide was at all helpful, let me know in the comments below and make sure to attach your own photos. I cannot wait to see what the OverTake community can produce within sim racing and the real world under the cover of darkness!

Have you tried photographing cars at night? Let us know how you got on over on X @OverTake_gg or down in the comments below!
About author
Connor Minniss
Website Content Editor & Motorsport Photographer aiming to bring you the best of the best within the world of sim racing.

Comments

Premium
I'm a professional concert photographer and interviewer, this was a good write up. I've been doing concert photography and interviews for nearly 20 years now both freelance and paid on staff. Automotive night photography is similar but different than concert. I've always wanted to give automotive photography a try, but I don't have the creds to bring in my gear like I would for a musical concert nor the access like I have either. I had planned to attend a Rally (state side, not eu) with hopes of bringing some of my equipment.
 
OverTake
Premium
I said that cars look poorly. Not the whole game. And your screen shots don't represent the view you see when driving at night with your headlights on and directed at other cars. The cars' surface look mat barely with any highlights. That's what I meant.

You're not racing in photo mode.
True - we could only wish to race in photo mode, but imagining that performance... yeesh.
There definitely are prettier sims to drive in at night (ACC, for instance), but LMU never stood out negatively to me personally. I actually quite liked the nighttime experience on yesterday's stream.


Might be down to individual hardware setups, too :)
 
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I said that cars look poorly. Not the whole game. And your screen shots don't represent the view you see when driving at night with your headlights on and directed at other cars. The cars' surface look mat barely with any highlights. That's what I meant.

You're not racing in photo mode.

LMU is simply wicked @ night, you must be driving a different sim to me.
Brought $4,000AU tower, I can run it at High\Ultra at will.
Nothing I have looks close to except rF2.
AMS2 Lemans looks great but the drive and endurance features ? Where do I start ?
Well I don't because I don't complain about other sims.
It has this natural look hard to pin down and as I say individual perception is everything.
gmotor is very old and has it's issues that for me at least pales into insignificance every time I drive it.
rF2 included.

All I would say you want to run it at all glory you need very good tower very good OS and stable system.

Funny all these peeps that bag it on steam if you have a look at their playtime most have hours after a negative post, why on earth would you keep playing something you won't recommend, what does that tell you ?
Tells me they lie through their teeth ;) and only whine because they can't get it to run blaming the sim instead of themselves. Then try to keep playing it anyway what a laugh. lol
 
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Premium
The awesome AMS2 multiclass at Azure Circuit looks fantastic with all the night lighting:inlove:

0 AMS2 Multiclass at AZURE CIRCUIT copy.jpg
1 AMS2 Multiclass at AZURE CIRCUIT copy.jpg
2 AMS2 Multiclass at AZURE CIRCUIT copy.jpg


Street Racing in BeamNG:inlove:

0 BeamNG FAIRHAVEN BX TRACK Fire copy.jpg


....errr, it did not end well:redface::p

1 BeamNG FAIRHAVEN BX TRACK Fire copy.jpg
 
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I agree rF2 / LMU night is not the best, I help it along with monitor contrast also if you want blacker sky pick storm/rain and set 10% chance if you don't want the rain. That blackens sky a little from the grey
To me this looks basically what I watch at Le Mans sessions, same reflectors, bollards, brake markers.
I look at TV dead straight ahead I hardly notice the speed, glance left right those reflectors or down at road lines and they flash by.
Exact same for me in LMU, so really odd when I hear people say it has no speed immersion and I don't even use blur, I turn it off.

Mind you that's 2560 window so bit chunky looking.
Settings, turn incar sound up to get more wind buffer really suits Le Mans at night.
They really need to add some sliders though.
 
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Premium
From now on, it's enough if the AI drives, I watch the "race" and take a screenshot now and then.
Add a few Photoshop effects and you have something that anyone can reproduce at any time.
A screenshot.
The physics talk is finally over. The software companies can now concentrate on the essentials.
Taking screenshots.
That's why the photo mode is being improved.
Sit comfortably in the 10,000 Euro Simrig and take screenshots.
For this I bought a computer with 546 graphics cards and a waterworks for CPU cooling.
Now I understand why many people want to be able to count the sausages on the grill behind the guard rail at turn 34. All of this now makes sense.
Unfortunately, and I call myself a stuck-in-the-past kind of person, I only want to do what a racing simulation was made for: race.
But and I have to say this is perhaps the starting signal for a new simulation.
The, tadaaaa, ultimate photo simulator version 0.000001.
Use real replica cameras to create photos in 8 scenes designed down to the smallest detail so that you can be rewarded with the Hasselblad that was used on the moon. Thousands of expensive DLC's are waiting for you. But you can still get patches free of charge. But work is already underway to abolish this free of charge.
Do you have what it takes for the Pulitzer Prize?
 
From now on, it's enough if the AI drives, I watch the "race" and take a screenshot now and then.
Add a few Photoshop effects and you have something that anyone can reproduce at any time.
A screenshot.
The physics talk is finally over. The software companies can now concentrate on the essentials.
Taking screenshots.
That's why the photo mode is being improved.
Sit comfortably in the 10,000 Euro Simrig and take screenshots.
For this I bought a computer with 546 graphics cards and a waterworks for CPU cooling.
Now I understand why many people want to be able to count the sausages on the grill behind the guard rail at turn 34. All of this now makes sense.
Unfortunately, and I call myself a stuck-in-the-past kind of person, I only want to do what a racing simulation was made for: race.
But and I have to say this is perhaps the starting signal for a new simulation.
The, tadaaaa, ultimate photo simulator version 0.000001.
Use real replica cameras to create photos in 8 scenes designed down to the smallest detail so that you can be rewarded with the Hasselblad that was used on the moon. Thousands of expensive DLC's are waiting for you. But you can still get patches free of charge. But work is already underway to abolish this free of charge.
Do you have what it takes for the Pulitzer Prize?
You can do both mate, enjoy racing in the sim and using it for photos from time to time, I don't know what's stopping the other ? I have 3000+ hours in AC alone, 80% was racing
 

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