The joys of AR photography

Recently Pokemon Go released a new feature called Go Snapshot.

Go Snapshot finally allows players to take AR photographs of the Pokemon they have in their collection instead of the old way which involved using the AR photo mode before catching them.

I’ve lost a few Pokemon to using the old way and had to catch a few shiny Pokemon blind due to malfunctions with the AR mode, so the new addition has been a god send.

What is AR photography?

AR photography is the art of taking a photograph that is an artistic expression of the augmented reality created by the computer.

While I tend to use Pokemon Go to achieve this result, any other augmented reality application (including SnapChat) would work.

The aspect that sets augmented reality photography apart from virtual reality (and normal photography) is that you’re working with both a real life environment as well as a digital entity.

The juggling of both means you have to be able to manipulate the applications AR functionality such as getting it to detect planes that aren’t there and also to set up the real life scene, such as moving people into position.

Setting up the photograph

Aside from setting up the real life scene the AR photo will take place in, there are a few extra things to take into consideration.

With Pokemon Go the subject of the photo will be a creature that is animated (although it stays on the spot) so you’ll need to learn the Pokemon’s animation cycle to get the perfectly timed shot.

Placement of the subject is achieved by the plane detection algorithm used by ARKit or ARCore (depending on if your on iOS or Android).

There are certain limitations to the plane detection which makes shots on water harder to do. With Pokemon Go there is a means to turn off the plane detection and instead just have the Pokemon in the centre of the screen.

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This picture was achieved by setting up the Pokemon on the ground floor outside a building then going up to the 18th floor of that building. The AR algorithm failed to track the change in altitude so it looks like the Wailord is falling. I call it The Whale and The Petunias.

Another technique is to use a temporary plane such as a sheet of paper or cardboard and then remove it from the scene.

A digital entity placed in the scene makes it easier to create Bokeh shots as the entity won’t go out of focus. You can achieve this technique by having the camera focus on something close to the camera and then removing that object and taking the photograph before the camera refocuses.

Sharing the photographs

There are many outlets for sharing your AR photos, well, as long as they contain Pokemon.

Instagram is a popular platform for sharing AR photos however the one limitation is the square format.

As AR photos are normally just screen captures the format follows the same screen ratio as the device which means the framing needs to be adapted for Instagram.

Pokemon Go Hub does a monthly AR photo showcase which shows some of the great AR photo talent in the Pokemon Go community.

The Pokemon Go Hub Discord also has a really active AR-pictures channel where you’ll get feedback on your shots from fellow AR photographers.

I’m also building my own platform that will allow you to create a Pokedex from AR shots published on Instagram, Discord and Facebook.

My photos

No post about AR photography would be complete without me showing off my own efforts so here’s some I’ve taken.

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Left: Seel with a real life Sea Lion. Right: Gengar emerging from behind a gravestone (this was published in Pokemon Go Hub’s AR showcase)
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Left: A spinda wobbling it’s way out of a bar. Center: Me with a rain Castform in the rain (my gf Leanna Carl took this shot). Right: A whishcash in the River Aire.

Written by

Technical Lead at BJSS. Interested in Automated Testing, Dev practises, Metal, Chiptune. All views my own.

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