Game Photography


Did you know board game photography was a thing…I may have invented it. My brother and I have been strategy and war-game board game players for years. It’s an intellectually enriching hobby and one that’s fed my curiosity of the world. They create a magnificent space in which to test ideas of history, strategy, decisions and outcomes. These games are designed by some of the brightest people I’ve ever met.

History can be understood and misunderstood through books, classes, media, stereotypes and prejudices. Why did the Vietnam War happen, why did it play out the way it did. Was it western democratic fear of encroaching communism, was the outcome as much about misunderstanding entrenched culture as it was about misunderstanding communism itself, or lack of seeing the conflict as an insurgency.

Why replay that?

You play that in a game to understand and in that understanding you better prepare your mind for inevitable future conversations about the why of the contemporary world. History is that nightmare from which we refuse to awake. It has shown to be continually repeated. Could the Confederacy have survived long enough to force peace negotiations with the North and gain European recognition as a sovereign nation. It's interesting because it's the story of us. That conflict leads directly to the entrenched racial divide that defines our country today.


Back to photography, for in the hobby of strategy gaming photography is understandably somewhat lacking. Not in quantity, but in style and professionalism. Which makes perfect sense, most are photographed in poor lighting without thought to the craft of an image. I wanted to merge my two passions; a linking of player and photographer. I approached the publishing company GMT with an idea to photograph their game titles but do it in that symbiotic relationship. I could accurately setup the games, showcasing each titles unique characteristics and light, style and show angled perspectives that highlight features using a variety of photographic tools.

I also wanted to modernize some of the base product images, to graphically show components in a new way. Working on the photography in various cookbooks over the years I kept thinking about top-down ingredient shots which show each piece of a recipe. That's essentially what game components are, ingredients in the recipe of the game. So each game title gets a main image, showing an exploded view of all the components. A fair amount of these components are flat cardboard. To give them dimensionality I use small foam core boards that raise the product off the background. My key light is angled off axis and raised to about 4 feet. This yields a soft shadow that adds the depth the flatter product needs.

But my main focus is to get detailed in-game situations that reflect the titles and their unique additions to the hobby. This is where my experience as a player comes in. It’s been a fun project and GMT is an absolute dream client to work with. What’s been most enjoyable is taking a product that few have professionally photographed before and put my own twist on it.

Scott MansfieldComment