The Pokémon Snap series has always been an underappreciated offshoot of the Pokémon franchise. It takes a dream concept – immersing the player in the wild where they can watch Pokémon behavior – and combines it with an on-rails photography safari. It can be a fun little excursion to experience these creatures in ways the core games never really exhibit.
However, when it comes to the technical and more artistic ideals of photography, Pokémon Snap has always been more of a “baby’s first camera” type of game. The judgmental professors don’t appreciate what many might expect to be good photos, but the Pokémon Snap franchise nails the most important part of wildlife photography.
Set to Automatic for a Streamlined Experience
Pokémon Snap doesn’t bother with many of the technical aspects of photography, which is probably a good thing considering many children wouldn’t know where to start. The player doesn’t need to worry about overexposing their shot because a Pikachu decided to unleash a thunderbolt in their direction, nor do they need to consider what shutter speed would be best to snap a Zubat mid-flight.
Everything will print just as the player shot it on location. This helps to lessen any frustration that players may have when riding along, looking for their next great photo, but it might frustrate the more seasoned photographer who is trying to live their Pokémon fantasies and take some awe-inspiring shots of a Gyarados in a creamy whirlpool.
Nor is the game really appealing to the artistry of the medium. The Pokémon Snap professors want Pokémon dead center in the photo and sometimes even overblown in the shot just to have a piece of obvious evidence for their research.
This is a simplified approach to cater to the young fans who the series is obviously aimed toward. There’s little reason to explain the rule of thirds to a child who only wants to take silly photos of their favorite Pokémon.
A streamlined experience enables Pokémon to emphasize the more important photography foundations that are more likely to inspire young players.
The focus of Pokémon Snap is directly on the Pokémon and the behaviors that the player will be able to observe during playtime. And that is really the essence of wildlife photography.
Capturing the Feel
Real wildlife photography is more than just the settings and how much a photo aligns to the rules that make for the most eye-appealing photos. The real essence of wildlife photography comes down to observing animal behavior over time. Animals are habitual, and people can learn their behaviors quickly when they visit a location in real life, as long as they’re not causing a disturbance that might encourage the animal to shift its behavior.
Learning these behaviors and how to anticipate what the animal will do is how the best shots are achieved, but it can take time and practice to get the desired shot. Revisiting the same location over and over until the dream photo is finally taken. This is exactly what Pokémon Snap does for its players.
For instance, knowing that Pikachu might be available right on the beach might seem like a great photo opportunity but maybe the player prefers shots where it’s interacting with other Pokémon, so they choose Valley instead, knowing that the Pikachu there plays with a couple of other species of Pokémon.
This makes for more dynamic and varied shots, and ingrains into the player how planning and knowledge of the region can lead to better photos.
New Pokémon Snap ensures that you’re considering the time of day as well as location. Pokémon will change their behaviors whether it’s night or how far the player has managed to familiarize themselves with that particular route.
The player may have taken note of a sleeping Hoothoot during the day but (optimistically) didn’t want to disturb its sleep for a photo but when given the option to return at night, the player might already be planning to search the treetops in the area hoping to get a shot of the nocturnal species. Becoming familiar with a location not only is about knowing what species are present but anticipating how their behavior might change over time.
Or maybe the player returns to Founja Jungle at a different research level – which could be perceived as just revisiting the location at a later time – they can anticipate that Pokémon that were playing hard to get before may be caught in a different spot this time around.
For example, a Slaking might not be napping with his back turned, and the perfect shot of the big goliath might be right around the next bend – the player just needs to stay alert.
Pokémon Snap Aims to Inspire
Pokémon Snap doesn’t want to be technically accurate in either its equipment or its artistry. Those are things that photographers can pick up on after gaining a passion for the hobby in the first place. The important thing is to introduce players to the idea of exploring new locations and piquing interest in wildlife while planting the seeds of perseverance and patience that are crucial in spotting unique wildlife behaviors.
Each visit to a location, new or old, is a lesson in some way. Whether it’s a new note in a Pokémon behavior or simply practice lining up a shot, these things instill an interest in the core foundations of what it’s like to stalk wildlife for the perfect photograph.
Inspiring children to take photos of animals is where aspiring photographers grow from. Throwing overcomplicated rules concepts and technical mumbo jumbo might be great for seasoned photographers already engrossed in the hobby, however, for those that are beginning to explore the concepts of photography, patience, perseverance, and observation are much more important.
The Pokémon Snap series does a great job immersing the player and giving them a glimpse at what it’s like to be a wildlife photographer by using some of its iconic roster of adorable monsters.
And besides, Pokémon Snap may not be teaching the player how to take the most artistically-pleasing photos that someone might want to frame in their home.
But nothing is stopping the player from taking creative photos and just chucking Oak or Mirror’s rules out the window, choosing to keep their own artistic photos for themselves. Hang that Snorlax photo you printed from Blockbuster (or just a printer) above the mantle — no one’s stopping you, though they may judge you harsher than Oak ever did.
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