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Tutorial: Screenshot Basics

Tags: #Broken Gallery  #Tutorial 
  • Member
    September 17, 2013

    This is the first in a series of tutorials that will describe the tools and techniques necessary to take great looking screenshots in Skyrim.

    Getting Started

    To take high-quality screenshots in Skyrim, you will need a PC that is capable of running the game at High, or preferably Ultra detail settings. The higher the level of detail that you can run the game at, the higher the resulting quality of your screenshots will be.

    Note that while your PC must be capable of running the game at High or Ultra, the game does not need to run smoothly. We will be using cheat codes extensively to get the best possible shots. We will not actually be playing the game, so any frame rate that is usable enough to interact with the game will be sufficient.

    Unfortunately, a PC is required. Console players may be able to take some basic screenshots using a video capture card, but as the Skyrim console is used extensively in capturing high-quality screenshots, console users are at a significant disadvantage.

    Before You Begin

    Before taking any screenshots, there is a bit of housekeeping to be done:

    1. Ensure that you know what key to press to take screenshots. This can be configured in Steam by going to the "Steam" menu and clicking the "Settings" option. The default key is F12.
    2. Play through the game until you have escaped Helgen. Make a save game here. This will be our starting point for future screenshots, so you don't have to play the opening over again.

    If you are playing Skyrim without using Steam, you can still take screenshots by using the PrtScn key instead of F12. If this does not work, you may need to edit your Skyrim.ini file and make sure the bAllowScreenshot = 1 setting is there. The rest of this tutorial will assume that you are running the game under Steam, however, as this is the standard configuration for the game.

    Preparing Your Character

    Unless your save just outside of Helgen happens to be the character you want to screenshot, you'll need to spend a few minutes getting your character's look and equipment right. To do this quickly, we will make use of the console to enter commands to edit our character.

    To access the console, press the ~ key on your keyboard. (Non-US keyboards may require a different key.)  This will bring up a semi-transparent window across the bottom of the screen with a blinking white cursor. This is the Skyrim console.

    You can use this console to enter special console commands to change how the game works. These commands are the same commands that are used internally by the game to perform functions such as increasing your skill levels, or granting items.

    If you want to change the look of your character, you can use the showracemenu command, which will bring up the standard character creation screen that was used at the start of the game.

    Note that the sliders are bugged, and may not be in the same position that you last left them. Additionally, entering the race selection method in this way has the side effect of resetting any colour options you may have set, such as eye shadow or lip colour.

    Once you are happy with the look of your character, we will use the console to give your character the desired equipment. Before doing so, however, we will need to access the SkyrimSearch online database. To do this, press Shift-Tab to bring up the Steam overlay, then open a web browser and go to

    For this tutorial, we will be making the Dovahkiin from the official trailers, so we will need some Studded Armor, Iron Boots, Gauntlets and Helmet, a Banded Iron Shield, and a Steel Sword. Using the SkyrimSearch site you can locate the ID code for any object in the game. In the example above, the ID for Studded Armor is 0001B3A2. To give the item to our character, we will use the player.additem command to add the armor to the character:

    player.additem 1b3a2 1

    This tells the game that we want to add one copy of the Studded Armor to our character. For more details on the different commands that are available, please refer to the UESP wiki.

    We'll continue to search for the IDs for all the equipment that we want, and use the player.additem command to add the items to our character. Once we have all the items in our possession, we can equip the items like normal. Now, we're ready...

    Taking Your First Screenshot

    Normally, your next step is to travel to the location where you want to take the screenshot. For now, we'll make due with the field that we are currently standing in. I will describe in a future tutorial how to use the console to get around Skyrim quickly.

    For this tutorial, let's capture a screenshot of our Dovahkiin fighting a bandit. Using SkyrimSearch, we find that the ID for a simple bandit is 00039CF4. We can use this code with the player.placeatme command to spawn a new bandit into existence:

     Now, we can start fighting the bandit, getting ready to press F12 the moment we see a good screenshot:

    Hmm... That's not the screenshot we wanted. Fighting a bandit at level one, while trying to line up the perfect screenshot is difficult, especially if you're wearing bad armor and have no health potions. To make it easier to get the perfect screenshot, we'll make use of the tgm console command to Toggle "God" Mode. This will make our character invincible, and give him unlimited magicka, health, and stamina. Entering the command once turns "God Mode" on, and entering it a second time will turn it back off.

    We will also use the sgtm command to Set the Game Time Multiplier to slow down the game. By slowing the animation speed down, we increase the number of frames generated for a specific action, and increase the amount of time we have to press F12 to get the screenshot. sgtm 1 sets the game speed back to default. I find that a time multiplier of 0.25 works well for taking standard combat shots, and a value of 0.1 works well for capturing screenshots of otherwise very fast actions. You can also speed up the game by entering larger values. sgtm 2 or sgtm 3 are a great way to quickly sprint across the game world. I have found that values larger than 3 tend to cause the game to crash, so be careful with this command.

    Now that we're invincible and are fighting at a fraction of the normal speed, we get the characters in the right position and hit F12:

    That didn't quite turn out how we want. The characters are in the right position, but the camera angle makes it difficult to see. There is blood splatter on the screen, and the in-game display (or HUD) is still visible.

    Enhancing Your Screenshot

    Again, the console comes to the rescue allowing us to correct the flaws in our screenshot. First, let's see how to use the tm command (Toggle Menus) to hide the HUD, as the HUD is the largest, most intrusive issue with our screenshot. To do so, press the ~ key to pause the action when you see a screenshot that you want to take instead of pressing F12.  This will bring up the console and pause the action:

    Here we can enter the tm command which immediately makes the HUD and the console disappear.

    We can press F12 and get another screenshot if we want. Now, we need to get the console back. Don't panic.  The console is still there, it's just not visible. Without pressing any other keys, type tm then press the enter key. The console will reappear.

    Now, let's see if we can get a better camera angle. To unlock the camera and move it around freely, we can use the tfc command (Toggle Free Camera):

    tfc 1

    The "1" at the end of the command tells the game that we want to pause the action once we clear the console. Without this, the game will continue to run while we're struggling to move the camera into position.

    Once you've entered the tfc command and lowered the console by pressing the ~ key again, we can freely rotate the camera around to the side to get a better view of the battle (remember to use tm as needed to hide and unhide the console and HUD):

    Looking better, but we still have the blood splatter. Once again, the console comes to the rescue. Using the csb command (Clear Screen Blood), we can remove those annoying droplets from the camera lens. Note that there is no way to put the blood drops back later if you decide you want them back.

    Not bad for our first screenshot!  However, we can make the screenshot even more epic by changing the camera angle a little more, allowing us to get a little closer to the action:

    Much better!  To return to the action, bring up the console again and type tfc once more.  This will turn off the free camera and unpause the game so you can set up your next screenshot.

    Where to Find Your Screenshots

    Now that we've captured some screenshots that we like, it's time to retrieve them and upload them to the site, use them as wallpaper, or whatever it was you wanted to do with them. When you exit the game, Steam will pop up a window showing you the screenshots that you captured. The "Show On Disk" button will take you to the folder in Windows Explorer so that you can copy the files.

    If you do not get the dialog, or want to find your screenshots later, the easiest way to find them is to right-click on "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim" in your Steam library, then choose "View Screenshots" from the menu. This will open the dialog above again so you can click the "Show On Disk" button to find the files.

    If you are not using Steam, you can find your screenshots in your game folder.  You will need to manually locate the folder using Windows Explorer.


    I hope you enjoyed the first part of the Screenshot Tutorial series. Using these basic commands, you can dramatically improve the look of the screenshots you take. Using only the few console commands introduced above, you can achieve some very epic looking screenshots.

    In future posts, I will be discussing advanced techniques, including how to control lighting on your character to achieve the desired effects, a technique for capturing kill cams, how and why to zoom the camera, tips for how to frame your shot, and ways to pose your character. If there are any specific topics that you would like me to cover in a future tutorial, please leave a comment in the discussion below.

  • Member
    September 17, 2013

    Nice tutorial. Just a few of things I'd add:

    • The sucsm command. Changes the speed of the flying camera - I think 20 is the default. Setting it to <5 really helps to set up those close-up shots.
    • The set timescale to command. Changes the speed at which time flows in the game world - default is 20 (20 times real time). Bad exterior lighting can really botch your screenshot, so I use this instead of spending time waiting. Set it to 0 if you want to pull off a more complex shot.

    There's a some other tricks I use (especially for combat shots/shots with multiple NPCs) but this is a basics tutorial after all!

    Also, a small error I found:

    Again, the console comes to the rescue allowing us to correct the flaws in our screenshot. First, we will use the tm command (Toggle Menus) to hide the HUD. To do so, press the F12 key to pause the action when you see a screenshot that you want to take instead of pressing F12.  This will bring up the console and pause the action:

    I think you meant "To do so, press the ~ key to pause the action when you see a screenshot that you want to take instead of pressing F12. "

  • Member
    September 17, 2013
    Awesome work! I didn't know about sgtm command, will use it in the future! One thing I like to add to others' comments is that you can set the transparency of HUD to 0 instead of constantly turning it on and off via tm command. With god mode activated you don't need HUD at all.
  • Member
    September 17, 2013

    Thanks Ponty.  I corrected the minor error you pointed out.  Thanks for spotting that.

    I plan to cover the sucsm command in a future discussion when I go into how to zoom the camera with the fov command, as that's where I find sucsm to be most useful.  I wasn't aware of the set timescale to command.  That will definitely come in handy.  I'll be sure to cover than when I go into lighting in more detail.

    I wanted to keep this discussion to the bare minimum needed to get a basic screenshot, as it's already getting quite lengthy.

  • Member
    September 17, 2013

    Thanks Overhate.  I've updated the discussion to include this.  I plan to focus on using Steam for the rest of the tutorials, as I find the overlay very helpful when looking up reference material, and the standard configuration for Skyrim is through Steam, but some may find this alternate method helpful.

  • Member
    September 17, 2013

    Hmm.  I never actually thought of that.  I normally just us tm to toggle everything off and on. The advantage of tm is that it lets you use the console to pause the action during sequences that you cannot normally pause, such as kill cams.  As long as the console is open, the game freezes, and tm makes the console get out of the way of your shot.

    I'll definitely give the HUD transparency a try though.

  • Member
    September 17, 2013

    You have a point there, I prefer to see the console and the commands I type though. Plus if you can stop the action with console nothing stops you from typing tfc 1 and have the same effect  I play without HUD so its a natural state of the game for me 

  • Member
    September 17, 2013

    It's only the second tm command that you can't see though.  It's not like we're typing a novel blind.  I basically set up the shot with the HUD active, then once I have everything set how I like, I do a quick tm, F12, tm to actually capture the shot.

    Either way works though.  I plan to give the HUD option a try, and if I find it helpful, I'll update the discussion.

  • Member
    September 23, 2013

    This was a very helpful article, and really useful. I especially liked the tfc 1 command. It makes it alot easier to handle screenshots if the game is paused, especially if you are wearing the cursed ring of hircine and it decides to transform you while the camera is flying. Quick question i thought of last night: I'm in a cavern, and have 2 dogs fighting a draugr boss while im shooting him with arrows. What I want to capture is the 2 dogs and the draugr, but the problem is that its too dark. Is there any way to alter the lighting on the fly like that, like a spotlight, or do you have to have extra lighting mods? 

    As a side note, I didn't see a "how do I take this screenshot" tips thread. Is this the wrong group for it? If it's the right group for it, it would be nice to have that added.

    Again, really good work on the article and i'm looking forward to more!

  • Member
    September 23, 2013

    Quick comment Ponty about timescale:

    I've heard that setting timescale to less than 5 can make the game very unstable. So most people should probably be careful with it (so i've heard at least)