The Secret To Capturing Top Quality Screenshots With Steam [MUO Gaming]

Christian Cawley 04-01-2012

screenshots with steamGrabbing an action-packed screenshot from a video game can be tough. More often than not using the standard Print Screen command in Windows will result in a blank screen being captured; this is true for the manual Print Screen-and-paste method as well as employing apps that use this function.


So how can images from games be captured? How do the professionals grab these screenshots and post them on the web? It’s all down to the way in which the images are presented. Games that use the Windows hardware overlay method for displaying graphics typically bypass the usual graphics generation process, often via a graphics card.

There are many different ways in which screenshots from games can be captured by installing software that will overcome this drawback, perhaps by capturing the image from the graphics card. Many such apps exist, such as FRAPS, but these are often paid apps. However if you’re using Steam for gaming you can take advantage of its built-in image grabber and collect a series of great screenshots for free!

What Is Steam?

If you’re somehow unaware, Steam is a digital delivery system currently available for Windows (there is also a Mac OS X version). Digital delivery is the process of providing game content over the web, such as demos, full titles (which are of course paid for) and additional downloadable content (DLC) which can enhance a title for some gamers who might have completed the original tasks.

Steam can be downloaded for free via, and features a huge library of premium and indie games for you to download as well as providing access to the Steam community, methods for activating existing games on Steam and the screen capture tool.

Configure Steam To Capture Screenshots

It makes perfect sense that Steam should feature its own screenshot tool, given that it is capable of managing game purchases, downloads and installation and even automated updates. In fact the system is so feature packed and robust that it is a wonder that anybody even bothers buying physical media anymore!


When you capture screenshots with Steam these are saved to your computer to review later and can even be uploaded to the Steam community and shared via Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites.

screenshots with steam

With Steam installed on your computer you will need to open it, either by clicking the icon in the system tray or launching from Start > Applications.  In the Steam menu, select Settings; in the resulting window, select the In-Game tab.

steam screenshots


Here you will find the option to define a Screenshot shortcut key. To alter the default F12 option, simply click the X button next to this and then tap a different key or combination of keys. For instance, if F12 is already mapped in one of your favourite games you might choose a combo of Shift+CTRL+F12.

You should also note that there are a couple of checkboxes that can be cleared or filled – depending on preference – to Display a notification or Play a sound when a screenshot is captured. When you’re happy with your choice, click OK to proceed, and then launch your game and start capturing screenshots!


To review the screenshots you have captured open View > Screenshots; the Show drop-down menu will allow you to select images from different titles and these can be uploaded to your online library. Using your mouse, left-click a thumbnail image (use CTRL to select multiple screens) and click the Upload button to save them to the cloud. You can also add captions to individual images, which will also feature date and time details.

screenshots with steam


Obviously you won’t be able to use this method if you don’t have any games installed and activated on Steam, but tiny drawbacks aside this is a great way to gain top-quality screen capture functionality without spending any extra cash. If you already use Steam you also have the benefit of not having to download any additional software for this purpose.

Captured images are stored in PNG format, allowing you to edit them if necessary without worrying about any degradation in quality.

Let us know in the comments if you know of another way to get good screenshots in your games.

Related topics: Screen Capture, Steam.

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  1. Soulhuntor
    January 22, 2012 at 3:05 am

    You don't need to buy games on Steam to use this feature.  If you add a game shortcut and run the game through Steam you can take pictures.

  2. Cryptic
    January 5, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    I usually only take pics of my deaths and the people that kill me in TF2. Other then that, I just try to enjoy the game.

    • Christian Cawley
      January 5, 2012 at 4:54 pm

      Hi Cryptic - do you use the pics so that you can track them down and exact your revenge?

  3. Sheila Warner
    January 5, 2012 at 5:37 am

    I usually use Bandicam or HyperCam to capture images and videos of the games I'm playing. Using Steam sounds like a good idea. I'll give it a try.