I’ve ran across a few different blogposts lately that took on the issue of ‘good picture taking’ in SL and what it means for the respective writers, as well as some nice posts picking up the challenge trying to explain ‘their way’ of snapshooting. So to not reinvent the wheel, have a look at Chic at Phil’s Place “The Photo Dilema” for a rather nice analysis regarding the use of shaders and resolution, or have a look at Luna Jubilee’s “How to take a High Res Snapshot” tutorial if the term ‘high res’ doesn’t sound familiar to you at all. And last, if you’re more the definition type, a nice write-up in Vint Falken’s “SL Photography: Tips and Tricks” which explains you exactly what each SL menu option does.
I liked the general idea behind all these post, so I decided to write another picture tutorial post to share a few secrets of my own when it comes to ‘raw SL snapshots’ using the means provided by the client. I am a more visual person, so I went and took a bunch of pictures for you, and you’ll find some explainations along with them for the whats and whys. There is no rights or wrongs in my opinion, just a very broad spectrum of possibilities to match your ideas and achieve a desired purpose. And for me it usually works best to just see some examples! Click the images for a larger resolution so you can read the texts ;-)
Choice of Angle and Zoom Tools inside Second Life
Probably the first step to overcome, and it comes with a zillion of different choices! There’s a few things to consider when picking your angle, but the most obvious is called ‘purpose’ – what are you trying to highlight in the image. Is it a landscape portrait to highlight a scenery or build? Is it telling a story between two characters? Is it artistic expression with dynamic angles? Or is it highlighting a person and their traits? Or a fashion portrait in which you like to show details of an SL creator’s work?
True enough, you’ll get a lot of cool pictures with just starting to snap away. But if you put some thought into what you like to achieve beforehand, you will need way less snapshots saved to your hard drive, trust me ;-D
So in the following a bunch of different angles and tries. I wanted a squared format, so that was part of my considerations from the start.
Your best friends are the zoom tools: That’s CTRL-0 (zero) to zoom into a scene, CTRL-8 to zoom out of a scene and create a wideangle format appearance – or something completely wild if you zoom out too far ;-D And if you need to go back to default camera position, CTRL-9 will get you there!
Why zooming? It allows you to balance the sizes of things, without having to move them around. I picked an avatar in front of a very detailed background to demonstrate what I mean. If you compare the sizes of the avatar’s head or length of arms, etc., with the size/position of the items in the background, you will notice that depending on zoom in or zoom out, the ratio changes and the avatar appears smaller or larger. As well, the angle in which you look at things changes depending on how extreme you zoom.
I am using angle and zoom as well to cover things I don’t want in the picture with my avatar. So you will notice for example a bright orange poster in the background of some examples, while others cover it up without having to move it out of the picture.
Shaders and Graphic Settings
The higher you can go, the better. But that doesn’t mean you need to switch to ultra and get a shadow compatible viewer along with a new computer to get some nice results. True enough, Ultra with shadow settings enabled are gorgeous if your computer can push it, but not all PCs/graphic cards survive to even launch the client. And since mine is one of those computers who translates ‘shadow viewer’ with ‘blue screen’ I’ll skip those in here and keep it more basic.
Bump and Shiney is the first ‘quality step’ to enable, and while it does not allow you to see any glow or light sources yet, it at least adds a soft metallic shine to prims that have bump mapping enabled. (See the collar and wheels of the train)
Basic Shaders should be possible to run even with an older computer, and they give already very decent results. Glow appears now, light sources are rendered (and with them you can influence your scene as well if the sun alone doesn’t get it for you). Moving the position of the sun in SL’s sky settings is pretty much ALWAYS a good idea. Write it big on your computer screen if you tend to forget it. It’s like your portable photo studio to make sure light falls on those parts that need it.
Atmospheric Shaders – the Windlight. Safe to say, likely the most revolutionary improvement of the SL client when it comes to picture taking. If you can run it, run it. If you can’t run it, consider to at least turn it on for a short moment to take a pic or two when the outcome of the pic really matters to you. ;-D
Expressing and enhancing…
If your computer doesn’t like atmospheric shaders, but you like to use them, only turn them on when your angle is set and all textures/prims are rezzed and loaded. If you have a lightsetting you like, save it. Being able to quickly get to it will help you a lot, and over time you will have a small selection of your favorite lights available so the more you use it, the more time-efficient you will get with it. (I used to leave the graphics performance tab in preferences open and minimize the window on my old computer, so I had quick access to turn it on and back off after the pic was taken)
Again, purpose is our main theme when picking a lightsetting.
If you like to go for a fresh beauty photography feel, don’t use extremely harsh light settings which make the flaws of SL’s avatar mesh screamingly obvious (unless you want to spend the time in a graphic program to fix it). On the flip side, if you want to go with drama and dynamic, try to give it that quality with contrasted shadows and light siluettes on the avatar by moving sun position coming from left or right instead of a direct frontal sun position.
Another aspect for light choices are the colors in your picture. A dark skintone will cope way better with harsh lights than a very pale one does. Like in my example, some pictures are over-exposed and the definition of face and texture of the white dress get lost. So if your main interest is the skin and dress, likely not go with that one ;-D
You will also notice that sun position ‘shapes’ your avatar, most obvious part is the face. In the example on the right side, top row, the sun shines from a high noon position down on the avatar – the shadows change the overal look dramatically – not quite what I was going for here either, although I like the intense fog in the background a lot!
In the end, I went with more subtle lights, choosing a little foggy feel for the background to draw the focus of the viewer towards the avatar.
Beyond the in-world light settings, there wasn’t much needed to be done in a graphics program. The only thing I did was enhanced the contrasts slightly, add some very minor blur, and added a frame to it.
And voila… This is what I ended up with!
Outfit: !dM deviousMind “Little Lenore”
Shoes: Stiletto Moody “Bare Judy” in white
Eyes: !dM deviousEyes “AngelDust” **ICEBLUE**