Second Life Photography
- optimising your viewer and graphics settings
- optimising the settings in the Snapshot dialogue
- taking the snapshot
- editing the image in external software like Photoshop
- uploading your edited image to SL
This article refers only to the Firestorm viewer – version 4.6.9 (42974).
What’s possible here will depend on your graphics card and some options may not be available.
In general terms you will get the best results with everything set as high as your graphics card will allow. To set everything at maximum quality just move the slider to Ultra!
One thing that is worthy of a special mention is Water Reflections. Open the General tab of Graphics prefs and look down at the bottom left of the dialogue. Make sure that Water Reflections has been set to ‘Everything’ in the dropdown. Make sure you also have Transparent Water ticked in the Shaders section also on the left of the dialogue. It’s a million times better with this!
For full details of all of the graphics options visit the Firestorm Wiki.
Photography means ‘Painting with light’ and in Second Life you can control this in so many ways by using Windlight (WL) as this offers a multitude of possibilities for lighting your pictures.
To use WL settings, click the Phototools button on the taskbar at the bottom of your screen. If this button isn’t there you can add it easily.
This gives you access to a huge range of Sky and Water Windlight presets. You can also create new WLs or edit existing ones . Choose any of the options in the WL Presets section.
You can enable Atmospheric Shaders to get the full effect. You can do this in the Phototools dialogue or in your Graphics preferences. Be aware that many WL settings are not good for avatar’s skin if you have Atmospheric Shaders turned on. Experiment with different WLs and with the edit options. You can often get a very good result by using WL to light the whole image while also using a facelight or a lighting rig to light avatars. Click the buttons below to see examples of both of these.
Click the camera icon on the taskbar at the bottom of your screen to open the Snapshot Dialogue. A preview of what your camera is looking at will be displayed. For best quality you will need to save to your hard drive, so tick ‘Disk’ in the list of tabs under the preview pane. The rest of this section assumes you have ticked ‘Disk’.
- Refresh: click the little circular arrow in the preview pane to update the preview
- Capture: this should be set to Colors for normal pictures
- Interface / HUD these two options determine what appears in your picture. Leave both unticked or HUDs and other dialogue boxes will appear in your pictures.
- Freeze frame: this used to be a MUST USE feature which allows you to freeze the current frame. But it doesn’t seem to work so well now!
- Auto-refresh leave this ticked if you want to update the preview automatically when you take a picture. I leave it unticked as it slows things down!
- Filter: this offers a variety of effects. Just play with it and see what happens!
- Selection (at the bottom right of the dialogue): this offers a variety of destinations for your pics. I always use Save to Disk
- Image Size: underneath the Disk heading there will be a dropdown. I ALWAYS set this to Custom.
- Width x Height: I set this to 3840 to provide an image with plenty of pixels to work with. This is exactly double my screen width. It’s best to stick to exact multiples as this will produce the best results. Set this to double the screen width shown in the first instance. (This won’t work if the Interface and/or HUD check boxes are ticked.) Make sure Constrain Proportions is ticked and Height will be set automatically. Be aware that you will need to resize your images before you can upload them to SL as anything over 2048 x 2048 pixels will exceed the size limit.
- Format: the options are png, jpg and bmp. I use jpg as this suits the way I process later. If you choose jpg, set the Image Quality slider to 100.
- Save/Save As: click this to save an image to your hard drive. Use ‘Save As’ the first time and navigate to where you want to save your pictures. Give your picture a name – SL will add 01 to your filename. Thereafter just click Save and your file will be saved with the same name and an incremented number eg Snapshot01, Snapshot02 etc.
There are 3 ways to ‘take a picture’ in SL:
- use Snapshot
- press CTRL ‘ – this takes a picture immediately using the settings in the Snapshot dialogue
- take a screenshot using the PrintScreen key on your keyboard or using your own screen capture software
There are many options for editing your images. You can use standalone software like Photoshop or Gimp (free) or you can use online software which is often free. I would recommend an excellent site called Picmonkey.
I would recommend saving your images once they are ready to upload in png format as this will not degrade the quality in any way.