Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Second Life Photography - Tips & Tricks For Great Photo's

There are great photographers in Second Life that have produced some of the most breathtaking and amazing photo's I have ever seen.   But even the most accomplished photographers started off as beginners with little or no knowledge of the tools and technics available in SL.  Below is a guideline to help you get started.  I have included both simple and advanced viewer tools, in-world photography HUDs and photo editing software tips.

Using the photography tools available within your viewer is the least expensive way to start.  To use some of the more advanced tools, you will need a computer with a good graphics card or you will experience extreme lag and crash.  Make sure your computer can handle the graphic heavy settings.
You don't need to run out and buy a new computer.  With a little knowledge, you can update your old computer for half the price by improving the CPU/GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) A few suggestions for good graphics cards are;  Radeon R9 290.  Nvidia GeForce GTX 680.  Radeon HD 6990. Nvidia GeForce 960
Or you can purchase a new computer that's specially made for gaming. 
For around $2000.00 you can buy the "Digital Storm" with an Intel Core I7-6700K processor, 8GB RAM with a Nvidia Geforce GTX 970 graphics card.
Or for around $600.00 - 700.00 you can get the "AlienWare" with an Intel Core i5, 8 GB Ram and a Nvidia Geforce 960 graphics card.

Even if you don't have the best computer, you can still take great photo's.  Explore different windlight settings with different effects. These can change your landscape from dark and mystic to a beautiful Monet painting. Then use your environmental settings.  Open and experiment with the sliders in your sun settings.  The best way to focus on a subject is by sitting or standing on a poseball or item, right click something in the center of the scene you want to photograph and choose zoom to selection.  Then you can move forward and back until you get the distance you want.  Hit the snapshot button and save the photo to your hard drive in your pictures folder.

Using your viewer tools
These instructions are for the Firestorm viewer but most can also be found in the SL viewer as well.
In your Preference tab go to Hardware Settings. Check Anisotropic, Enable Open GL Vertex Buffer Objects and enable Streamed UBOs.  Set the Antialiasing to 16x (you may need to set it lower depending on your computer specs) Then slide the Viewer Texture Memory Buffer (MB) to 512.

Then open your Graphics settings in preferences. Under "Render Quality" You see Low, Med, High and Ultra, slide all the way over to ultra (this is where a good graphics card comes in so you may crash using this setting)

Under "Shaders" check all fields except Field of Depth.  If you are taking landscape or outdoor photo's you need to check this, but if you are taking indoor or studio photo's leave it unchecked.
Under LOD Level of Distance, push all sliders all the way to the end. except Objects & Sculpts LOD.  This you may need to experiment with depending on your subject but a good place to start is 3.000.

Under "Shadows" Select Sun and Moon Projectors (This allows objects to cast a shadow or have shadows cast on the object.
Enabling "Ambient Occusion" will cause the darkening shadow effect.
Under "Avatar Rendering" check all.
Point lighting-Full
Terrain Default - check High

Open your "Advanced" drop down menu
Check all of these; Limit Select Distance, Disable Camera Restraints, High Res Snapshot, Show Develop Window and Quiet Snapshot to Disk.

When Lighting and Shadows are enabled you can go to your "Build Tools" using Texture Chooser and Light Chooser that creates projections so the light projects the selected texture.

Using an in-world photography tool
There are several on the market in SL.  There are studios with lighting options, background and pose options but they are limited. These have to be rezzed in order to use, but they are good for profile photo's or fashion shots.  The best option is an all in one photography tool.  The best of these is the LUMIPro.  It's a little pricy but it will seriously be the only photography tool you will ever need with automatic updates several times a year. With the LUMIPro, you can take photo's anywhere in SL, even places that don't allow rezzing object or scripts. Everything is controlled through an easy to use HUD.  With wearable lights and projector, you can move them around yourself or model to get just the right shading, lighting and shadows.  The wearable pose ball allows you to choose the poses and move your model around to where ever you want the shot. The Eye Gazer tool allows you to position your models eyes. The HUD offers many options from highlighting points, casting shadows, lighting color, soft focus and much more.  Customers rave about the LUMIPro and it won the SL Avi Choice Awards for the best photography tool in SL.

Using photo editing software
Photo Shop can do everything from casting shadows to subject enhancements.  It can fix any photography flaw and add some amazing photo effects.  It is also an expensive program and fairly complex to learn.  There are several free photo editing programs you can download that are easy to learn and have many of the same tools as Photo Shop.  Gimp is a free program that is easy to learn. Smooth jagged avatar lines with the smudge tool, blend in flaws, add a colored tint to a photo, shadows and lighting, saturation and contrast and more.
The saturation is how harsh the colors are in a photo, by lowing the saturation, you can even out the colors and eliminate harsh skin colors.
When a model has pointy elbows or other parts, use the smudge or blur tool to even it out.
Use the blur tool to even out face lines and under eye.
Use the Burn tool to brighten eyes or add darker lines to the model for subtle shading.

1st photo done with a windlight setting and sun settings.  2nd photo was enhanced with a red tone added in Gimp.  3rd photo was taken with LUMIPro.

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