Now that you have your photograph – you might want to upload it to SL – so you can show it off on your profile – or maybe display it in your home. You need to know about file types and file sizes.

SL supports three different file types : jpg, png or tga. The different files have different uses and in some cases some are better than others.

  • jpg : Great for photographs or textures in SL. In general JPG files can be resized a lot without nasty pixelation or jaggies.  I would recommend that you do the resizing in GIMP or similar – and not in SL – stretching images in SL is not the best feature.. JPG files don’t support transparencies (which you might want to use in some places in SL – buildings, clothing etc) – if you need transparency – use TGA. Also because of how JPG files are compressed, they are not good for diagrams – use PNG or TGA for these.
  • PNG : These are good files for retaining details (such as in diagrams), but not as good for photographs, especially if you planning to resize them. at a later date. PNG files don’t support transparency either.
  • TGA : Like PNG files they are uncompressed, but they support Transparency (i.e. you can make them see-through. This is useful with clothing and building textures (windows for instance), and would be cool with some types of picture.

Now that you have chosen your file type – what size should you use. You need to remember two key facts :

  1. SL limits image uploads to a maximum of 2048 pixels in each direction. Any file bigger than this will be rejected – files are then resized to 1024 on its largest size.
  2. SL will resize any picture to the nearest power of two – i.e. 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024 , so a 27 x 62 picture is resized to 32 x 64, which means that it will be distorted.

It is critical that you are aware of the re-sizing the SL does – and how it might distort your picture for you. I would suggest you plan your picture sizes before you upload into SL, and then – if you are unsure use the Temporary upload feature to see whether the uploaded image is right in world.

When i upload pictures in SL :

  • Edit them in GIMP (add signatures, borders etc).
  • Scale them in GIMP so that the biggest dimension is 2048 pixels – typically  this makes a picture 2048 x 1453.
  • Upload them in SL –  it is resized to 1024 x 1024.
  • Display it on a prim or frame which honours the original aspect ratio – 1.4 to 1.0 in the case of a 2048 x 1453.

Have fun – and get uploading. Don’t forget to contact me and tell me about the pictures you have taken.

So we have our picture on our PC, and now we want to work on it to make it look like a real picture that we could hang on a wall.

We are going to add a border and a caption to our light house picture.

Open Gimp – and then from the File -> Open, I open the final image.

File menu in Gimp

The Lighthouse picture will open in a brand new window, along side the normal GIMP docks.

Note : My Gimp opens with the Main toolbar, and the Layers,Channels, Images Docks both open – depending on your set up, yours might not.

Add a new Layer and call it “Border”, use either the New layer button on the Layers dock, or  use the Layer Menu on the main Window and choose “New Layer…”. Don’t change the size of the new layer.

With the New Border layer Selected in the Layers Dock, go to the main window and Select Everything – Select -> All

Now – still with the the border Layer selected, Shrink the Selection by 20 pixels

You now should have a flashing line – inset from the edge of your picture. Currently the area selected is the area inside the flashing box, but of course you need the border in the area between the flashing line and the edge.


Invert the Selection –

Main Window -> Select -> Invert. This now means the area between the flashing line and the edge is selected.




You now want to choose a colour for your border, so click on the colour picker tool in the Main toolbar. This will open up a colour chooser dialog, so pick a colour which will work – I chose a simple white border.


Then click on the paint bucket tool, and move the cursor over the main picture window, so it is between the flashing line selection and the  edge of the picture, and click. This will fill the selection with your chosen colour

You now have a border around your picture.

That seemed like a lot of steps – but you soon get used to it, and there are short cuts you can use if you do things often : You can use Keyboard Accelerators (Ctrl-A is the same as Select -> All etc), and there are things which will be covered in later posts.

Also don’t be worried about making mistakes – GIMP has an undo feature (On the Main window – Edit -> Undo – or Ctrl Z).

To add a caption you need to use the Text Tool.

You can choose the Font you use and the colour of the text.
Having chosen your Font and colour – click on the main image where you want your text. GIMP will automatically create a new Layer, and open a dialog box for you to type into.
Type your caption into the dialog box, and click close.
You now have a picture with a border and a caption.
All you need to do is save the file, and upload it back to Second life if you wish.
You can save the file by using the File -> Save from the Main Window. You should get into the habit of always saving the file as a xcf – which is GIMPs own format – this will allow you to edit every element of your picture separately in the future. For now, make sure you save it as an xcf file.
If you want to upload the picture into Second life you will need to save it as a png, tga or jpg. A future post will explore the pros and cons of the various file formats. I will also explore the size of image you need to use when uploading to Secondlife.

We have lined up a nice photograph, with sunset lighting and relfections, but lets mix it up with the Environment editor.

The SL environment editor allows you to change almost every visual aspect of how SL looks. You can change the colour of the sky and water, the positon of the sun and moon, the surface of the water and how it moves, and even the colour of clouds.

Lets move the sun some more, and get a bright sunset behind the light house.

Go to the environment Editor – we are about to change the Sky (World -> Environment Editor -> Sky Presets -> New Preset…)

Click on the Lighting tab, and change the East Angle to 0.23, and “Sun/Moon Position” to 5.55pm, and take another picture :


What else can we do with the Environment Editor – we can change the clouds..

On the Evironment Editor window within SL, click on the Clouds Tab, and change the Cloud Colour to RGB(89, 79,32) (click the colou path, and change the values), and change Cloud Coverage to 0.39, Set all the cloud Density sliders to 0.6.  Cloud Coverage to 0.35, Cloud Scale to 0.15, and Cloud Details to 0.5 (X,Y & D).


Your clouds may vary – but that is a far more interesting picture than the original shot at the beginning of the last post. Experiment and ty different settigs, you can emulate dark brooding storms, or even completeley alien clouds scapes. 

If you get an effect you like,  you can give this combination of settings a name, and save it, so you can use it again.

You will notice that there are plenty of preset combinations which you can also use, play around and see what they do.

You can fiddle with the water too (World -> Environment Editor -> Water Presets -> New Preset..)

By changing the lighting, water and sky you can create some interesting, and some weird and wacky combinations.

Have a play and see what you can come up with. If you would like – contact me in world with your first photograph.

I am now going to take you through your very first photograph on SL – This is more than a simple snapshot of a random place, you need to take your time to find something interesting to photograph, and take your time making sure the picture is as good as it can be.

Note : All menus and options are those in Firestorm. Other viewers will have similar options.

First – find a good destination. I used the destination guide for this – to find “The Black Forest Hills” on Le Dome/57/93/21.

Now – find something interesting. Take your time to walk around the location, and find something to photograph. I am going to take some photos of the Lighthouse at Le Dome/4/177/21.

And before you take any pictures – set your viewer up to the best quality images you can. Avatar -> Preferences ->  Graphics. I am able to set render Quality to High – your PC might not be able to do that. Leave Shadows set to Sun/Moon, and reflections set to Minimal for now.

To illustrate how to go from a snapshot to a great pic  – here is straight snaphot of the Lighthouse..

Basic Snapshot

Although not a bad shot – but it is pretty dull. Lots of water … and sky – and not much of the Lighthouse. This shot was taken with the default settings, straight to disk. Notice that I have turned off the HUDS and interfaces.

So – zoom in – and lets see what that looks like. Press and Hold the Alt Key on your keyboard, and Left Click on the lighthouse, and let go of the Alt Key. You can now use the Scroll wheel on your mouse to zoom in and out (if you have no scroll wheel, keep the Alt Key held and move the mouse backwards and forwards to get the same effect). You can pan left and right by Holding Ctrl and Alt together and move the mouse around.

So we zoom in on the lighthouse.

Just the light house

Unsurprisingly maybe, zooming in shows a detail that you might not have noticed – a walrus.

Can we do better – sure. There is a rule in photography called the rule of thirds. What it says is that photos look “better” when objects are lined up a 1/3 of the way up – or a 1/3 of the way down. So here is photo #3 of this shoot with the light house 1/3rd of the way from the left.

Lighthouse - Rule of Thirds

It looks better already doesn’t it, but it is still a bit flat.

So what next ……. Lighting

You might be asking at this point – how do I change the lighting, since I am working outside. Thankfully SL makes it very easy – you can move the Sun. SL gives you 4 basic Sun positions : Sunrise, Midday, Sunset and Midnight.

Midday is nearly always flat – like the pictures above.

Let’s try the basic sun positions,

Go to the World Menu -> Sun Position -> Sunset.


And now let’s turn on some other options : reflections, and shadows.

Sunset with Reflections

Note  If you have a slow computer you might need to turn off reflections and shadows back off if you move about.

Now – scroll back to the top – and compare this picture to the first one we took – is it better – or a lot better ?

In the next post we will explore an versatile feature of SL – the Environment editor.

To start taking great pictures in Second Life, there are a few simple things you can usefully use, but they are not essential – you can get by with very little if you know how.

  • Pose Stand – there are some simple inexpensive, or even free pose stands available, but you only need them if you intend to take pictures on your own land (or somewhere you can rez the pose stand).  If you intend to try to take pictures in public areas (parks, gardens etc) then you probably wont be able to use a pose stand anyway. Later in this series I will introduce you to some of pose stands available, and even advanced pose systems which enable you to pose avatars anywhere were scripts are allowed.
  • Lights – for many photographs either outdoors or indoor you don’t need artificial lights – you can use the sun or the moon to provide your lighting. Eventually some artificial lights might come in useful – I will get to them in a later post. Don’t go out and buy expensive light systems on tripods with reflectors – although they are an essential part of a real life photo studio, in Second Life lights are much simpler, and with an expensive system with reflectors etc, you wont get any better pictures, and you will use a lot of prims for nothing.
  • Camera –  There are shops in SL which will try to convince you that you need to spend a lot of L$ to get a camera and tripod to get the best pictures : let me tell you right now they are wrong. Every Avatar in SL has a pixel perfect camera every time they log in – it is the “Snapshot” button, that is all you need.
  • Post processing – Although you can take snapshots direct to your Secondlife inventory it is often better to save your image to disk and use some simple post processing on the image before uploading it back to SL. This allows you to add simple effects, borders, text etc.  I use GIMP (which is completely free to download at, and any examples I give will use GIMP, but you could easily other tools (Photoshop, or even pixlr ).

So now that you know everything you don’t need 🙂 lets look at what you do need :

  • A wander lust – a willingness to roam the grid looking for interesting places – I use the destination guide to search for places to photograph.
  • Helpful friends – people willing to wander with and sit on pose balls.
  • A good viewer – I use firestorm  normally, but I will do my best to show you how to do everything in SL Viewer 3.0 as well.

In the next post i will walk you through taking a simple photograph of an outdoor scene, what settings to use to get a good result.

Over time this series will expand to cover studio photography and a number of simple techniques in Second Life and in GIMP to make great pictures – and make those pictures zing.