Archive for the ‘Getting Started’ Category

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 do support transparency but under some cases, SL seems to have an issue with PNG files with transparency.
  • TGA : Like PNG files they are uncompressed, and they support Transparency (i.e. you can make them see-through; and SL has less problems with TGA files. They are regularly usedwith 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 (horizontal and vertical). 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.

In Firestorm the upload function is in the Build menu.

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


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.