Better Photography- Part One “Capturing”

May 29, 2008

This one may be just the place to start the tips and tricks, because it give you a quick look into “better” photography for SL. Whether you’re a newbie or a pro, being able to take and even tweak a snapshot is an abosulte “must know”.

Part One looks at capturing images, and getting the most out of your settings. I’ll look at both in world capture methods, and touch lightly on how to use external programs for screen captures. I’ll also go in to some advanced menu options, to really make the most of your pics.

Get ready for some tips and tricks below the cut…

So… I am going to guess you all know how to use the snapshot function in Second Life. Its probably the first thing you made yourself as a newcomer. It may have been a profile pic, a snapshot with friends, or a “tourist” snapshot of some awesome build. Whatever it was, it was easy… but are you getting the most out of it?

This is BASIC stuff, I don’t mean to treat anyone as “stupid”, not in the least. But there are some basics you might miss because it *is* so basic. If you already know it, skip ahead a few paragraphs. If you know it all, yay for you, but others might still benefit. Play nice, kiddies!

The first part I am going to cover is within the snapshot menu itself. “What size image do you need?”. Well, that all depends on what you’re going to be doing with it! You might want to square it off, you might want to capture the whole screen, you might want to show the User Interface (chat, location, mini map etc), you might need a higher resolution to edit for your vendors… your preferences from last time, might not be the ones you want to use *this* time. So each pic you take, has different inputs, controlled by you.

Below, is a full screen capture, based on my screen size of 1440×838. I’ve selected “Current Window” for the size I wanted. It makes a nice landscape image.

(All images in this post have been resized for web browsing, and are not the same size as what shows up in the pics. Click on the images if you want to view the full size).

Current Window

Now… what if you wanted a squared image? SL uploads 1:1 or 1:2 ratio, meaning 512×512, 1024×1024 or 512×1024 (and so on and so forth). Sometimes you want your images captured at the same size they will be uploaded.

For this, we need to select “Custom” from the drop down menu for image size. SL will always constrain it to the nearest, lower resolution image size (please correct me here if I am wrong). For squared captures, I stick to my screen height as a guide. So I capture 838×838 pixels, and when uploading, it gets “squished” back down to 512×512. If I wanted a 1024pxl square, I’d capture it at that, but more on that a little further down.

This next image shows the options I have selected for squared captures using the in world snapshot menu.

Snapshot- Squared

Now… if you’re making snapshots for vendors (things for sale) you might want more detail to work on, and sometimes your given screen size is just too low resolution to do anything good with, especially on full body shots. In the snapshot menu, you can increase the resolution the same way we squared it off, bu choosing “Custom” for size and typing in a value higher than your screens output.

PLEASE: This is usually only useful if you plan on post-editing your images. Taking a 2048×2048 image, and importing it *as is*, will just take forever to load, and lag you to buggery. The main benefit come when you shrink it back down to 512’s in your chosen image editor because the edge pixels will usually be smoothed out to gradients in resizing.

Pic below shows Custom sizes for better “full body” shots needed in post editing.

Custom- higher resolution

Another important thing to “tweak” should be your graphics settings in preferences. Some machines may be too old, or the grahics card may not be supported, but I encourage you to check and see if you have “local lighting” enabled. It can make a world of difference in how bright and clear a snapshot comes out. If you’re an unlucky soul who can’t see a difference whether its checked or not, my guess would be your computer may not support it. The positive is, with the right local settings (noon is best for post Windlight) not all is lost.

(Don’t pick on my graphics settings! They are optimized for *faster* performance, as my connection speed is less than great. I only increase them when I NEED to, day to day socializing, shopping and picture taking does not fall in to the NEED catagory *smiles*.)

Local Lighting vs. Sun and Moon

Now we’re going to take a look at the Main Menu options for snapshots. Personally, I work faster with keyboard shortcuts… you may or may not want to adopt this trick, its up to you.

Control + Shift + S = Take a Snapshot

Control + ‘ (apostrophe) = Snapshot to Disk

In the Advanced menu, you can also disable the shutter sound made when saving a snapshot to your hard drive. In a photo shoot, it can get a tad irritating. I tend to mute SL when “working”, so that one is up to you. If you haven’t done so already, Control + Alt + D will activate the advanced menu options.

Menu Options

Last little tip if for those of you experiencing issues with the snapshot option within SL. I know of a few people who crash when attempting to save an image to their hard drive, or who freeze when trying to capture a large image. My advice to any of you with this problem, is to grab a “screen capture” program. I have the free version of FRAPS and the free version of ScreenHunter. I tend to use ScreenHunter most, because I’ve had it the longest. FRAPS has video capture capabilities as well, so might be more geared towards budding film directors.

I’m not going to tell you how to use the software, but I am going to show you what you need to know in order to use it in conjunction with Second Life. Basically… screen captures, capture the whole screen- duh! *Giggles*… but what if you don’t want to capture the User Interface (UI)? The User Interface is the menus, the chat bar, your inventory, the mini map. Before you capture you want to turn it off. HUD items will still show up, think of ZHAO animation overriders, Huddles, radars etc. Those still need to be detached, but this next trick will hide everything else.

Make sure the advanced menu is activated (control+alt+d) and then hit the following…

Control + Alt + F1

Capture the screen with the assigned keyboard shortcut for the program you are using. (In ScreenHunter, I have it set to F6).

Do the same sequence again, Control + Alt + F1, to get your UI back.

Disable UI for screen captures

Okie dokie boys and girls, I now have brain strain and I am going to leave it there for part one.

In the next part, I’m going to cover basic image editing outside of SL using a few different programs. Things like cropping, resizing, and the use of studios and how they might help. And we’re going to take a look at some more capture methods (color, depth, mattes).

Thank you to Verona, for posing for me. I’m not at all shy… she is, however, a babe!



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