Tutorial – Taking high-res blog snapshots for intermediate users

A few friends have been requesting that I do a tutorial outlining the steps I go through when working on pictures for my blog and Flickr photostream. I have decided to split up the tutorials because of the amount of information I ended up wanting to share. The tutorials will address intermediate-level photographers and will strictly revolve around the setup and execution of picture-taking for fashion bloggers.

You can find all of the tutorials on my tutorials page.

Beginners can refer to the ‘Taking Snapshots’ tutorial on secondlifebasics.com.

Please note that I am no expert, nor have I ever received any specialized training. I can only offer advice, suggestions and tips that I have picked up along the way from other wonderful bloggers through my two+ years of fashion blogging. If you see any mistakes in any of the information I have provided below or feel that you can add more to my explanation please feel free to leave it in the comments section. Thank you.

Keep in mind that in order to run Second life and then be able to take a very high quality image, your system should be as close to the system requirements recommended on the Second Life website as possible.

This tutorial will cover:

  1. Graphics Settings
  2. Anisotropic Filtering
  3. Screen Resolution
  4. Advanced Menu
  5. Setting the Scene
  6. Windlight Settings

Graphics Settings

Second-Life-2.0-Graphics-Settings
Click thumbnail to enlarge

Before you open up your image editing program (e.g. Photoshop) the first thing you want to do is take a snapshot that will be of the highest possible quality that your computer can handle.

‘How I go about doing that?’, you ask. Simple. You want to take a look at your graphics settings in Second Life.

  • If you are using viewer 1.23 they will be in the ‘Edit’ menu under ‘Preferences’ (Edit > Preferences).
  • If you are using viewer 2.0 they will be in the ‘Me’ menu under ‘Preferences’ (Me > Preferences).

Make sure the sliders are as close to the “Ultra” as you can possibly get them without it making you crash or lag.

Currently I am running Windows 7 and my video card is Nvidia Geforce 7800 GT w/256MB. With that, I can easily keep my graphics on Ultra all the time without too much lag, except if I am in an incredibly laggy sim.

» This is a great YouTube video by Torley Linden detailing all the aspects of the graphics settings, including anisotropic filtering.

Anisotropic Filtering

Anisotropic Filtering
Click thumbnail to enlarge

What is Anisotropic filtering? Well it’s basically just another way of enhancing your image quality as long as your system can handle it. The most important part about this option is the antialiasing. Antialiasing renders a scene at a bigger size, then scales it down, making edges smoother and more precise.

Your Anisotropic filter setting is nested in your graphics preferences:
Edit > Preferences > Graphics tab > Hardware Options button, Filtering check box

Once you have clicked the Hardward Options button (bottom right of Graphics tab window) a new window will pop open with your Hardware Settings.

In Hardware Settings, to activate your antialiasing and get rid of the jagged edges when taking pictures, adjust:

  • Filtering: Ensure that check box here is selected/active.
  • Antialiasing: Move from the disabled position to 2x, 4x, 8x, 16x – this is dependent on the capacity of your graphics card. For the average person, 4x will suffice.

Click ‘OK’.

I admit to not always using antialiasing in my pictures because it slows down my computer quite a bit and makes me crash … or just makes my whole screen black, resulting in a need to reboot in order to fix it.

You may want to systematically go through each Antialiasing magnification (“x”) setting one-by-one, starting with 2x, to see which is best suited to your computer.

Most people will notice that after 4x they can barely notice any difference at all. This option will greatly assist you  in getting rid of the jagged edges on your avatar – especially when doing closeups for skin reviews.

Don’t forget! Once you’re all done taking photos, go back and uncheck the filtering button and reduce your graphics back to your usual settings, since you won’t need high resolution for day-to-day activities.

Screen Resolution

Snapshot Preview
Click thumbnail to enlarge

Settings aside, now is the time to focus on the big picture.

To ensure a quality image, the snapshot you take should be at least 2 to 3 times greater than your computer screen resolution. The more the better.

For example:

  • My screen resolution is: 1440 × 900
  • I shoot photos at: 4000 x 2355 or 5000 x 2944

The higher the resolution, the better quality your picture. Reducing the image size will create visuals with jagged edges.

Advanced Menu

High-res snapshot
Click thumbnail to enlarge

Another option for improving your image quality is located in the ‘Advanced’ Menu.

To activate your Advanced menu, you must simultaneously press your Ctrl+Alt+D keys. Once pressed, you will notice that another top menu option will appear at the end of your top menu bar.

In the Advanced menu you will make sure that “High-res Snapshot” is checked (indicated by an “X” to show as active).

Note: You can also check  “Quiet Snapshots to Disk” which will turn off the snapshot sound effect, allowing you to take photos quietly and discreetly. Activating the Quiet Snapshots to Disk feature does not affect the quality of your picture.

Setting the Scene

Keep in mind that it’s not just about ensuring you have the optimum graphics and resolution settings, and then hitting the snapshot button (Ctrl+Shift+S) and *voila!* you’re done. If you put a little time and thought into the planning of the picture before hitting the snapshot button, your efforts will really show in the composition of your final product.

When I decide on an outfit or look that I want to shoot, I first think about how blog readers will experience it.  I may ask myself if I want to shoot it on a plain white background – which is fabulous for blogging because you really do want the outfit to show up appropriately and stand out. However, after a while that can get a bit boring and it might not keep your audience as interested or excited about what you are trying to show them.

So I might try to find a sim to shoot at that might go with the theme of the outfit I am wearing. Or sometimes I go on xstreet to look for an interesting texture to use as a background which can really make things pop and a little less boring.

Once I’ve decided on location and background, I pick the pose and/or furniture and decor that would best suit my look and make the pictures more exciting and come to life.

Whatever I do decide to do in the end, I want to make sure it is not overpowering or taking away from the outfit. Because after all, as a fashion blogger, my main goal is to let the outfit speak for itself.

Windlight Settings

WindLight is a revolutionary atmospheric lighting and rendering system within Second Life that can assist photographers of all skill levels to create stunning visuals. What does that all mean? You have a powerful mood-setting tool at your disposal. Take advantage of it!

  • Second Skin Labs Downloads
    These are the windlight settings I have downloaded and installed. This is a great download because it consists of all the best settings out there all in one file which you just click and it installs itself without much fuss.
  • Windlight Wiki Page
    More information about Windlight, an introduction and FAQs

Due to the creativity and generosity of many members of our photography community, you have a selection of resident-created Windlight presets to choose from and experiment with. Many have made their presets available for download or shared some tricks and tips on their blogs.

Here are some Windlight resources that I have found to be very useful:

To conclude, once you have decided on your look, set up the scene, increased your graphics settings and chosen the perfect Windlight preset  go ahead and hit that Snapshot button!

For now, sit tight until next tutorial tomorrow: cleaning up your pictures using Photoshop.

Thanks for reading! <3

» You can view all of my current tutorials and see coming titles on my tutorials page.

Strawberry Singh

Strawberry Singh has been a virtual world resident since 2007. She is a virtual worlds explorer, blogger and vlogger.

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