Distinguished Aesthetics

unabashed commentary & reviews by a gentleman of the grid

Basics of Second Life Photography & Resources

[click image for larger view]


I am by no means a serious photographer in SL, but I do enjoy taking photos and every so often a miracle occurs and I manage to snap a decent shot. I will provide below some very simple advice on improvements that can be made over default settings and information. And finally, I will provide you with some resources to those who know far more than I; and I strongly urge you to learn the finer points of SL photography from them.

Viewer & Camera Controls

The Quick Setting Adjustments that follows is for SL Viewer 1.2x or Emerald 1.2x. If you have SL Viewer 2.x, please use various help resources to locate the same settings. I use a Logitech gamepad for my controls instead of keyboard and standard mouse — please view the help resources regarding camera controls for your viewer. Thank you for understanding.

Quick Setting Adjustments

Advanced Menu

Turn on Advanced Menu:  < Ctrl  +  Alt  +  D >.

X High-res Snapshot (this option ONLY works when saving your snapshots to disk).

X Quiet Snapshots to Disk.

X Disable Camera Restraints

[Advanced Menu Settings]

Edit Menu

The extent to which you can modify your settings will depend on your graphics card(s) and the speed of your computer, as well as your Internet connection. Be aware that you should test these settings after making updates — you may crash… this is relatively normal and indicates that you need to move some sliders to the left. If you do not crash, congratulations, you are good to go!

Edit> Preferences> Graphics.

Check off Custom.

Quality and Performance: slide to Ultra.

Draw Distance: this will depend on what you are shooting and how much you want in view. Start at 256 m.

Shaders, Reflection Detail, Avatar Rendering, etc.: Turn it all on and max it all out, then see what happens.

Lighting Detail: Either Sun and moon only or Nearby local lights, depending on the effect you want. Experiment for your shot.

[Edit Menu Settings (click image for larger view)]

Hardware Options: Anisotropic Filtering should be checked, and Antialiasing a minimum of 4X.

Click Apply then OK and hope you don’t crash.  It may take several minutes for your monitor to “settle”.

[Hardware Options (click image for larger view)]

Snapshot Basics


File> Take Snapshot

Click More >> for the full menu

Snapshot Destination

Send via email: great for friends and family or reference.

Save to inventory: this will reduce your L$ balance by L$10 for each photo taken, AND the quality will NOT be as high as if you had saved to your hard drive.

Save to your hard drive: this is the setting you wish so that you can further tweak in Photoshop if you like or choose and upload your favourites among many.

[Snapshot Settings]


The bigger the better but your graphics card may produce some rendering quirks with higher resolutions — experiment, experiment.


PNG for best quality


Check Keep open after saving if you like to use the Snapshot Preview.

< Ctrl  +  ` > will snap a photo when the Snapshot Preview window is closed.

Refresh Snapshot (from the Snapshot Preview window) is very useful for trying take that perfect shot (i.e. clouds are moving, sun is setting, a dance is ongoing, eyes are blinking etc.)

Do not be surprised if your computer crashes after taking a series of snapshots — this is, sadly, normal, although becoming less frequent.


Windlight are atmosphere settings (like filters), modifying water, sky and the environs. If you do not have Photoshop or simply wish to take advantage of these filters, exploring the infinite Windlight settings can prove to be a most enjoyable distraction.

If you are an Emerald user, you will quickly discover that you have dozens upon dozens of Windlight presets which will provide numerous engaging effects.

Your subject matter and your desired “look” will determine which Windlight settings are the most useful to you at any given time. This really comes down to experimentation. Do it often.

You can begin with no Windlight presets or one of the many available to you. Then, begin tweaking the settings and see how this affects your image.

[Windlight Settings]

Access your Windlight settings via the menu: World> Environment Settings. Access the Sky and Water settings for their advanced options.

[Advanced Sky Editor’s Lighting Tab (click image for larger view)]

Under Advanced Sky and Water Editor, drop down the Sky Presets list and enjoy the numerous presets within. The sky settings provide more obvious changes to the environment.

[Advanced Sky Editor’s Cloud Tab (click image for larger view)]

You can easily spend an entire evening or afternoon exploring the numerous presets under the Emerald viewer.

[Advanced Sky Editor’s Atmosphere Tab with Emerald Presets (click image for larger view)]

You can also fashion your own presets based on any available. Make sure you Save your custom preset. NOTE: If you need to reinstall your SL viewer, your custom presets will likely vanish — make sure you know where your viewer and computer’s operating system stores the presets so that you can back them up and copy them over after reinstalling your viewer.

Experiment with the sliders on the Advanced Editors — particularly Sky. There are three tabs of settings to explore — atmosphere, lighting and clouds. Find a quiet place to experiment with how modifying each aspect affects your view.

Don’t forget the Sun/Moon Position settings on the Advanced Sky Editor’s Lighting tab for even more tweaking.

And of course, take photos of anything interesting along the way.


Using a posing stand is very convenient for portraits or posing — whether in a studio setting or out and about. There are also very creative posing balls specifically for photography use.

[Syzygy Pyxis’ Photo Planetoid (click image for larger view)]

However, sometimes taking a photo of yourself can be difficult when your eyes seem to be roaming everywhere (they do follow your mouse cursor). To alleviate this issue, rez a cube (resize if you desire), drag it out of the image shot, but in the general direction of where you wish your avatar to be looking.

[Focus cube rezzed & moving into position with camera controls on standby (click image for larger view)]

< Alt > + Click the cube until your eyes are focused in the direction you desire.

[Focus cube clicked, time to move the camera (click image for larger view)]

Then use the camera controls ONLY to line up the shot. Take your photo.

[Resulting photo (click image for larger view)]

Furries generally do not need to concern themselves with eye focus. I’ve found the experience of taking photos as my fox self to be much easier than human. But sometimes even as human, the eyes, the pose and camera position are perfect without having to resort to a focus cube.

[What luck — no focus cube required (click image for larger view)]

Size is Everything

Take your photos as large as possible. Experiment a few times as your graphics card and computer may not be able to handle the size you set in the Snapshot Preview. If your computer cannot handle the size you set, you will notice things like black lines appearing in the resulting image, rendering issues especially where water is involved etc. Find the sweet spot and make a note of it.

[Some serious rendering issues involving submerged items (click image for larger view)]

Resize and/or crop photos in any capable graphics program. If you enjoy playing in applications such as Photoshop, you may enjoy embellishing the photos further with various filter effects.

Once you have created your masterpiece, publish your photo on the web or upload into SL. If you upload your photo into SL, be mindful of the photo size and ratio. The larger the photo (i.e. 2048 x 1024 vs 512 x 256), the longer the image will take to load when placed on a prim or in a book. However, quality also increases with larger photo sizes — again, find the optimum size for your purpose. When applying your photo to a prim, be mindful of the ratio so that the image doesn’t appear distorted. Placing a 512 x 256 image on a 1 x 1 prim surface will distort the image as the image’s original ratio is 2:1. Ensure that the prim surface bears the same ratio (i.e. is 2 x 1).

[NOT a 1:1 Ratio image, and therefore in need of prim resizing (click image for larger view)]

Stretch your prim with the white corner resizer handles as desired and then stretch the depth ONLY to make your canvas prim thinner.

[Stretching with the white corner resizer handles (click image for larger view)]

If you have a graphic that is oddly sized (i.e. 1052 x 746), create a base prim that is sized as a fraction of that (i.e. 1.052 x .1 x .746). The ratio will be perfect when you apply the photo to side 1 or 3 of a standard cube prim. Again, stretch via the white corner handles to size and then thin out the Y depth.

[A very oddly, 997 x 801 pixel, sized image (in fact, NEVER upload an image with an odd numbered pixel resolution) (click image for larger view)]

But wait, there’s more!

If you are taking photos for your profile or an advertisement, you will need to size the photo according to the ratio of the target display. For example, under SL Viewer 1.x and Emerald 1.x, the Profile tab’s picture has a ratio of 4:3. You will need to crop your image in a graphics program accordingly. Thusly, if you took a 1600 x 1200 photo in SL, that ratio is already 4:3, and you’re in luck. If, however, your photo was taken at 1680 x 997, you will need to crop this image to 1328 x 996 to comply with the 4:3 aspect ratio the profile picture demands. Mind your purpose before you begin taking photos. If you know you will need to crop your photo, account for this when lining up your shot.

[Cropping a full screen saved image in a graphics application (click image for larger view)]

Most photos are more visually appealing when the prim face upon which you’ve placed the image is set to Full Bright under the Texture tab of the object editor.

Experiment and have fun!


Torley’s Taking snapshots wiki page
Snapshot resources wiki page
Rezzable’s Tutorial: Optimizing Windlight for Second Life Photography
Ana Lutetia’s Tutorial: Windlight Presets and the new SL Viewer
Soigne’s Optimizing Windlight for Avatars 2.0
Gogo’s Updated Windlight Tutorial
The Chicken Diaries’ SL Photography Resources
Vint Falken’s Tutorials
SL Wiki on Windlight
Windlight Settings Galore
Torley’s aspect ratios
Aspect Ratios of Profile, Places, Classifieds etc.
Camera Controls
Elric Anatine’s Photosphere & Poses Information

If you are aware of any other wondrous SL photography related articles or blogs, please do let me know so that I might add their resource above. Thank you kindly.

Windlight Samples

Syzygy Selene: Grotto & Beach of Romance

[Default (click image for larger view)]

[Alchemy Immortalis – Fog Lifting (click image for larger view)]

[Canimod (click image for larger view)]

[Euphoria Monochrome (click image for larger view)]

[Nam’s Robots of Dawn (click image for larger view)]

[Rouge 5 (click image for larger view)]

[Starley Settings2 (click image for larger view)]

[TOR Deep Blue Sky2 (click image for larger view)]

[TOR Oriental Delight 2 (click image for larger view)]

[TOR Special Blacklight (click image for larger view)]

[Torrie Senne WL Settings (click image for larger view)]

Visit in world: Grotto & Beach of Romance

Syzygy Pyxis: Neko no Jinja

[Default (click image for larger view)]

[Rouge 4 (click image for larger view)]

[TOR Anime Ciel (click image for larger view)]

[TOR Arrakissed Variation (click image for larger view)]

[TOR Chouchou Rockets (click image for larger view)]

[TOR Das Fog (click image for larger view)]

[TOR Foggy Fogvari (click image for larger view)]

[TOR Lilack (click image for larger view)]

[TOR Slips Through Walls2 (click image for larger view)]

[TOR Sunset Warmer (click image for larger view)]

[An Experiment (click image for larger view)]

[Another Experiment (click image for larger view)]

Visit in world: Neko no Jinja

About The Author

Elric Anatine is an apothecary in Second Life with a penchant for exquisite apparel (especially canes), Victorian & Elegant Gothic (and inspired) fine fashions, and intoxicating absinthe. Within this blog will reside his reviews and thoughts regarding these very important topics.


8 Responses to “Basics of Second Life Photography & Resources”

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