Category Archives: HiQ photography

HiQ photos 7: Portraits

I really love to take photos InWorldz and to try to make them look as good as possible. There are some easy things to learn how to improve the quality of your photos. If you haven’t read my old articles about high quality photography you find the links here to the left.

I mostly do landscapes and try to document the places I like the most in here. In future articles I will try to dig into how to make as good landscape photos as possible but before that I will dig into another object for my photography passion…. portraits. Below you can see a few example of my portraits and below then I will give you the first of my best tips to be successful in making nice portraits.

The main things for making good portraits are composition and lighting. I will talk about lighting in a later article so lets focus on composition right now.

First you have to be able to control the situation you are going to do your photography in. To do that many photographers prefer to work in a studio, both in RL and IW. As you can control the lighting IW there is really no need for the studio, I find it better to use a “natural” surounding so i have a list of landmarks to great places for photography.

The other thing you have to control is the model… and that might be trickier as there have been a lot off effort put in them to make them move at random, nice moving AO:s and all those things. Sometimes it works just to focus with the camera and take snapshots all the time and hope for the best. But most of the time it is easier to take control and arrange the set to your liking. Anyhow that is often more predictable and a faster way to work.

The main thing is the eyes, as the head often follows where the eyes goes. So I have made a tool called “Us Portrait Ball” that lets you get full control over the eyes of the model. Look at the photo below and you can spot the green ball between myself and Anna. I the top right corner you can see a menu controlling the ball.

It works like this:

1. Rezz the ball in front of the model. A menu will appear on your screen.
2. Ask the model to hold the ALT- key and click with the left button on the ball. This will lock her eyes on the ball.
3. Focus your camera on the model.
4. Use the menu buttons to move the ball, left-right, up-down, back-forward, and the eyes of the model will follow until you have the perfect angle for your camera.
5. The Ball automatically shuts off the scripts after 5 min, so that you don’t leave it on unintentionally. Just click the ball to start the scripts again.

With this tool it is easy to control where the model looks and that is the first part of the composition posts.

If you are interested in this tool you can buy it at the vendors in:
secondlife://Alinja/153/116/22

HiQ photos, 6: The Gimp

Many people don’t have the funds necessary for buying Photoshop and end up using a cracked (and possibly infected) illegal copy or some really bad editing solutions.

However there is a completely legal and really good quality alternative available for you. This article tries to recreate the workflow I showed in an earlier article about working with Photoshop but with this alternative instead.

The Gimp is a free (as in no cost) open source tool very similar to Photoshop and you can do almost anything you can with Photoshop in in a similar way. It also has the same kind of tools and is organized in the same way. With the proper training you can achieve the same quality with a program that costs…… nothing more than your effort.

There are versions for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux and translations exists for many languages… like my native Swedish and Gimp automatically adjust to the language preferences on your computer and shows up with the right language. It is therefore very easy to shift from Swedish to English like i just did for the snapshots in this article, that is much more difficult in Photoshop.

If you are on a Mac like I am, the Gimp runs under the X11.window system and that makes it a bit harder to install than a normal Mac program. There are some special packaging made for Mac by third parties, so if you have these problems you can go with for example Gimpshop.
(Let me know if you get stuck and I will try to help you.)

You can download The Gimp here:
http://www.gimp.org/

One other advantage that The Gimp has over Photoshop is that it is very easy to make your own short keys for all the tasks you normally do. As I work both in Photoshop and in The Gimp I have tried to make The Gimp behave as close to Photoshop as possible. If you look at the photo above  you can see where you do these settings and below you can read what short keys I have set in there.

Resize: alt + cmd + S
Layers: cmd + L
Contrast: cmd + K
Saturation: cmd + U
Brush tool: B
Crop tool: C
and so on……

In the rest of the article I will use those shortcuts above, but if you do not change them they will be completely different.

There are many different way to do the same tasks in both Photoshop and in The Gimp. In a later post I will explain about the adjustment layers and other wonderful tools. But today the focus is how to make your photos stand out in the quickest possible way. The steps below might seem complicated at first but i don’t spend more than 1-2 minutes in Photoshop for every photo that prepare for the web and you will soon be that quick to…. and believe me… it is worth every minute!

1. Start The Gimp and open your snapshot.

2. Crop the photo. It is important to try to focus on what we want to say in the photo and get rid of other distraction things and let the eye have an easy path for understanding the photo. With the HiQ setting we now have a much bigger resolution to work with. A normal photo now can be like in this example 2880 x 1704 pixels and normally we don’t want bigger photos that 800 pixels on the longest side for photos intended for a blog or the forum of InWorldz. That gives us plenty of space to play with.

Press C to activate the crop tool. Put the mouse arrow in the upper left corner of the desired area hold down the mouse button and drag to the lower right hand corned. Let go of the mouse button when you have the right area selected. If you made a mistake just press ESC and redo it once more. If you want to have an even square, then hold down the shift-key and drag with the mouse. This  is perfect if you plan to post at flickr for example, because square photos looks best there.

3. Levels. Often the photos from InWordlz gets exposed wrong in the parts of the photo that we think are the important ones. After the crop it is time to adjust the exposure. The easiest way is to do that with a tool called Levels.

Bring up the Level window with the short key Ctrl-L (PC) or CMD-L (Mac). Often there is no info staples at the rightmost part like in this image. The photo is badly exposed in photo language. If so drag the rightmost handle to the left until it touches the staples of black. Sometimes you need to do the same at with the left handle and drag it so it touches the first information staples. Lastly you might have to adjust the middle tones with the handle in the middle to make the exposure perfect.

I hope you see the difference between those two images before and after. I happens very often that photos from InWorldz gets this way and are wrongly exposed in my opinion. Now you know a good trick to fix that…  😉

4. Saturation. Many photos will look washed out, pale and uninteresting right out of InWorldz. To increase saturation a little bit is an easy way to give them more “punch”.
Open the Saturation window with the short key Ctrl-U (PC) and CMD-U (Mac). In the lower part you find the slider for saturation. I often use +20 increase in The Gimp or so. Look at the photo below to see the difference to the one above.

5. Make the final size. I normally choose 800 pixel at the longest size, that works good on Flickr, blogs and forums. If it is already smaller than that then that’s so… just leave it. Never make a photo bigger without special tools.
Call up the size tool with the shortcuts Ctrl-Alt-S (PC) CMD-Alt-S (Mac). Now be sure that the link tool (marked by the red  arrow here) is turned on so that the proportions don’t gets changed. Then enter 800 in the field with the highest number and click the Scale button.

6. Sharpen it. This is always the final step and must be done after the photo is in its final size. For my RL photos i need something better but for InWorldz  snapshotsthe built-in tool unsharp mask is good enough. You find that tool in the menu Filters/Enhance/Unsharp Mask.

Settings: Amount=0.50 (if you get white borders like sugar crust at hight contrast areas, then lower to 0.4),  Radius= 5.0, Threshold= 0…… thats it. Press OK when it looks good.

7. Save your masterpiece! Normally you should save in a non compression format like PNG. BUT!!! The forum only accepts JPG-files and only up to a size of 250 KB and that means that if your files are supposed to be posted in the forum you have to save them as JPG and lower the quality to maybe 10, so that the filesize is below the 250 KB limit.

Call up the save as dialogue with the short key Shift-Ctrl-S. When I am done with a photo i normally save it in a dedicated folder called, Blog, Forum or Out, so that i easily can track what photos are post processed and so on. I also change the filename and ad something like out to the name to further make that clear.

Change the Format to PNG, but if it is intended for the forum change to JPG instead and press Save. With JPG you have to click the Export button in the following Export dialogue to get to the quality dialogue. Be sure that the show preview is click in to show the file size and drag the quality slider so you get a file size just below 250 KB and press Save!

Look below to see the final result of our effort and compare to what we started with.

Now compare with the result from Photoshop…. nice huh…  how many 100 dollars (ponds/euros) did we save there?
So the next time you are using the free Gimp instead of expensive Photoshop or some really bad tool… think a nice thought about me…   ;o)

If you have endured all this way…. WOW… you are really wanting to make great photos!!! Now save those photos for the upcoming photo contest to be announced soon!

HiQ photos, 5: Photoshop

There are many different way to do the same tasks in both Photoshop and in The Gimp. In a later post I will explain about the adjustment layers and other wonderful tools. But today the focus is how to make your photos stand out in the quickest possible way. The steps below might seem complicated at first but i don’t spend more than 1-2 minutes in Photoshop for every photo that prepare for the web and you will soon be that quick to…. and believe me… it is worth every minute!

1. Start Photoshop and open your snapshot.

2. Crop the photo. It is important to try to focus on what we want to say in the photo and get rid of other distraction things and let the eye have an easy path for understanding the photo. With the HiQ setting we now have a much bigger resolution to work with. A normal photo now can be like in this example 2880 x 1704 pixels and normally we don’t want bigger photos that 800 pixels on the longest side for photos intended for a blog or the forum of InWorldz. That gives us plenty of space to play with.

Press C to activate the crop tool. Put the mouse arrow in the upper left corner of the desired area hold down the mouse button and drag to the lower right hand corned. Let go of the mouse button when you have the right area selected. If you made a mistake just press ESC and redo it once more. If you want to have an even square, then hold down the shift-key and drag with the mouse. This  is perfect if you plan to post at flickr for example, because square photos looks best there.

3. Levels. Often the photos from InWordlz gets exposed wrong in the parts of the photo that we think are the important ones. After the crop it is time to adjust the exposure. The easiest way is to do that with a tool called Levels.

Bring up the Level window with the short key Ctrl-L (PC) or CMD-L (Mac). Often there is no info staples at the rightmost part like in this image. The photo is badly exposed in photo language. If so drag the rightmost handle to the left until it touches the staples of black. Sometimes you need to do the same at with the left handle and drag it so it touches the first information staples. Lastly you might have to adjust the middle tones with the handle in the middle to make the exposure perfect.

I hope you see the difference between this images and how they looked before. I happens very often that photos from InWorldz gets this way and are wrongly exposed in my opinion. Now you know a good trick to fix that…  😉

4. Saturation. Many photos will look washed out, pale and uninteresting right out of InWorldz. To increase saturation a little bit is an easy way to give them more “punch”.
Open the Saturation window with the short key Ctrl-U (PC) and CMD-U (Mac). In the middle you find the slider for saturation. I often use +15 increase or so. Look at the photo below to see the difference to the one above

5. Make the final size. I normally choose 800 pixel at the longest size, that works good on Flickr, blogs and forums. If it is already smaller than that then that’s so… just leave it. Never make a photo bigger without special tools.

Call up the size tool with the shortcuts Ctrl-Alt-S (Photoshop CS3) Ctrl-Alt-I (Photoshop CS5). Change Ctrl to CMD on the Mac. Now be sure that the link tool (marked by the red  arrow here) is turned on so that the proportions don’t gets changed. Then enter 800 in the field with the highest number and click OK.

6. Sharpen it. This is always the final step and must be done after the photo is in its final size. I have a plugin for this. It is called Photokit sharpener but it is a bit expensive. For my RL photos i need this but for InWorldz the built-in tool unsharp mask is good enough. You find that tool in the menu Filter/Sharpen/Unsharp Mask.

Settings: Amount=300 – 400 (if you get white borders like sugar crust at hight contrast areas, then lower to 300),  Radius= 0,3, Treshold= 0…… thats it. Press OK when it looks good.

7. Save your masterpiece! Normally you should save in a non compression format like PNG. BUT!!! The forum only accepts JPG-files and only up to a size of 250 KB and that means that if your files are supposed to be posted in the forum you have to save them as JPG and lower the quality to maybe 10, so that the file size is below the 250 KB limit.

Call up the save as dialogue with the short key Shift-Ctrl-S (PC) and Shift-CMD-S (Mac). When I am done with a photo i normally save it in a dedicated folder called, Blog, Forum or Out, so that i easily can track what photos are post processed and so on. I also change the filename and ad something like out to the name to further make that clear.

Change the Format to PNG, but if it is intended for the forum change to JPG instead and press Enter. With JPG you get the quality dialogue now. Drag the quality slider so you get a file size just below 250 and press Save!

Below you can see the final result of our work… please compare that to what we started with…   ;o)

If you have endured all this way…. WOW… you are really wanting to make great photos!!! Now save those photos for the upcoming photo contest to be announced soon!

HiQ photos, 4: InWorldz viewer

I got some emails from people using the InWorldz viewer. They had trouble finding some of the setting I have been going on about. They are still there but in a bit different places. So first I checked if there was a new version available and to my surprise i found the the current version is dated back in May…

However I logged in with the InWorldz viewer and took the snapshop below of where to find those settings that are a bit different.

1. You have to use the advanced menu. Look on top of the menu bar and see if you have the Advanced menu activated.

2. If not…. press the shortcut combination Ctrl-Alt-D on PC and newer Mac:s (but Opt-Ctrl-D on older Mac:s)…. Voila… it appears… hopefully!

3. Enable High-res Snapshots by clicking on the line the red arrow points at

4. When you have shot a snapshot and the Snapshot Preview window pops up (to the left above) it might look smaller than on my screenshots in part 3 of these posts. That is the same for both Imprudence and for the InWorldz viewer.

5. Then you have to click the more button where the red arrow points at, to make the window bigger and to be able to do the Save settings from the previous blog post (look below).

Let me know if you still have some problems. Now the big question for the next part is… shall we start with Photoshop or The Gimp? I wonder what is mostly used InWorldz?

I also received a question in the forum:

Us, I followed your instructions on your blog about this and I changed the settings just as you said and my screen went black. I quickly went back to the default settings and my screen was still black. I had to relog to get things back to normal. I was using the IW viewer. Any idea what went wrong?

I forgot to mention in the post that this sometimes happens when you change the Hardware settings. I looks horrible but there is a very simple fix for it…. Just drag the Quality and performance slider all the way to the left, wait for things come back to the screen, and then drag it all the way back to the right again. Sorry for forgetting to mention this… ;o)

Us

HiQ photos, 3: Saving

In part 2 we looked at the settings in the client for getting the highest possible quality of the photos. Now we will take a snapshot and learn how to save them on the harddrive of your computer for further work.

Normally I take my photos using the shortcut Shift-Cmd-S on my Mac. On the PC you will use the shortcut Shift-Ctrl-S instead.

1. Look around you and locate a nice object, a scenery, an animal or a gorgeous avatar… ;o)

2. Use the shortcut from above to take the snapshot

3. A popup window like the one below will apear

4. Locate the Snapshot destination box on top of the window and click Save to your harddrive

5. In the lower half where the second red arrows points you will have to check the box with High resolution snapshot
Unfortunately this setting resets every time you logout so you have to do that for every photosesssion while all the other settings stuck.

6. Now you have to click the Refresh Snapshot button below the thumbnail image to resample the image with this higher resolution.

7. Normally the client saves your snapshot in a compressed JPEG-format but that is not good enough for us, so we have to change that as well.

8. Click the Format button in the middle of the window and select PNG-format from the drop down menu.

9. Lastly we have to tell the client where to save our photos. Click the Save button just below the thumbnail image and select Save as. A window like below will apear…

This is what it looks on a Mac and it will look rather different if you are on a Pc or on Linux. I will boot up my Ubunto and Pc computers and take those screendumps any day soon if you have problems finding out how it works. Just let me know.

The point is to select a folder with a good name where you dump all your photos at first. I call that folder Snapshots… because thats exactly what they are.  I am a dedicated RL photographer as well so I have the habit to take huge amount of photos. In RL they are in RAW format (think 20 MB each) and in SL they are in high quality png format instead of simple jpg’s.

Advice! Separate the photographic session from the editorial post work. Concentrate first on taking many photos from different angles with different lightings and just let them pile up in your snapshot folder on your harddrive. See how a RL photographer works with taking many 100 snapshots in one sesssion. When you think you might have something there it is time for selecting the goodies.

The files in my example have grown from about 150 KB as the standard snapshot size to up to about 5 MB. That is beacuse the files now contain a lot more valuble information that can be used to enhanced your photos a great deal. But the important thing now is to be decisive and select the few really great ones and be cold hearted enough to erase all the others.

Have you heard the frase “it is hard to kill your own darlings“…. now is the time to practice that and just trow 97 out of 100 great photos!
When I have done a photo session I move the few good ones to a folder named Selected and then erase all others in the Snapshot folder to be prepared for the next session.

I next episod we will look what to do with the 2-3 really good selected photos that now are of the highest possible quality!

HiQ photos, 2: Settings

This first post on the High Quality photography subject will focus on how to set the client to get the best raw material from your photography attempts. No matter how good you are in Photoshop or The Gimp, if the photos you take are of a bad technical level, you might be able to enhance them a bit but they will never be great.

I normally use the Imprudence client for InWorldz so the photos below are from Imprudence. I also prefer Mac to Pc so most of the screenshots might look just a little bit odd for you PC-folks. Let me know if you use InWorldz client or Windows or Linux and have problems finding the settings in there.

In this and all the following tutorials I will be using a lot of shortcut key combinations as I prefer that. Normally you can find menu choices for doing the same things.

Follow these steps:

1. Open the Preferences with the shortkeys Ctrl-P (Pc) or Cmd-P (Mac)

2. Go to the graphics tab in the Preferences. Depending on your computer and your graphics card you will have set the graphics preferences to something your computer normally can handle. To get the best possible photos we have to get close to thet limit and that means you have to reset the settings back to normal after the photosession.

Look at the photo below and set graphics settings Quality and performance slider to max (if your computer can handle it for a short while). See the red arrow in the upper part in the image below. If you have problems with this try to lower the max drawing distance to lets say 96 meters. (In Imprudence you can do this with the quick command  in the local chat with the command DD 96 if your computer becomes very unresponsive)I normally use a rather good Macbook Pro and even then I dont normally use these setting because I prefer a responsive and smooth word when I am building and so on. But when I take photos I go all the way to the most extreme….

(If your Graphic settings page might look a bit smaller than this, then look if you have the custom checkbox to the right of the top arrow clicked in)

3. Click on the button for Hardware settings. In the image above you see a red arrow in the lower part of the image above. Click on the Hardware settings button to open the window below.

4. Click in the Anistropic Filtering checkbox and change the Antialiasing dropdown to 16 times. Both these settings gives less jagged images and smother drawing at a distance. On my computer I can use these setting all the time in low lag Sims, but normally i have to switch them on when I am about to take photos and then switch them back after the photosession.

5. Click OK in the Hardware settings window and then OK in the Preferences window

Attention! Sometimes when you do this the screen becomes all black! Dont panic even if it looks horrible… your screen is not broken and  there is a very simple fix for it…. Just drag the Quality and performance slider all the way to the left, wait for things come back to the screen, and then drag it all the way back to the right again.

Well done!

Now we have set up our computer and graphics card to give the best possible image from InWordlz on the screen.
In the next episode will will take a snapshot and save it to the computers harddrive in the best possible quality!

Us

High Quality photography, part 1

I do a lot of photography both in virtual worlds and in real life. Quite often people comment my photos from InWorldz and ask about what I do to get them to stand out like that. Some of the techniques are the same in both worlds and some are different and depending on the virtual world the client and what graphic editing program you are using.

In a few blog posts i will try to share my best tips for getting the best quality out of your virtual photos from InWorldz. This will be a simple step-by-step guide, but beware that you have to aim for the best quality possible to stand all these steps…. ;o)

There are really four separate steps.

  1. The settings in the client
  2. The composition and use of light and angles
  3. The snapshot and saving of the files
  4. The afterwork in the graphical program like Gimp or Photoshop

I will explain both how to use Photoshop and also Gimp as that is an OpenSource and free of cost alternative and that can produce photos of similar quality.

But lets start from the beginning….
Take a close look at the two photos below:

The first one is just a normal snapshot as they come out of the Imprudence viewer with the normal settings and just some crop in the graphical program. The second example is with the settings I use and some specific afterwork in Photoshop in this case. Hopefully you can spot the difference in colours, clarity and the level of details. Look at the wooden stand inside and how the diagonal lines look and look at the details on the floor.

If you don’t see any significant difference here… you better stop reading here and go and do something useful… ;o)

If you on the other hand see something interesting and gets curious about how this is done… stay tuned. Next I will start with Step 1: The settings in the client

Take care/ Us