Snapshot tips and tricks!

Xanthe's Snapshot tips and tricks!

So a lot of the questions I get asked have something to do with my photos, and since I just hit 500 followers on Tumblr (yay!) I thought I’d try and answer all your questions in one helpful post! So I’ll show you how I edit my photos for all of my posts as well as include some info on how you can get better quality snapshots and I’ve even made 4 photoshop actions you can download and have a play around with for your own snapshots!

I’m not an expert at all, nor did I take any classes. All of these tips and tricks were found out through experimentation and looking at online tutorials!

1. Taking a photo!

So maybe you’re new to SL, new to the blogging/photography game or just want to take nice photos to show your friends what you get up to on your SLadventures. Maybe you don’t know how to take snapshots or maybe you do but they always end up looking…off? Well taking a snapshot is easy, you just press the camera button and hit save. But for taking a high-quality, high resolution snapshot, you’re gonna have to hit a few more buttons!

Which brings me onto tip number 1. Bigger is better.

When you’re taking a snapshot using the camera button, you should see a drop down menu. Click that and hit ‘custom’ and you’ll be able to type in your own figures. I normally go anywhere from 4000-6000px wide then save it as a .PNG. It’ll be a huge image but when you scale it down, you’ll be losing less detail than if you were to just take it with your default screen size.

An alternative I like to use for waist-up shots is the High-res snapshot option. The great thing about this hidden little option is that it automatically takes a snapshot at 4 times your default screen size! You cannot use this function through the camera button though, you have to press ‘ctrl+~’ and you’ll get a dialogue box asking where to save etc. Then you can just hotkey away and take a bunch of photos without fiddling around with values in the phototools!

To get to this option you’ll need to delve into your advanced settings a bit, but don’t worry, it’s easy peasy!

Go into your preferences and find the advanced tab. Then make sure that ‘show advanced menu’ is checked and it should bring up a new menu up where your ‘world’ and ‘communications’ menus are!

Go into your fancy new advanced menu and check ‘High-res snapshot’. Once that’s ticked just press ‘Ctrl + ~’ for effortless snapshots!

Protip: Quiet snapshot stops that loud camera noise and automatic smiling when you take a photo!

The reason I only use this function for waist-up shots is because you can get a much higher resolution by typing in your values manually, but you can’t deny that this saves a bunch of time and effort. Just check out the difference it makes!

2. Ew, pixels

If you’re still not happy with the amount of pixelly-ness your photos have, there are a few things you can alter in your graphics settings. Go to Preferences -> Graphics -> Advanced and then hit the hardware button at the bottom. Here you can use the drop down menu next to anti-aliasing to smooth out the edges of objects and your avatar. You can choose 2x, 4x or 16x anti-aliasing depending on how fast your computer is. I normally run fine on 2x.

Here’s another tip! Increasing the texture memory slider makes textures stay crisp and clear longer while you’re preparing a photo. There’s nothing more frustrating than when you have the perfect shot but a tree texture goes blurry just as you’re about to take the photo!

So now that we have all the technicalities out of the way, and you know how to take a snapshot. Let’s bring it into Photoshop and give it some oomph!

Editing Photos, Xanthe style

Now some people prefer to leave their photos raw, and that’s cool. But I have a crappy little laptop that can’t handle amazing graphics too well so I feel like I have to give my snapshots a little helping hand to look halfway decent. For this little walkthrough, I’ll be using Photoshop CC (which is pretty much CS6 but for the Creative cloud) but you can use most photo editing programs like Gimp and Sai etc.

So here’s the photo I’ll be editing today. It’s the vendor photo for Junbug’s dress at this round of Enchantment. I’ll be blogging it soon so you’ll see the rundown of it later! But this is a raw shot taken at 4000px with shadows enabled but there are a few things I wanna fix first.

Oooh fancy gifs!

When I’m out and about taking photos in other sims, I have to have the bare minimum when taking photos. Because of this, my shadows are kinda gross lookin’ because I can’t turn on Ambient Occlusion without crashing a billion times. So I just like to grab the blur tool and smooth it out a bit. A little word of advice though, don’t blur the edges of your avatar, it’ll ruin all that effort you put into taking the high quality shot anyway!

Once I’ve made my shadows less-gross, I like to add some depth with with the burn and dodge tools. I won’t go too much into these because Strawberry Singh, the queen of photography herself has a great tutorial on dodging and burning!

Now the avatar mesh isn’t fantastic, there are lost of bumps and creases that affect the realism of your photos. But this is easily fixed by using the liquefy tool! In Photoshop CC, just go to Filters -> Liquefy. In Photoshop elements it’s under Filters -> Distort -> Liquefy. Just push and pull the edges until you can no longer see gross elbow creases!

An optional thing I like to do sometimes is add whispy hair strands! For me, they’re the part I have the most fun with (I don’t know why either). I use these brushes by Para-vine on deviant art for Photoshop but they’re also available in a format compatible with Gimp! I basically just swoosh it along the hair to create flyways on about 80% opacity and using colours already present in the hair.

Another thing I like to do is add extra shadows under the chin to frame the face by taking a big fluffy brush on 10% opacity and a new layer set to multiply. It’s also good for when you don’t have shadows enabled on your viewer but you still want it to look as if you do! Sneaky sneaky.

The last thing to do before blurring the background and create depth of field is to scale it down from the massive size it currently is! I normally scale mine down to 1122px high. Since blurring the background is a lot more effective on smaller sized photos.

Aaand then finally I blur the background so that the main focus is the outfit and not the pretty pretty flowers. I prefer adding depth of field in photoshop because I have  a lot more control over it than turning it on in world (plus sometimes DOF in world can look a little blobby).

That’s it! Click here to see the finished image and I hope this helped give you a little insight as to what my photos go through before they’re published.

Last but not least

Click here

to download my custom photoshop actions! They’re fun to experiment with. You’ll have to google how to install them on your version of Photoshop because it does vary from version to version.

But again, thank you everyone for your constant support. Nothing makes me happier than seeing you guys enjoy what I do so these little milestone gifts are the least I can do in exchange.

Lots of love and cuddles!


Xanthe’s Windlights

Xanthe's WindlightsHey everyone! I’d like to start off by saying thank you all so much for following, reading or even just visiting my blog. Blogging is my absolute passion and you guys really make all my efforts worthwhile. So as a gift for helping me to reach 400 Followers on Tumblr, I’ve made 6 custom Windlights for you to use freely!

They’re very light and airy and some are quite misty but you’re welcome to edit them as you please. I’ll outline a little bit below what I like to use them for, click the names to see how they look in a few of my photos!

Lavandare – A lavender coloured light with a bright sun. Great for outdoor or scenery but also makes for a dramatic studio light.

Windows – A purpley Windlight originally created to be shone through a window. A more intense colour than Lavandare.

Toasty – A misty Autumnal light, ideal for outdoors and makes use of warm sepia tones.

Hazy Daze – A very bright and misty Windlight to make your photos look like worn, pastel, vintage shots!

Cold Shoulder – Another very misty Windlight in chilly blue tones, looks gorgeous in snowy areas.

Flawlessness – A Windlight that displays your avatar in all it’s glory. Hides all the avatar creases and lines that come with the default setting and is ideal for use with tinting items. I often run around the grid in this windlight with nothing but Basic and Atmospheric shaders on. Shadows will not work with this light.


Installing your Windlights

Installing your shiny new Windlights is as simple as unzipping the files and dragging the .XMLs into your chosen viewer’s ‘skies’ folder. To find the correct folder just search for the following;

Mac: ~/Library/Application Support/SecondLife/user_settings/windlight/skies

Windows Vista & 7: C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Roaming\SecondLife\user_settings\windlight\skies

Windows XP: C:\Documents and Settings\USERNAME\Application Data\SecondLife\user_settings\windlight\skies

Linux: ~/.secondlife/user_settings/windlight/skies/

If you’re using a 3rd party viewer like Firestorm for example, follow the same steps but click ‘Firestorm’ instead of ‘SecondLife’. You will need to install these windlights on all viewers you use.

Changing and editing your Windlights

To change your Windlights inworld, click World -> Environment editor -> Environment settings. Make sure that you have ‘Fixed sky’ and ‘Customize my environment’ ticked and the dropdown containing all your installed windlights will be available. Then it’s as simple as choosing your favourite!

To edit or create new Windlights, click sky presets -> Edit preset and choose the preset you would like to edit. Changing the name of an edited preset will save it as a copy so you don’t accidentally overwrite your preset and have to install it again.

The ‘Atmosphere’ tab is good for changing the colour of the sky and the fogginess. The ‘Lighting’ tab allows you to change the colour of the sun, the time of day it is and the angle at which the light will be directed and finally, the ‘Clouds’ tab will let you change the colour of the clouds and how much they move across the sky.

Just experiment! You might discover a combination that makes you see the whole grid in a new…well.. light!

My favourite Windlights

As for my graphics settings. I never go above mid (because I have a very slow computer…). For just exploring the grid I only have Basic and Atmospheric shaders on and for taking photos outdoors I only have Basic, Atmospheric, Bump & Shiny, Hardware skinning and Adv lighting. But if I’m in the studio then I can turn shadows on as well.

I hope this helps you and thank you all again! You guys are awesome