Update: Although this is an old article, it is still relevant in 2022!
As many of you know, I’m a keen Second Life amateur photographer with loads of pics on my Flickr photostream and even more on my self-hosted gallery.
Along the way I have picked up a few useful techniques which I will share with you here.
First things first, if you haven’t read SL Wiki guide to high quality photography then you should have a read. Specifically on turning on the High Resolution Snapshots option and also Quiet Snapshots to Disk (which disables that annoying “click-whirr” sound effect that lets everyone know you have taken a pic)
As mentioned in the guide, whilst you can use the Camera Controls window (View -> Camera Controls) to control the camera, it’s very clumsy and imprecise. It is far better to use the mouse camera controls, as follows:
- Alt and clicking something focuses it to the centre of the screen.
- Alt and dragging the mouse zooms the camera.
- Alt+Ctrl and dragging orbits the camera.
- Alt+Ctrl+Shift and dragging pans the camera.
That may sound a little complex, but when you get used to it then it is amazingly intuitive and fast. It’s so natural to me now that I don’t even think of it when I use it.
Now, on to my tips.
Shoot from the hip
The first thing I use a lot, and I mean a LOT, is a technique that lets you shoot first and aim afterwards. As a Street Photographer who is always looking to capture that split-second ‘sneak attack’ moment this is really essential.
Take a snapshot using the Snapshot button on the bottom menu bar (on a 1.x Viewer) or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+S (under Windows). This brings up the Snapshot Preview window.
For my technique to work you must have the “Freeze frame (fullscreen preview)” checkbox ticked. And you should NOT have the “Auto-refresh” checkbox ticked.
So, with those checkboxes set up that way, take a snapshot and note that everything seems to be frozen in time. Now, move the camera around using the mouse controls I mentioned earlier… Yay! We have ‘Bullet Time’ from The Matrix!
Use the camera controls to reposition the camera angle so that everything is just how you want it and then click the “Refresh Snapshot” button. You can then save as normal.
Under some circumstances when taking snapshots of people, SL can glitch up and the person can move but all their attachments (including their hair) can stay still and it ruins the snapshot, but it happens rarely enough that this technique is still very useful.
The Dolly Zoom
If you know anything about film, you’ll be wondering what the Dolly Zoom (a.k.a. the “Hitchcock zoom”, “Vertigo effect”, “Jaws shot”, “zoom in / dolly out“, etc.) has to do with stills photography, but bear with me.
If you zoom right in on something in Second Life you’ll notice that everything gets a bit distorted and perspective is altered.
Now, not many people know that there are additional zoom controls accessed with the keyboard shortcuts Ctrl+0 (to zoom in) and Ctrl+8 to zoom out. Ctrl+9 resets it to normal.
One or two presses of Ctrl+0 will correct the distortion.
But there is more! And this is where the Dolly Zoom effect comes in. If you get a bit more extreme and press Ctrl+0 a few more times and then pull back with the Camera Controls (Alt+mouse as previously mentioned) then you get the characteristic foreshortening effect. This can give you some really interesting effects.
Don’t forget that when you are done to use Ctrl-9 to reset to normal.