Taking snapshots

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Inworld photography is one of the most popular hobbies inside Second Life, and getting started is as easy as clicking a single button. Do you want to photograph gorgeous scenes like this?

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This video tutorial from Torley, SL photography master, teaches you the essentials in less than three minutes:

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Take your first snapshots

  1. As shown in the video, in the Viewer's Advanced mode, simply click the Take snapshot (camera icon) button on your toolbar.
  2. In the SNAPSHOT PREVIEW window, choose Save to my computer.
  3. Click the Save button.
  4. A file browse window appears. Choose your location — like on your desktop — and save it there.

Now, each subsequent time you Save a snapshot during this session, it gets saved to the same location. If you want to change locations, click the triangle next to the Save button to choose Save As, or restart the Viewer.

You should also open the snapshot in your operating system to ensure it turned out as you expected.

KBtip2.png Tip: Snapshots saved to disk automatically have a number appended to them. For example, "Snapshot_001.png, Snapshot_002.png, Snapshot_003.png", and so on.

Use the Ctrl-` snapshot shortcut

There's a faster way than repeatedly clicking the toolbar's Snapshot button: press Ctrl+`. This bypasses the SNAPSHOT PREVIEW and saves to disk directly.

On PC keyboards with international characters this will not work.

Instead of ` use the key on the right side of key L.

On a Danish PC keyboard for example, the shortcut becomes: Ctrl+Æ

On a german keyboard the shortcut is Ctrl+ö

Change your camera angle

OK, so how do you change your camera angle? Since a snapshot is taken of what you see:

  1. Click the toolbar's View button to bring up the camera (Orbit Zoom Pan) controls.
  2. Click the controls to change your view. As you get more advanced, you'll want to try keyboard shortcuts for each of these.
KBtip2.png Tip: To get an easy shot of your avatar's face, click the Preset Views (eye) button, then click Front View.

Improve your graphics quality

If you've looked at other Residents' photos and wonder why some things look so vivid or sharp, it could just be because of graphics settings. These are dependent on how powerful your computer is, but if you meet or exceed our System Recommendations, you should be able to see Second Life in all its glory. Here's a quick setup:

  1. Select Me menu > Preferences.
  2. In the PREFERENCES window, click Graphics tab.
  3. On the Quality and speed slider, click High (or you won't see clouds and stuff), or if you have a really powerful computer, click Ultra. When you're comfortable, you can also click Advanced to show more options.
  4. Click OK to save your changes.
KBtip2.png Tip: To make textures appear sharper and smooth out jaggy edges, click the Hardware button. Check Anisostropic Filtering and set Antialiasing to at least 4x. Torley thinks this should be on by default on capable systems.

Change the weather

Is it too dark? Want a clear blue sky with no clouds? That's easy too.

  1. Select World menu > Sun > Environment Editor.
  2. Drag the time slider to change the time of day, and drag the Cloud Cover slider to make the sky more clear or more overcast.
  3. A lot of extra fun can be had if you click Advanced Sky and make choices from the Sky Presets dropdown.

This is a local setting, meaning only you see the changes — no worries about burning anyone else to a crisp when the sun gets EXTREME!

KBtip2.png Tip: Second Life's atmospheric system is called "WindLight". You can get hundreds more sky and water settings.

Silent snapshots

If the whirr-click! snapshot sound and animation starts to get on your nerves, you can disable that.

  1. Select Me menu > Preferences.
  2. Click Advanced tab.
  3. Enable Show Advanced Menu. You'll see it appear at the top of your screen.
  4. Uncheck Advanced menu > Quiet Snapshots to Disk.
  5. In the PREFERENCES window, click OK.
KBtip2.png Tip: The Advanced and related Develop menus have plenty of hidden gems that affect snapshots in subtle to drastic ways. More of them are covered here, although that article hasn't been updated for Viewer 2.x.

What's next?

Torley says:

"I've focused on cutting to the chase so you can get photographing without feeling overwhelmed — even though amidst emotional beauty, it's natural to feel that way! Snapshots are a 'gateway skill' of Second Life that will lead you to learning so many other parts. Alas, I want to tell you upfront that despite their joy, there are many technical bugs with snapshots — such as them turning out black or otherwise distorted, which is why I recommend always check a test shot before continuing further in a session. Here are some links to learn more!"

What about the other save options?

You can also Email a snapshot, which is also known as "sending a postcard". What's different?

  • Save button changes to Send.
  • Clicking Send opens a window where you can choose a recipient and enter a message. There's a bug where the thumbnail here may be distorted but looks fine when received.
  • There's an Image quality slider. Usually 75 or above gets adequate results. Postcards can't exceed a filesize of 1,024 KB (that's 1 megabyte) as shown under the thumbnail, so you'll need to decrease this.
KBwarning.png Warning: Sending postcards has been crappy for a long time: postcards may fail to be delivered and can significantly slow a server. SVC-2283 and SVC-5387 are two of Torley's most hated bugs, and for reasons explained within, he really wants to see them fixed. Despite this, postcards sent to sites like Flickr and Snapzilla remain popular — a testament to the dedicated lengths our Residents will go to for capturing the moment!

And lastly, you can save a snapshot as a photo (texture) directly to My inventory (L$10), which costs that amount each time. What's different?

  • Save now shows it costs L$10 to save each photo to your inventory.
  • Width and Height is ultimately constrained to powers of 2 because of Second Life's technical texture limits. What this means for most people: to avoid unwanted stretching/squashing, take square pictures (usually 512x512).

Since this can be confusing, Torley suggests avoiding saving textures directly to inventory unless you have a special reason. Instead:

  1. Save photos to disk for highest archival quality and because you get a local backup. (Saving many textures from inventory to hard drive is tedious.)
  2. Before you upload a texture into Second Life, crop and post-process it as you desire.
  3. Select Build menu > Upload > Image to choose a file and upload a texture from your hard drive to your inventory.

The only real difference is your uploaded texture appears in your Textures photo instead of your Photo Album, and with a different icon.

Other subtleties that aren't important enough for most people to care about:

  • The Capture: Depth mode only works in Save to my computer.
  • You can't choose a format when using Email or My inventory (L$10) — the former uses JPG and the latter uses Second Life's internal JPG2000.

More options

In the SNAPSHOT PREVIEW window, click More to reveal additional choices. Here's what each one of them does when Save to my computer is selected:

  • Size - Default is Current Window. If you change the size, it may only capture part of the visible Viewer area, as shown in the preview thumbnail. Torley usually leaves this alone, since he prefers to crop in an external image editor. General rule: capture as much as possible, you can always edit down later but it can be time-consuming to re-setup an earlier scene.
  • Format - Default is PNG, which Torley recommends as the best balance for archiving snapshots in a web-friendly and relatively compact format. JPEG degrades image quality (plus, you can always convert PNG to JPEG) and BMP is an old format incompatible with the web, and uses bigger file size. Unless you know what you're doing, leave this alone.
  • Width and Height - Change this if you want to change the dimensions of the captured area. You could increase them to capture at a higher resolution than your Viewer window's actual dimensions, although this can result in glitches. There's usually not a need to mess with this.
  • Constrain proportions - This is grayed out unless you choose a Size of Custom proportions.
  • Capture - Colors is the normal mode. Depth shows a depth map that you can use in Photoshop for selective masking, although it behaves somewhat flaky.
    • Interface - Check this to show the Viewer's user interface (menus, sidebar, and so on) in the snapshot. Torley leaves this unchecked and uses external programs like Jing to capture, instead of flipping this on and off.
    • HUDs - Check this to show HUD attachments in your snapshot. While you'd usually want this off, there are photographic HUDs like the Kari Komrad that place a stylized frame or other effects and are meant to be shown.
  • Keep open after saving - Keeps the SNAPSHOT PREVIEW window open after you save a snapshot. Torley leaves this unchecked and uses the shortcut mentioned above.
  • Freeze frame (fullscreen) - Does a cute visual effect when you take a snapshot. Torley leaves this unchecked because it's somewhat confusing and slows him down.
  • Auto-refresh - Refreshes the thumbnail preview each time you change a control. Torley leaves this unchecked, again because of the aforementioned shortcut.

Related resources

  • The old version of this guide - Dating back to the Viewer 1.x days. Some of it is obsolete but you may enjoy soaking up the history. However, many principles still apply and details have yet to be added. You can make this page awesomer by editing it!