A Favorite Summertime Hobby, Second Life Photography!

To some, summer time activities include fun in the sun, sports, family trips, and a lot of other activities that lean towards physical participation and family participation. For me and a few close family members and friends, we spend some of those sunny days inside at our computers celebrating virtually and expressing our creativity. You may have heard of Second Life, a virtual grid much like the many other Massively Multi-Player Online Role Playing Games like World of Warcraft, Aion, or Rift. The difference between those MMORPGs and Second Life is simple, Second Life is limitless. If you can do it in real life, you can do it in Second Life, but even better… If you cant do it in real life, you can still do it in Second Life!

In 2005 I attended The Art Institute of Philadelphia for photography and dropped out after two years of attendance. I felt like photography and graphic design were not my forte, so I’d might as well quit early and move along to something else. Little did I know that three years later I would be using those skills to contribute high fashion photographs and graphic design projects to my job in Second Life. I did not think that professional photography would be my calling in life, but it is still a full time hobby of mine, and my favorite summer hobby to play with and use to show the Second Life grid and it’s limitless community my creativity and artistic side.

My avatar, Shynne Nirvana, became a Second Life high fashion model in the Fall season of 2009. Much like real life modeling you must have a polished portfolio to be successful in this virtual industry and instead of paying a Photographer in world to build my portfolio I took to using my skills to build my own. This quickly turned into my favorite summer hobby, and pretty soon I found myself not only using these skills for my own success, but also helping others move forward in their virtual careers with quality photographs to offer in their portfolios and resumes. The common tools for a great portfolio photograph for Second Life modeling are simple. A model, a “look” or stylish outfit, proper accessories to polish off this look, poses, knowledge of the built in Second Life camera tool, an idea of what you want your photograph to display, and a photo editing program such as Photoshop or Gimp.

I have a unique style sense that leans toward the alternative/rock, but I also have a deep love for haute couture and the wild side that can come out of personal style. Once I have my look configured I locate and use one of the many free in world photography studios located on the grid and I snap a few shots of my avatar, in various poses and positions, on a simple neon green screen that will be easy to eliminate from the photograph later. The Second Life camera tool is a very simple built in system that is easy enough to learn just by snapping a few test shots. You can save your images to your hard drive, which is what I recommend, or to your avatar’s inventory which will cost you ten lindens a photo. I like to save them to my hard drive for free so that I can edit them to final perfection before I upload them in world to be submitted or seen. Once I have a few shots of Shynne that I am satisfied with, I open them in the photo editing program of my choice. I use Photoshop CS5.

Once I have the image I have selected in Photoshop there are a ton of tools to use for the removal of a green screen and the insertion of a background of my choice. I start by going to “select all” on the photograph, and under the select menu picking “color range”. From there you can choose which colors to primarily select and remove from the photo. I choose green for the removal of the green screen and when it is all selected I right click and choose the “cut” option. The green screen typically disappears and now I make a second layer of my avatar on a white background. Here is where I insert a background of my choice. Many great backgrounds can be found from stock photography sites, or simply from Google images. The important thing to remember is to make sure you cite in your photograph’s description where the background originally came from if it is not your own work. I add a background and position the layers in my photo to my desire and most of the time I use the blur tool or practice careful selection tool usage to eliminate fuzzy edges on the avatar’s layer. I also like to add a little glow to her most of the time using the “Diffuse Glow” filter in Photoshop.

There are tons of places to take simple photos at in Second Life that do not require any editing work at all! I like to add a little diffuse glow to almost any photo of my avatar, but it really is not necessary. I have included a few examples of before and after shots of what photos look like of my avatar on the green screen, and then in the final photograph. I will also include a few photographs of her that were taken at one of Second Life’s many gorgeous in world locations with hardly any editing at all! Regardless of your background with photography or graphic design, its really quite easy to come up with great Second Life photographs that are blooming with artistic value and creativity. Use your imagination on the grid and see what you can come up with, you will most likely surprise yourself!