Yesterday there was a discussion in a blogger group about uploading photographs to blogs and other places, like Flickr. When I started this blog, I didn’t have a Flickr account, and I wasn’t taking many in-world photos. As I’ve gotten more into photography, I’ve added things to my workflow. I’m sure, however, that sometimes the way I do things isn’t the cleanest or fastest or easiest way.
The discussion turned to not uploading your photos multiple times. I have always uploaded my photos directly to WordPress. As I said, when I started this blog, I didn’t have a Flickr, so embedding photos from Flickr wasn’t an option. After some research, I began resizing my photos (making them smaller) and saving them as .jpeg’s for uploading, because .jpeg’s load faster than other types of files. And in this day and age of ‘immediate satisfaction,’ making people wait an extra 2 seconds for your photo to load can kill your traffic – quite literally. There are always tradeoffs, however; although you get a faster loading time from .jpeg’s, they are not as high quality as a .png, for example. (For a more in-depth discussion of file types, see here.) That means, however, that I also have to spend time uploading each photo to Flickr.
A reason that people give for embedding photos from Flickr is that if you are using a ‘free’ blogging platform (like WordPress or Blogger), there is a limit on your storage. I have been blogging for over a year, and to date I’ve used 11% of my storage limit with WordPress. So, in theory, I could continue doing things as I have been, and in 3 more years, I would be nearing the 50% limit. (My photos are generally around the 640 pixels wide mark when I post them in my blog, in case you’re curious.) I’ve noticed that many other bloggers embed their photos from Flickr, and I’ve wondered why. I thought it had to do with encouraging people to click through to their Flickr accounts, thus giving them more views per image (many blogger applications require a views-per-image quota). Some said it was because of the storage limit on blogs. A free account on Flickr gives you 1TB of storage. So clearly Flickr has an advantage when it comes to storage. It turns out that embedding from Flickr meets a few other needs as well.
I didn’t know this, but apparently some feeds (blogs which aggregate posts all in one place) have a limit on the size of photos (around 640 pixels wide was the general consensus). So if you are syndicated (i.e. – your blog is linked to a feed), you need to limit the size of your photos. When you embed a photo from Flickr, you can specify the size that you would like to embed, thus ensuring that you are within feed guidelines. It also means you can upload a larger sized photo to Flickr, and then put a smaller version of it on your blog. So if someone wants to view your work in more detail, they can simply click through the link on your blog and go straight to your photo on Flickr. There are a ton of SL photography tips and tricks out on the web. I did spend some time yesterday looking through a ‘photography tips and tricks’ section on a blog, but most of the posts were old – some as old as 2009. Things change quickly in SL because of changes in technology, thus information that was relevant in 2009 isn’t that helpful today. So I thought I’d share with you a few things that I do when I take photos. I am no expert, so feel free to use what works for you, and discard what doesn’t. 🙂
There are a few basic things you should know about photography in general. One of the most basic rules is the rule of thirds. You should also familiarize yourself with some rules for composition. These links are for RL photography, but the rules apply to SL photography as well. You should learn about lighting – there’s a ton of information out there, but it can be very specific to what effect you are trying to achieve, so I would encourage you to play around and see what works for you. I also look at my photograph critically before I take it – is there anything that is positioned oddly? Is there a tree branch or a light post that appears to be sticking out of my subject’s head or body? Is there anything around the perimeter of the photo that seems off/odd? Taking some time to apply these basics will save you a ton of time later.
I use the Firestorm Viewer to take a lot of my photos. There’s a great explanation of how to set up your viewer to take high-res photos by Harlow Heslop here. Taking high-res photos means that you can resize them without losing a lot of detail. I also love using the Black Dragon viewer to take photos. It seems to be less taxing on my computer, even at the high/ultra graphics settings. Again, play around and find out what works for you.
There are lots of things you can do to add to your photos. You can use tools to help with lighting, or make your own projectors. You can use windlights to get different effects. You can use things like depth of field to change how your photos look. You can use photography tools like the LumiPro hud or others. Again, don’t be afraid to experiment. I learn more from my mistakes than my successes. 🙂 There are also lots of things you can do once you’ve taken a photo. You can edit it – I use Photoshop, but you can use GIMP, or a web service like PicMonkey. You can apply filters or actions to your photos to get certain effects (On1 has a free editor called Perfect Effects that has a ton of filters/effects you can use.)
Just Do It
Be bold – try something you never thought you could. Even if that is just taking a photo at all. Look at other people’s photos and try to figure out how they did what they did. The photo I am currently using as a header is one I took after experimenting. I wanted to see if I could make the water look like a mirror. I knew it was possible, having seen it in other’s photos. But I didn’t have any instructions, so I just played around with the windlight settings until I got the effect I wanted. I could have just searched on the web and found the instructions, but doing it myself was much more satisfying. Now I have a mirror windlight I can use whenever I want, and I have a better understanding of how windlights and water work in SL. 🙂