Google’s NikCollection – Photo Editing for FREE!

I saw a blurb on one of my feeds several days ago about Google making their Nik Collection (a photo editing tool) free.

You can read about it here.

The software, which was previously sold for $149, is now being offered for free by Google.

I, of course, tool whore that I am, immediately downloaded it.  However, I hadn’t had the chance to play with it until today.

NikCollectionBasically, it’s akin to other filter programs – you install the software, and if you have Photoshop (which I do), it adds a box when you open up Photoshop.

So I opened up an old photo file and started playing. 🙂

It’s very similar to Perfect Effects, though you can use this while in Photoshop, rather than having to open a separate program.  Handy!

SoftI didn’t try out all the filters, but I have to say, I am very impressed with the ones I did try.

With a few simple clicks, I was able to make some pretty amazing changes to the photo I was working with.

Unlike Perfect Effects, the Nik Collection offers a lot more options when working with the filters/effects.

This is the original photo I chose to experiment on.

After opening up Photoshop, and picking out a filter in Nik, this is what the photo looked like:

Soft Analog Efex Pro 2
Soft Analog Efex Pro 2

I love how the filter really brought out the texture of the fur.

The shadows are darker, and the background has a lot more texture.

I was able to adjust things like saturation and hue via Nik, without having to touch anything in Photoshop.

So if you like being able to add filters and effects but don’t like fiddling around with the all the little details, you can.  If you like fiddling around with all the little details, you can do that too. 🙂

Soft Nostalgic Film Efex
Soft Nostalgic Film Efex

This was another filter I tried, and I love how it looks.  Again, the filter helped to bring out some of the details in the original photo.

The name of the filter is ‘nostalgic’ in the Film Efex in Nik.  So adorable!

Though Nik can be used in conjunction with Photoshop, it can also be used on its own.

So if you’ve been looking for a program to help edit your photos, but didn’t want to pay out a bunch of $, Google has just made your day. 🙂

Did I mention it’s completely FREE?!!

Get your free copy here.

 

 

 

Creating a Vintage Nature Photo In Photoshop – The Lazy Way | Photofocus

Image Source:  www.photoshopessentials.com
Image Source: http://www.photoshopessentials.com

An interesting post on how to post-process a photo, including how to add a vignette.

I have several filters that let me add a vignette layer with one click, but I’ve always wondered how it was done.

Now I know!

Source: Creating a Vintage Nature Photo In Photoshop – The Lazy Way | Photofocus

A picture tells a thousand words – Blogging Tips | Time and Lace

Image Source:  www.iheartnaptime.net
Image Source: http://www.iheartnaptime.net

Some interesting photography tips from Leesee over at Time and Lace.

Even if you can’t run on Ultra graphics, you can still take good pictures.

It’s amazing how much difference a few shadows can make to the overall quality of the picture.

Source: A picture tells a thousand words – Blogging Tips | Time and Lace

Photography Effects for Free!

Free
Image Source: http://www.whoishostingthis.com

A while ago, someone told me about a program you could use to enhance your photography.

They mentioned that it was free, which of course piqued my interest, because I’m frugal (cheap, miserly, whatever). 😛

It’s called Perfect Effects Free 9 (or my copy is, at least) and you can get it for free here.

The program contains over 50 free filters/effects that you can use to spice up your photography.

You do have to crop your picture in another program first, but then you can play around.

The program feels a bit like a stripped down Photoshop, which isn’t a bad thing.

You can still have layers, change blend modes, opacity, and you can adjust various features of the pre-built filters.

ChilliI thought I’d take a previous LOTD photo and show you what you can do with just a few minutes of playing around.

This is my original photo, just for comparison’s sake.

I just picked a few different filters at random to see what I could do.

The filters are organized by category, so it’s pretty simple to just dive in.

Be sure you know where the files are getting saved, I had to go searching for mine!

Here are 3 different filters, applied ‘as is’ using Perfect Effects.

Chill BordersChilli Grunge

Chilli SurrealI didn’t do anything to the photo other than apply the filters.  The first photo uses a black border filter, the second a ‘grunge’ filter, and the third a ‘surreal’ filter.

Using free tools like Perfect Effects, it’s easy to add some new filters/effects to your photography.

If you happen to use Photoshop, you can apply the filter, then save the photo as a .psd file, and the filter will be on its own layer when you open it in Photoshop.

The best part is that it’s free, so if you find that you don’t use it much, it hasn’t cost you anything!

On the other hand, you might just find yourself using it a lot, just because it’s fun. 😀

Now go play!

Blogging and Photography

Blog PosterYesterday 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.

Uploading Photos

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.

Embedding Photos

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.

Feed Needs

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. 🙂

Basics

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.

Graphics

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.

Extras

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.  🙂

Tips For Taming Your Messy Inventory Pt. 2

MessyBoxes
Image Source: cutelypoisoned.com

In the last post, I talked about the basics of inventory organization and the importance of using sub-folders.

Hopefully you have made some progress sorting your items and getting rid of unnecessary landmarks, photos, and notecards.

In this post, I want to show you how I organize folders with large amounts of items and the reasoning behind the sort.

I’ll also cover how to store older items and how to make outfits.

Let’s get started!

Animations

I have a few folders that contain a metric ton of items.

These include my dance animations folder, my costumes folder, and my ‘stuff for building’ folder. 😀

As a dancer, I have a ton of animations that I’ve collected over the years.

While I could certainly lower my inventory count substantially by boxing up my animations, I don’t.

Well, I do box them, but I also keep them in my inventory. 🙂

(This information only applies if you have copyable animations, which of course you do, right?)

My reasoning is this: Previously, with dance HUDs, you would load the animations into the HUD, and then you really no longer needed them to be accessible in your inventory.

The two dance HUDs I use most now (The Artiste and Spot On PD), are made so that I make a new copy of the HUD for each routine/performance.

That means I need to load the animations I use in the performance into the HUD.

I could rez a HUD (or a box), take the anims I need into inventory, rez my new HUD, and then load the anims into it, but that’s a lot of extra steps and time.

(I do box up all of my animations and store them on my land, but that’s as a precaution against SL ‘eating’ them, rather than inventory count savings.)

Dances Inventory
Organized by Store

When you organize your animations folder, I would recommend that you organize them by store/creator name.

Each store folder may or may not have sub-folders, depending on whether I purchased dance packs or not.

Why do it this way?

Simple.

IP replacements.

If I just dumped all my animations into one big folder, they would sort according to the name of the animation.

Sometimes you can tell by the name of the dance where you bought it, but not always.

However, if they were organized in one big folder and an IP replacement happened (like the big one several months ago), you would have no way to easily or quickly know which animations were replaced (in error, usually).

The IP replaced anims, which are now all named IP *****, will sort by name into a different place in your folder.

Since I have mine organized by store name, I can at least tell which vendor’s anims were affected (in case I need to contact them) and possibly even which animations.

Also, it lets you see pretty quickly if you have already purchased a particular animation from a store – with so many animations, it’s easy to lose track.

Now, this way of organizing may not work for you, and that’s fine.

As long as it makes sense to you, and you can find things when you need them, it’s all good. 🙂

One last thing – I don’t use the system ‘Animations’ folder to store my animations.

I reserve that folder for AOs and old dance HUDs.

Which I should probably box up, since I rarely use them anymore. 😛

Costumes

CostumeGenres
So many costumes!

The way I have sorted my costumes into folders may make no sense to anyone but me.

They are sorted by genres, with some that don’t seem to fit any folders left to float.

I freely admit that I am a costume hoarder.

I had so many costumes they were just getting unmanageable.

Some I was hanging onto for sentimental reasons – my first solo, my first dance at a certain theater, a favorite performance, etc.

But the reality is that I likely won’t wear a costume I got in 2010 again. :/

I had to box them up.

Since I own a wardrobe system, I took pictures of everything, tagged them, and then boxed up the items.

I then put those boxes in a storage box. 🙂

I still probably have way too many costumes in my inventory, but you never know what you’ll need!

Building Stuff

BuildingStuff
All the things!

Because I perform, I also have a ton of decor items to use as props.

Some are large, like entire buildings, some are small, like wall art or bottles, for example.

Again, the way I have them organized may not make sense to others.

That’s ok. 🙂

Just figure out a way to organize things into folders that makes sense to YOU.

I have a lot of folder (categories) and I still have things that I can’t decide go better one place or another.

So I leave them to float until I figure it out.

Under my Decor Items folder, for example, you will find books, statues, vases, and various other tchotchkes.

I have a folder for lighting, a folder for fountains, etc.

You get the idea.

A project on my to-do list is to photograph and categorize the ‘building stuff’ folder using my wardrobe system, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get that done. 😛

Besides, I’m constantly collecting items.

Now that mesh is everywhere, I probably could/should go and delete some old items that are primmy or just not that great looking.

Another project!

Storage Options

One way to help with inventory bloat is to box up old items.

If you don’t own a wardrobe organizing system, Auryn Beorn has a great post on a simple way to box up your items.

Following her system, you can link a bunch of boxes (set to convex hull to save LI) and then fill up the linked prims.

At the end of the process, you have one item in your inventory that you can rez and then reopen the linked boxes if necessary to retrieve your items.

It would never have occurred to me to do it this way, but it’s sheer genius. 🙂

Another option is to buy some scripted storage boxes.

I have some inexpensive ($10L) ones I found on MP.

You drop in the items you want to store in the boxes and then the script allows you click on the box, click to the item you want, and then have that item delivered to your inventory.

Easy!

Whichever system works best for you, it’s a simple way to help reduce that inventory bloat.

If you have a hard time deciding what needs boxing, you can use the search filters to help sort by date acquired.

For instance, I plan to sort out items to delete or box by filtering the search to any items that I acquired over two years (730 days) ago.

If I haven’t used it in two years, odds are I won’t be, so I am probably safe to box it up or delete it. 🙂

Outfits

MakeanOutfit
Create outfit

The last item I want to cover is making outfits.

If you want to save all the items you’re wearing into an outfit that you can wear again, you create an outfit.

Click on the little t-shirt icon to bring up with outfit window.

Click on the ‘wearing’ tab, then click ‘save as’ and give your new outfit a name.

Doing this will create a folder (with the name you typed) in the system ‘outfits’ folder.

In the olden days, you had to manually make outfits by moving all the pieces and parts into a folder.

If you had a no-copy item, then sometimes it was hard to remember where you put things.

Using the outfit creator makes a folder with links to all the items, not the actual items themselves.

So your shoes, for example, can remain in your shoes folder, but your outfit folder will have a link to them.

This way, it’s possible to save various outfits for quick changes.

You could have a formal outfit, a casual outfit, a beach outfit – the list is endless. 🙂

Once you have created the outfit, you leave the folders in the system ‘outfit’ folder, or you can move the folder to any other folder in your inventory.

Moving the newly created outfit folder will not break any of the links inside.

Outfits
I need to clean!

Moving folders containing the original items doesn’t break the links either.

Once you delete the item from trash, however, the link is broken.

You generally get a pop-up warning that the item is linked before you delete it, but be careful!

One thing to be aware of, since the goal here is to reduce inventory bloat – links count as items.

That’s another job on my to-do list – to delete old outfit folders!

I organize them into sub-folders by date, so I know approximately how old they are.

Things move a lot faster in SL, so odds are that items I bought and wore back in December 2014 probably aren’t high on my ‘wear this’ list in July. 😛

One Last Trick

One last little inventory tip/trick, especially for you bloggers out there!

Someone mentioned this on Plurk and I felt like a complete idiot for not knowing it. :/

If you are blogging an outfit and you need a list of everything you’re wearing, open the create outfits window.

Click on the wearing tab (like you’re creating a new outfit).

Instead of ‘save as,’ click on the gear icon in the lower left of the window.

A pop-up box will appear and one of the options is ‘copy outfit list to clipboard.’

Click this and all your worn items can now be pasted into your blog post.

You will likely have to format it, but all the items will be listed.

This has saved me tons of time and eye strain, clicking back and forth between my blog editor and my inventory window, trying to make sure I don’t miss anything!

That’s it for tips on how to tame your messy inventory.

I hope you discovered a few new tricks and I encourage you to stay on top of organizing your inventory.

Happy sorting!

Tips For Taming Your Messy Inventory

Image Source: simrestartsecondlife.blogspot.com
Image Source: simrestartsecondlife.blogspot.com

Have you ever bought something you ‘had to have’ and then promptly lost it in your mess of an inventory?

Wouldn’t it be great if someone could organize your inventory for you?

I wish that offering my services as an ‘inventory organizer’ in SL was possible, but since that would require sharing passwords (which is a violation of TOS), it won’t be happening. 😦

So, I’m going to do the next best thing and show you some easy steps you can take to organize your inventory.

I use Firestorm, so that’s what the pictures will show.

However, you should be able to do most/all of the same things using the official viewer as well.

The Basics

Inventory
Some basic folders

The first thing you have to do is decide what type of sorting scheme makes the most sense to you.

For me, I sort items by type – clothing, body parts, scripts, animations, etc.

Maybe you want to sort by store name or something else – whatever you choose, just be consistent.

There are some ready-made system folders, you can make your own folders, or you can use a combination (which is what I do).

The default for sorting folders is that the ‘system’ folders to the top.

I don’t like that, so I change my sort to be by name.

If you click on the gear icon in the lower left of the inventory window, you will see all the different sorting options.

The other thing to know, when you sort by folder name, is that using characters in the folder name will affect how they are sorted.

Have you ever noticed that items like .:Store Name:. get sorted differently than {Store Name}?

A handy little guide to how ASCII characters (like ., :, and {}) get sorted can be found here.

The highest sorting ASCII symbol is !.

So if you name your folder !Clothes, it will sort that folder to the top of the list (assuming no other folders have ! at the beginning).

(Just FYI, the { symbol actually gets sorted AFTER the other symbols and letters of the alphabet – so that would be a good symbol to use when naming folders you don’t use often.)

When you’re making folders, it’s also good to use sub-folders.

While having a large inventory can cause issues, the most issues occur when you have a ‘flat’ inventory.

That is, you have the inventory folder and no sub-folders.

To avoid headaches with your inventory not loading, and also so you can find things, it’s good to get in the habit of using sub-folders.

Sub-Folders

When you sort inventory, it’s best to have two inventory windows open.

Then you can easily move items from one window/folder to another and avoid that pesky ‘droplosting‘!

Clothing Sub Folders
Sub-Folders

I use sub-folders for lots of things, including clothing, animations, and building – probably my three largest inventory folders. 🙂

Here you can see the sub-folders I have made under the ‘Clothing’ folder.

I have separated my mesh clothing from my clothing that uses systems layers.

Under the @Mesh Clothes folder, you’ll find folders for Dresses, Pants, Skirts, etc.

I have a separate sub-folder for jewelry, and of course, one for shoes.

In the clothing folder, I can also find accessories (hats, scarves, bags, etc.) and nail appliers.

Again, how you decide to sort/organize doesn’t matter – just do it in a way that makes sense to you. 😛

You can also have sub-folders within sub-folders within sub-folders (did that make your brain hurt?).

Shoes Inventory Expanded
Shoes!

As you can see, under the ‘Shoe’ folder, I have a number of sub-folders, based on the type of shoe.

I used to use my N-Core the most, so they are sorted to the top.

I now use my Maitreya/Slink shoes more often, but they appear near the top, so I haven’t renamed my folders as yet.

I also used to separate shoe packs that had both Slink and Maitreya versions into different folders.

However, that got to be time-consuming, as well as adding to the number of items (because I would copy HUDs, for example, to each folder).

So now those shoes go into their own combined sub-folder.

Some items come with so many pieces, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

Just start slow, and work at organizing bit by bit.

If you get overwhelmed (or just sick of moving folders!), take a break and go do something else.

It will still be there when you get back. 😀

Inventory Bloat

If you want to reduce the number of items in your inventory, there are a few items that you can sort pretty quickly and easily.

Those include notecards, landmarks, snapshots, and textures.

SearchFilters
Filters

When you buy an item, you will typically find the item, perhaps a texture/photo of the item, and a LM to the store.

If you buy from the same stores repeatedly, you end up with lots of copies of the same NC’s and LM’s.

One of the easiest way to find and delete these duplicates is to use the search/filter features.

So, for example, if I wanted to search my inventory for all LM’s to Purple Moon, I could type Purple Moon in the search box, and then only click the box next to landmarks in the filters box.

Then you could delete all the duplicate landmarks you find.

You can also store landmarks within a notecard.

You just drag and drop the LM into the notecard.

I used to do this regularly.

However, because landmarks seem to change so frequently, these days I generally just use my teleport history to find the landmark I need.

You can also save snapshots and textures in a notecard (as long as they are full perm).

I have a texture organizer for my building textures, but for personal items like snapshots, profile pictures, etc., I use a notecard to store those.

My Photo Album folder only has about 4 notecards in it.

Within those notecards are tons of photos and textures that I want to keep.

But since I have saved them IN a notecard, I only have that one item in my inventory, rather than 100’s of pictures.

NC within NC
Spacesaver

Did you know you can also save a notecard within a notecard? 😀

For example, with my blog, I have interviewed a lot of dancers.

I don’t want to delete the various notecards that were exchanged, but I don’t need them clogging up my inventory either.

So, I saved each notecard into a master notecard.

That way, I can access the original notecards if I need to, but I can lower my inventory count by doing this.

This is also how I store my old choreography notecards.

So I can access them when I need/want to, but I don’t have 1000’s of notecards just sitting in my inventory.

(The notecards need to be full perm in order to be saved within a notecard.)

Next Steps

I hope these simple tips helped you with organizing your inventories.

I have a few more tips and tricks to share, but since this post is already lengthy, I will save them for the next post.

Stay tuned for tips on sorting dance animations, costumes, different storage options, how to make outfits, and more!

Playing in Photoshop

PS Logo
I googled ‘photoshop’ – I need to wash my eyeballs now. -.- Image Source: logo-kid.com

It’s Tuesday, which means I made it through Monday.

Yay!

I’ve been busily working on photos, though I still don’t have as much time as I would like to.

A few more days, and then I will have some extended time to spend in-world.

After taking my Photoshop class, I’ve been trying to apply what I learned.

I was taking some pics in-world at Slink West (a really beautiful sim!) and trying out the new filters they added to Firestorm with the last update.

I generally take a couple of pics with different windlights, but sometimes I try out the filters just for fun, to see what they do.

I used a filter and really liked the effect; however, I decided I wanted to try and recreate the look myself in Photoshop, rather than just using the FS filter.

When I posted the photo in the LOTD post, Yummy asked if it was a FS filter.

So yay!

I think I accomplished what I wanted, if that’s what she thought. 🙂

Original PhotoThis is the original photo.

I cropped it, of course.

And I was using the system avatar, so some work with liquify was in order.

Then I played around a bit with various things in Photoshop.

What I ended up with was this:

LOTD 135I usually try not to change the look of LOTD posts too dramatically.

If I’m showing off an outfit, I want it to show as it would in-world.

Sometimes, though, it’s just fun to play around.

You can do so many different things in Photoshop.

With this photo, I was trying to recreate the filter I liked.

I was happy with the way it turned out, but I rarely think a photo is ‘done.’

It’s not exactly like the photo I got with the FS filter.

That photo looked like this:

FS FilterI’m so glad that FS added the filters to the viewer.

It gives me another set of options to play around and have fun with.

The Black Dragon viewer is still a bit faster when it comes to actually taking the high-res photos, but it’s nice to have choices.