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

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.  🙂

Trying Other TPVs – Black Dragon

Old TPVs
Image Source: http://www.slideshare.net

Over the last week or so, I’ve been trying out different viewers.

I didn’t think I would find one to replace Firestorm.

CtrlAltStudio is a close second for everyday use, just because it’s so much like Firestorm.

It also seems to be easier on my computer when maxing out my graphics.

So I probably would have used it to take hi-res photos.

Until I tried Black Dragon.

Black Dragon certainly has some things about it I don’t like, such as the fact that there is no built-in AO.

There is no worn tab in the inventory, which is kind of a pain.

The chat panel seemed backwards to me – the names were listed on the right, while the chat appeared on the left.

It also didn’t have a built-in pose stand like Firestorm does.

There are no phototools like in Firestorm, but – it does have some amazing options.

The UI looks more like the official viewer (and Alchemy); however, I’m willing to put up with that to use the amazing graphics tools.

It doesn’t come with as many pre-loaded windlights as Firestorm, but it does have quite a few.

Most of the items in Firestorm’s phototools you can find under Preferences → Display tab.

I was able to bump up my graphics settings to the max.

When I went to take a photo, there was absolutely NO delay when refreshing.

In addition, the viewer has a number of built-in filters you can use to enhance your photos, like lens flare, sepia, toy camera, etc.

Having those options can really cut down on the amount of time I spent post-processing a photo.

And having it refresh instantly, even at max settings, is a timesaver (and less stressful!) as well.

Like CtrlAltStudio, I am able to travel around to various places with all the graphics settings maxed out.

However, I much prefer the options I get with photos using Black Dragon.

For the time being, I plan to use Black Dragon when taking hi-res photos.

That leaves more time for shopping!!

I didn’t try out the Kokua or Catznip viewers.

I did try out Singularity, but it was too much like the official viewer, so I didn’t really spend any time using it.

I didn’t try out Restrained Love viewer or the UKanDo viewers, so that is the end of the reviews of the TPV’s.

I’m off to take more photos!

Trying Other TPVs – CtrlAltStudio

Old TPVs
Image Source: http://www.slideshare.net

I spent the last couple of days using the CtrlAltStudio viewer.

It felt the most comfortable, because it is based on the Firestorm viewer.

So most of the things I use on a daily basis were easily located and used.

The last update came out on 3/18/2015, so the viewer seems to be fairly current.

It was a pretty quick and easy download – I was up and running in no time.

The first difference I noted was the color scheme.

I must say, I like the purple. 🙂

I know you can change skins in Firestorm, I just never have.

In reading through the information on their website, CtrlAltStudio seems to have a lot of possibilities.

It has Oculus Rift DK2 support, if you’re interested in that.

It also has stereoscopic 3D options and the ability to use your Xbox 360 controller and/or Kinect to move around.

(A lot of that information was way too technical for me to follow, so if you want to know more, just visit their website.)

I will say, based on a few experiments, that it does seem to handle graphics better than Firestorm.

A few days ago I went to The Black Fair – my FPS went from 50+ to less than 3.  -.-

Not good when you are trying to walk around and shop.

Normally when I take pictures with Firestorm, I will turn on anisotropic filtering and then bump my anti-aliasing up to 16x.

However, there is always a few sec delay while the hi-res pic refreshes.

With CtrlAltStudio, I didn’t get the same delay with the refresh.

So I tried going back to The Black Fair to see what kind of FPS I would get with CtrlAltStudio.

I averaged about 13 FPS (as opposed to 3), and I realized after returning home that I had left the anisotropic filtering on and the anti-aliasing bumped up.

Then I tried to open Photoshop while still running the viewer with everything bumped up.

With Firestorm, I will almost always crash if I open Photoshop with everything still turned up from taking photos.

CtrlAltStudio didn’t have any issues.

I was able to post-process a couple of photos with the viewer still running at max.

So CtrlAltStudio may become an either/or viewer for me.

It’s enough like Firestorm that I am very comfortable using it, but it seems to put less load on my system, which means I can get more work done more quickly.

Next up: Black Dragon

How Do You SL?

Image Source:  modemworld.wordpress.com
Image Source: modemworld.wordpress.com

The demise of SL Go has caused quite a stir among users.

After listening to this week’s Drax Files Radio Hour (which featured Dennis Harper of OnLive), I started to wonder.

SL Go allowed users to experience SL in all its graphical glory.

Have an old system that can’t handle Advanced Lighting Mode?

A graphics card that chokes when you turn on shadows?

No access to a PC, but have a tablet?

For those people, SL Go was the answer.

Not everyone can afford a computer that has all the bells and whistles necessary to experience everything SL has to offer.

Not everyone has access to high-speed internet connections.

Everyone (of course) wants to have the ‘full’ experience when using SL.

How can you do that if you’re surrounded by grey boxes, grey avatars, and can’t even move because of the lag?

I, with many others, hope that someone sees what a difference SL Go made, and has the vision to see what a service like it could mean, not only to SL users, but other ‘games’ as well.

Then I started to wonder – how do you SL?

I am lucky enough to have access to high-speed internet and I have a decent computer set up.

My thoughtful husband keeps things updated and upgraded for me.

Because of that, I can run SL on Ultra graphics settings and have all the pretty lights and shadows.

Once I experienced SL on Ultra, I became interested in photography.

I can run on Ultra, set a pretty high resolution, put my anti-aliasing to 16x, and take some pretty decent shots.

I would never be able to do that on a basic machine.

I could run SL, but it just wouldn’t be the same.

I’ve had to bump my settings down a few times at shows in order to try and combat lag, and I hated it.

Once you go Ultra, it’s hard to go back. 😦

What kind of machine do you use for SL?

Is it sufficient for your needs?

Do you wish you could afford to upgrade – pieces or parts or a brand new machine?

Did you use SL Go?

Would you use another service like it if it significantly improved your SL experience?

Would you use SL on a tablet or another mobile device?

Graphics Whore

Image Source: graphics-cards-review.toptenreviews.com
Image Source: graphics-cards-review.toptenreviews.com

My husband bought me a new graphics card a while ago.

I was still running on mid graphics and complaining.

I wanted all the fancy shadows and light effects I saw everywhere else.

So over the holidays he also added some RAM to my PC.

After he did, we bumped everything up as high as it would go to see what happened.

Yeehaw!!!!

I wasn’t crashing left and right, and I could actually walk around at events (even with the cool shadows on) and didn’t find the lag too terrible.

Since I now can see all the fancy lights and shadows, I started taking photos and playing around with windlights and such.

I’ve been having a blast.

Recently, a friend told me about an art installation at LEA29.  I HAD to go, she said.

When I arrived, I realized I had seen the artwork before in other photos.

But some of them were sooo cool, I just had to try myself.

I was so busy playing around and messing with settings that I finally did crash, lol.

I am planning to go back, because I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time there exploring, but what little I did see was amazing.

Here’s a little glimpse of what I did get taken before the crash:

BlueI love this sculpture.

I immediately thought of the story of the birth of Athena.

I liked it so much I took several different pictures of it.

Here’s the second one:

RedIf you like the photos, be sure to visit the sim and check out the artworks.

It’s on LEA29 and the artist in residence is Mistero Hifeng.

There’s something amazing everywhere you look!

 

2015

Image Source:  mettaroundtheworld.org
Image Source: mettaroundtheworld.org

So far, 2015 is turning out to be a bang-up year.

I spent New Year’s Day with my favorite people, saw a great movie, and ate at one of our favorite restaurants.

After getting back home, I logged in to do some blogging and some housekeeping in SL.

Since I’ve started the LOTD feature on the blog, I did some research on graphics/computer settings and watched some Photoshop tutorials.

I decided to bump up my graphics setting to Ultra and see what happened.

Hubs bought me a new graphics card a while ago, and last week he increased the RAM in my PC.

He’s currently shopping for a new processor for me, but in the meantime, I wanted to see how well I could run SL on Ultra.

After making all the changes, I decided to do some shopping and exploring.

I am loving my new mesh body, but I was debating whether to get a new shape and/or skin to go with it.

The League announced that they had released appliers for the Maitreya bod, so I went over and picked up some skin and shape demos.

I think I picked up around 5 new shapes and 6 new skins to try out.

I spent about an hour trying on the various shapes and skins.

I didn’t like any of the new shapes.

They just weren’t – me.

So for now, I am keeping my shape.

I tried all the skin demos from Glam Affair and League.

I managed to narrow it down to three choices – two from Glam Affair and one from League.

I must say, it clearly has been a while since I went skin shopping, as I about dropped my teeth at some of the prices.

After doing some price comparisons, and debating the ease of use with my new mesh body, I opted for one of the Glam Affair skins.

I like the League skin and I may go back and get one later, but for now, the GA skin is good.  One click on my body HUD and everything matches – head, hands, feet.

I managed to travel around and do my shopping without crashing, so I figured it was safe to try and take some photos with everything on Ultra.

I put on an outfit and headed out to find a picturesque sim to snap a few shots.

I am AMAZED at how much better my photos came out.  I mean, I knew they would be better, but I didn’t realize just how much.

I played around with some poses and a couple of windlights and took a few pictures.

My computer was a little slow in making some of the changes, but I didn’t crash.

When I went and opened the photos in Photoshop, I was even more amazed.

In the past I have always had to do some editing of a photo to get it to look somewhat decent.

I am by no means a Photoshop wiz, but I would smooth out edges, add some shadows, etc.

This time, all I did was crop the photo and resize it so it would load decently on the blog.

That’s it.

I am excited about how much time I can save without having to edit every photo I take.

And I’m excited about how much better everything in SL looks, including me!

Here’s to a great 2015!!