New Language for SL Photography

by WrenNoir Cerise and Nariko Okawa
Also posted in Nariko’s blog here:

SL photographers of VISIONAIRE INSTITUTE have recognized that there is a lack of a common terminology regarding the treatment of an SL photograph. This becomes a difficulty for many who require photographs yet do not have the language to request the type of photo they have in mind. This can lead to problematic situations that could be avoided with the proper common language.

Below are definitions of four common TREATMENTS (as opposed to intended use) of SL photographs.

Each of the categories is on a continuum with no strictly defined parameters, and a photograph may well straddle two or more categories. These are general definitions that can help form a common ground of understanding.

No particular treatment of SL photographs is “superior” as all treatments have their uses.  As artists, SL Photographers are evolving, innovating and exploring all the time as well as influencing one another.

Here we offer the definitions of four broad categories:


A Raw Unedited photo or Unedited Snapshot is not a low quality image. It is an image that is not post-processed in any way other than cropping, resizing or adding a watermark. Such a photo allows the small, minor imperfections from the viewers (ie. jaggedness at curved body parts like elbows or the chin). Windlight, picture quality and overall composition is still of significant importance.


We felt that a new category was needed to dispel confusion. We have added the “Naturally Edited” treatment of photos. Naturally Edited photos utilize windlight, thought to composition, and quality levels as in the previous category (Raw Unedited), but now some manipulation and use of image editing software (ie. Adobe Photoshop or Gimp) is acceptable to correct SL imperfections or adjust lighting. All tools available through image editing software may be used (ie. dodge, burn, blur, smudge, liquify, lighting adjustments, etc); HOWEVER, all alterations and modifications do not change or distort the SL avatar or objects in any way. The avatar or object would be easily recognizable inworld from the photograph. Simply put: “what you see is what you get.”


Heavily Enhanced photos add further treatments. Extra hair, lashes and even background can be added using any image editing software. Often in heavily enhanced photos the avatar may be distorted to fit the mood of the image. It is at the discretion of the photographer how much and what is to be added to the image. It is also possible for a photographer to add certain PS brushes or effects (ie. lens flares, enhanced shadows) not created using the viewer’s windlight capabilities. A black and white image will generally be in this category because of the desaturation that must be used. Pile-up images will generally fall into this category or the next one.


A simple way to recognize an image from this category is by the amount of post-process “painting” or “photo-manipulation” done to enhance the image and its quality. Artistically Painted or Manipulated photos may be considered closer to fine art, are beautifully enhanced, pay great attention to composition, and have perfectly re-textured skin and hair. A lot of time and effort is spent on shadowing, burning, and retouching to blend the avatar in with the environment, and photo-manipulating snapshots that are taken from the Second Life Viewers (thank you, Toy for adding this comment!). The image conveys an emotion, creates a scene, or hints at the story (or the lack of one, in some) behind the picture. Many of these images may be done in front of a green screen.

We hope these definitions can help clarify communication amongst those requesting SL photographs and those providing them.  Creators of contests would also benefit from using this terminology when requesting the type of SL photograph they wish contestants to submit.

Wishing you many happy hours of gleeful snapping!


2 Replies to “New Language for SL Photography”

  1. Thank you for this. I consider myself amongst the raw/natural photographers…and just want to add that…by NO means does that mean our “type” of photography is simple because it is raw or natural. I often spend a long time setting the scene, the lighting, the windlight and composing the shot before I even snap one photo. I also shoot anywhere from 50-100 shots that I will go through looking for even minute details that “bother” my eye…and will be discarded. I prefer this type of photography because it appeals to what I enjoy doing…and I have a lot of respect for people who are artists and use post processing to create their “story”. Thanks again for clarifying this and I hope it helps people to choose what they want so that they can be better prepared to look for the type of photographer in SL that is appropriate for the work they want done. ❤ ❤

    1. Thank you, XiuXiu. I’m glad that it validated what you do — which is excellent! It is no mean feat to take excellent raw shots. It requires a lot of preparation. The work is all up front, and one has to have an ‘eye’ right then and there on the spot. For those that do post-processing, the bulk of the work is at the back end, for raw shooters the work is all up front!

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