By Becky Shamen
Making a Good First Impression
How many times has this happened to you? You're in a club, shopping, or just exploring a new sim, when, out of nowhere, an IM comes with just one word; Hi. Zooming out your radar, you find the sender has just entered chat range and is comming closer. Several things happened, before they decided to start a conversation. They probably spotted you first as a green dot, on their radar, and wanted to see who was on the sim with them. Next, they zoomed their cam in on you, from a safe distance, to check out your gender, clothing statement and face. Now, to come up with an ice breaker, they check out your profile, to see if you have any interests in common and get a better first impression of you. At the top of your profile, the first thing they see is your profile picture. It's amazing how few pay attention to this important first impression. Getting a good profile picture can be expensive. Just taking a snapshot is not enough. You need a good image editing program, like Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro, which are expensive to buy. Alternatively, you could hire an artist to make one for you. Don't expect to get them to do it free. They have a lot of projects going for themselves already. Many of us don't have money or enough to pay for a good profile picture. My experience with Graphic Arts starts from my grandfather, a sign painter and fine artist, and is developed through school and on the job experience. Using that, in writing this article, I am going to show you how to make a good first impression, profile pic, for FREE.
Many of us have already learned how to aim and zoom the camera. You can zoom in and rotate the camera to any point on a sim, called "Perv cam", if you know a few simple tricks to control the camera. To start, you could just turn your av in the direction you wish to view and use the mouse wheel to zoom in and out. However, when you get to your back, the cam switches to mouseview, the equivalent of looking through your avatars eyes. To move the camera, without changing your av's position, hold the [Alt] key down and left click the person, object or wall (not sky) you wish to focus on. Now, as long as you keep the [Alt] down, the movement of the mouse will zoom in or out and rotate (pan), left or right, on the point selected. If you need to pan up or down, add the [Ctrl] key, while still holding the [Alt] down. Using these two keys, you can get a close look at anything you can click on. I use this trick often, when exploring new sims, to save having to walk so much. This is also very usefull for setting camera position and zoom for a good picture of yourself. Close ups make much better profile pics than full body shots.
Posing for the camera
By default, avatars are never still. To make them look alive, slight movements are added. Wearing an AO makes you look even more lifelike, but it's hard to get a good picture of a moving target. Editing appearance will freeze your av and is good for fine tuning the objects you wear, but it sucks as a camera pose. Camera studios have a selection of poses and backgrounds to use. To pose with a background from your own favorite sim, there are poses you can get for your inventory, for sale and/or free. Clothing, hair and skin show your beauty, but a good pose shows your attitude.
This is also an important part of getting a good picture. Viewers come with a selection of lighting choices. Some, like "Nirans", have a larger selection. For a good photo, you need more than just ambient light. Photographers use additional lights to remove shadows, light the background and create mood and depth. You can buy lights, but making your own is free. To make a light, first rez a sphere, or any other prim, then edit it. In the texture tab, make it's texture invisible, then open the features tab and click the box to make it a light and set it's color, intensity, radius and fall off (fading with distance). In locations where you can rez things, place the light where needed. In no rez locations, wear the light and then edit it's location. You can't edit things that are invisible, so to find and edit your light push [Ctrl]+[Alt]+T at the same time. This makes all invisible objects appear as translucent red, letting you click and edit them.
In a photo studio, there is a button that lets you select from an assortment of backgrounds. If you prefer to use a background, from in your home, favorite club, or scenic sim, just walk up to the location and turn around. If you want to use a favorite picture or image from your hard drive as a background, there are two ways to do it. You can upload the image, for $10, and make it a texture on a large box and pose in front of it. Alternatively, you can use, what the industry calls, a "green Screen", by making the box a solid green (or other color close to the color of the image that will be your background). Before adding your snapshot as a new layer, above the desired background, the green can be removed easily, then stray colored pixels can be erased individually.
Taking your best shot
Setting up the scene, pose, lighting, and camera position takes a long time. If, for some reason, you don't like the way the photo came out, when you go to work with it offline, setting up for a new shot will take a lot of extra time. Since saving the photo to your hard drive is free, try changing things and taking as many shots as it takes to get what you want. On the photo shoot for my new profile pic, I took 12 photos and ended up using the last one. You'll thank me for this tip.
Here is not the place tell explain how to use your editing software. That would take a whole book. What should be remembered is that profile pics are square, so you will need to crop your picture to a square, before uploading it to your profile. If you upload a rectangle, it will be squeezed to fit and ruin all your work and leave a bad impression on those that view it. As a final note, here are two free softwares that you can get on the internet, for making and editing pictures.
QAvimator is for making animations and poses, which can be uploaded to SL.
Paint.NET works like Photoshop and Paintshop Pro, but it's easier to use and free. I use it also for making clothing textures.
I hope my tips will help you make a good first impression. If you have questions, find me inworld and I'll be glad to help.
Becky "Sha" Shamen