SL Photography: A Guide to Keeping Your Prices Fair

How many times have we heard “How much should I charge for…?”.  If you are not sure how much to charge for photography work in Second Life, here are some guidelines we have compiled from experience and research:

Service Sitting/Event Fee
per person/group
Ametuer
per photo & up to
Advanced
per photo & up to
Guru
per photo & up to
Profile Photos 300L – 500L 50L 100L 500L
WeddingPortaits 1000L – 3,000L 100L 250L 500L
Wedding Day/Event Photography 1000L – 10,000L 100L 300L 500L
Couples Portraits 500L – 800L 75L 200L 600L
Merchandise Photography 100L – 1000L 50L 150L 250L
Fashion Photography 500L – 3000L 100L 300L 500L

Sitting fees: It’s up to you to decide whether or not to charge a sitting fee for your services.  Sitting fees are a compensation for your time whether or not your customer decides to purchase any photographs or not.

Pricing your photos and packages: Price your photos according to the level of effort you put into finishing the photo.  Now if you are very experienced with SL lighting, windlight and other elements of in-world photography and are able to get the perfect shots in with little or no postwork, then you should definitely price your sitting fees and/or portraits according to your level of expertise.  Especially if your finished portraits are exceptionally pleasing to your customers.

This is why photographers with better PC graphics are able to charge more  They can take advantage of the more advanced lighting and graphics settings which allows them to do less postwork.

The prices above are up to the amount shown.  It’s fair for an ametuer photographer to charge up to 50L for one profile photo.  This means anything less is comfortable.  If you feel that you want to charge more, go for it!  But just remember that your reputation is dependent upon word of mouth.  Sometimes it’s necessary to start by charging less (and often free) in order to get customers to rave to others about your work.

Another great idea is to sell your finished portraits in portfolio books.  You can make them copy only for individuals or transferable for models.   You can of course charge more for copyable/transferable portfolios.

Ametuer
An ametuer photographer in SL is someone who may not have developed the postwork skill needed to be considered more advanced.  An ametuer is familiar with basic SL camera controls but needs to grasp the concept of lighting, windlight, and graphics settings in SL.  If you are an ametuer,  you can increase your experience and skills by taking more photos, gaining more clients, getting repeat clients, and taking some classes in SL on the different topics of photography.

Advanced
An advanced photographer is familiar with most aspects of SL photography and is “comfortable” with their postwork process.  They have an established customer base and an established portfolio or gallery.  Advanced photographers become gurus by gaining more experience, clients, and by becoming well known for their work in various SL communities.  Others respect their work.

Gurus
Photography gurus not only have a firm understanding of SL photography, they are able to teach and share their methods and theories with others.  They can be noted as gurus also by the amount of photographs they have on display and by the wide variety of their customer base.  Gurus are skilled in windlight and SL lighting and have most likely mastered their postwork procedure using a variety of filters, macros, and other helpful tools that get the job done quickly and efficiently. 

So which photographer are you?  Ametuer, Advanced, or Guru?  Or are you somewhere inbetween?  Do you have some helpful advice for others who are trying to establish themselves as SL photographers?  How much do you charge per session and per photo?  Do you sell your photos in sets?  How do you let your customers choose the photos they want to buy?  Let us know by leaving your comment below!

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Panoramic Photography in Second Life

We’ve found the best method of creating a panoramic scene is not to crop the photo during post processing, but to stretch your Second Life Viewer window by clicking on the Restore Down button so that your viewer is no longer maximized, but now is a modal, floating window on your screen. 
maxmin
You should be able to stretch the window by pulling it up from the bottom or down from the top to shrink it vertically until you have your desired panoramic view:
Window not maximized so that it could be stretched for a custom panoramic view

Window not maximized so that it could be stretched for a custom panoramic view

 Here is the photo that we got from that shot:

Windlight preset: Dusty

Windlight preset: Dusty

 Here is another example taken in another sim.
Windlight preset: [TOR] Brouhatta charme Windlight preset: [TOR] Brouhatta charme

And yet another:

Midday

Midday

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Vertical Shooting: Another Way to See Things

As photographers even in Second Life we forget that there’s much to see over our heads and sometimes under our noses.  This trick works with models, objects, and especially with outdoor and large build photography.  Finding myself at a location with a large build, I wanted a unique photo of this cathedral that had sunlight beaming down onto the alter.  So I looked up and found where the light was coming from and used that as my focal point.

vertical4

Then I took another shot from the window looking down towards the alter.

vertical3

Outside the cathedral I also used the same method of vertical shooting to capture images of this enormous build.

vertical1

vertical5

So instead of taking photos of straight on builds, objects, and models, try experimenting with your SL camera controls to see how high and how low you can capture the image!

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Tips for Setting Up your SL Photography Studio

You have about 7 seconds to get your customers attention when they enter your studio or shop.  That’s after you’ve successfully convinced them to teleport there with your advertising through search listings, classifieds, banner ads, word of mouth, or by other methods.  How do you grab their attention?  How do you keep their attention?  What do you do with their attention once you have it?  How do you get them to come back?

Your success as a studio photographer depends a lot on the aesthetics of your work environment.  Your shop reflects the work you do!  If you want to be known for your realistic style of SL photography and you have loads of sample artwork on your studio walls, it won’t make any difference if your potential clients arrive to your land and find a giant glowing submarine skybox.  Some may actually venture inside and look around, but the initial impression is that you probably don’t do the type of photography they customer needs.  If you are known for your cartoon style photography and you give your customers chunky, colorful photo frames with their portraits, it would be accurate to house your studio in a chunky, colorful building!  Make sure your style of building reflects your photography work.  You don’t want to confuse customers – you want to reel them in for a sitting!

A great way to grab the attention of a customer is to not just give them a notecard about your services, but include a form for them to complete to reserve a time for a photo shoot.  Be available regularly and keep consistent pricing.  When a customer arrives, let them know when your next 3 available times are for a photo shoot and ask them if they would like to reserve one of those times.  Make yourself available!

Your studio should have 4 parts:

  • A sitting area
  • A information/viewing area
  • A gallery
  • A work area

The sitting and viewing area can be integrated however your gallery should be separate if possible.  You don’t want to distract from the works of art on your wall.  Your work area should be well organized and ready for your next customer.  If you have a lot of poses try organizing them on a shelf and labeling them with hover text.  When your customers see your large selection of poses, props, and backgrounds they will appreciate that.  No one knows what’s hidden in your inventory.  So if at all possible display relevant items tastefully, and in a place that is out of the way and does not over power the work area or gallery area.

And finally, your pricing should be available and easy to find.  Your customers shouldn’t have to ask you about your pricing.  It should be somewhere in plain view for them to grab – and not just on your profile.

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Close-ups: Capturing the Detail

This is too close!

This is too close!

Second Life is full of beautiful people and beautiful things!  Skins and clothing often deserve more attention than normal.  When shopping for clothes and skins, look for detail…close-up detail.  If you zoom in and nothing is there or it’s unsurprisingly blurry, there’s more shopping to do!

Most likely you will need to have some advanced settings activated to capture detailed objects and avatars.  Here are the settings I use when I need high definition on my photos:

resolution-high1  resolution-high2

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Control Your Color

The use of lighting and especially windlight gives us the opportunity to create stunning effects for our photos.  But sometimes we find that the color is overbearing on the avatar or other objects.  The use of color correction and a decrease in saturation fixes this.

So unless you are going for another hue that is unnatural, try tweaking the color using color correction, a decrease in saturation, and an increase in contrast.

contrast saturation

contrast

A few situation that may prompt you to use color correct are:

  • Changing your mind about using the windlight or light setting – If you already completed the photoshoot and decided that you don’t like the deep hues you can use color correction to fix it.
  • Your client doesn’t like the deep hues – Your client (or you) likes the pose and everything is just perfect except you had too much red or too much blue in the photo.  The image is completely saturated in color and you need to get it looking more natural.  Use color correction to fix it!
  • Using someone else’s photo – You’ve been given some photos to use or touch up, but the hues are too deep and too saturated.  You can use color correction to get them looking perfect.

Take a look at some of these photos.  Different windlight settings were used for each.  The photos on the left are the originals.  The photos on the right have been edited using color correction, saturation, and some contrast adjustments as well:

color balance 2b color balance 2a

color balance 3b color balance 3a

color balance 4b color balance 4a

color balance 5b color balance 5a

color balance 6b color balance 6a

color balance 7b color balance 7a

color balance 8b color balance 8a

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Using Windlight as Your Lighting Source

Although there are many cool lights available to use when you are in your studio, you can always try using windlight to get different lighting effects.  Windlight is great for use in the studio as well as on location and also for candid photos.

To use windlight:

  1. Click on World, then Environment Settings, then Environment Editor.
  2. Click on the Advanced Sky button.

You can play with the slider and experiment or use the Sky Presets located at the top left of that window.

If you create your own setting or tweak a preset you can save it by clicking the “New” button and giving it a name.  You can then use it by locating it in the Sky Preset drop down box.

Check out a few photographs I took and notice the sky settings and the Sky Preset.  If you haven’t tried windlight as a lighting source for your photos, give it a try!  The possibilities are endless!

Tomorrow we’ll be taking a look at controlling your color to correct some issues in your photos concerning windlight!

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Common SL Photography Mistakes and How to Avoid & Fix Them

Here are some of the most common mistakes when taking photos in Second Life and how to avoid them or fix them:

  1. Avatar Names and Tags are Showing
    Avoid: Turn off avatar name display (set to “Never” in your settings on the General Tab.
    Fix: You can remove them using the “Spot Healing Brush Tool” in Photoshop or you can blur them out if the photo is not going to be of professional quality.  If the background is too busy, yo may have to reshoot,  this time removing the avatar name tags first.
  2. SL Voice Dot Showing
    Avoid: Have the avatar disable voice. (You can disable your voice also)
    Fix: Using the “Spot Healing Brush Tool” in Photoshop usually fixes this issue.
  3. Rigid Edges (Not as much a mistake than it is an annoyance)
    Avoid: If you have the luxury of being able to use antialiasing, then bump it up to at least 4x before you begin your shoot.
    Fix: You can use the blur tool in Photoshop to soften the edges where they are rigid.
  4. Too Much White Space (or Space) There’s too much space around your subject and the background is either too boring or too busy.
    Avoid: Zoom in!  Get your camera loser to your subject and forget about what’s going on in the background.
    Fix: Crop your photo.
  5. Scenery Has Low Detail
    Avoid: Increase some sliders in your Graphics Settings such as the Object slider, Flexiprim Slider, and Tree Slider.  Experiment with what sliders give you the best result and what your graphics card can handle.
    Fix: Use sharpen to increase the detail or increase the contrast and/or play with the gamma to decrease the amount of light shown on objects and areas of your photo that have noticeably low detail.  Blurring those areas is another option, thus focusing in on your subject.

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SL Photography: A Guide to Finding and Keeping Customers

Before I begin, let me inform those who post on forums that the majority of SL residents do not read (or even know about) the forums.  You can advertise on forums and you may get a response, but don’t rely of the SL forums as a method of advertisement.  You have to utilyze the tools within SL and get them to work for you and your photography business.

Attend Events
Most people want to see how talented you are before they spend time in your studio.  What better way to show them than TO SHOW THEM!  I got most of my customers when just starting out by visiting events in SL and taking candid photos of avatars (I’d usually ask them if it was ok to take some pics and that I’d send them later).  After I spent some time editing them and finishing them with various filters and effects, I would present them in a book or scripted frame that changes images along with my prices and availability.  They were always 100% pleased and some came back for more.

Offer Your Services
When you meet a store owner try offering them your services.  Ask them if they’d like help photographing their next clothing release and that you have a few ideas to make their ads look more professional (or whatever you feel you can offer).

Ask for a Plug
If you are photographing an event, ask for a couple of advertisement plugs.  Perhaps even an inserted line of advertisement in the invitations or handouts.

Use your Picks as a Mobile Gallery
Save your best shots and put them in your picks so that others who are browsing your profile will see your awesome work!  They should be able to teleport to your gallery or shop when clicking on the teleport button.

Get your Photos EVERYWHERE and Sign/Brand Them
Flickr, Photobucket,  and any other site that hosts image galleries are a great place to add your photos.  Be sure to add tags to them so that they come up in searches and place your logo on them as well.  Provide a link to your shop (SLURL) so others know where to find you and your services!

Feel free to post your tips for finding and keeping customers below!

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Dramatic Photos: Ways to Turn up the Drama in Your Pics

Who says your photos have to be by the book and “safe”?  Your clients will appreciate a variety of choice when you present them their finished photos.  Sepia, black and white, etc are not your only choices when creating packages. Try these with your next client:

Our original photo:

dramatic photos -original

Increase your Contrast
One of the best ways to add some “oh yeah” to your SL photos is to increase the contrast.  This brings out dark tones and brightens light tones all at once.  It emphasizes details as well.

Contrast increased, saturation decreased

Contrast increased, saturation decreased

Make a Curve
I have found that if your model has a high quality skin, adding a custom curve will bring out the shadows and details of the skin.  Here is the photo finished and the curve I used on the original to obtain this effect:

dramatic photos -saturation +curve Curves

Desaturate
Black and white photos are always dramatic, especially when you add contrast as well.  However instead of using contrast, I increased the exposure and the gamma, and slightly decreased the offset to get this finished photo:

Desaturated, increased exposure, gamma, increased offset slightly

Desaturated, increased exposure, gamma, increased offset slightly

Overexpose
Overexposed photos are normally a “no-no”. That is unless you are going for that overexposed look – which we are in the next photo.  This is typical of a halo filter.  The image is over exposed and a gentle vertical and horizontal blur are added to soften the edges giving it a very angelic touch.

dramatic photos -overexposure +contrast

Add Motion
Using the motion blur filter in Photoshop, I was able to add the following effect.  Try also using radial blur which adds equally stunning results!

Duplicated layer, added a motion blur to  top layer and set blending mode to lighten

Duplicated layer, added a motion blur to top layer and set blending mode to lighten

So, how do YOU turn up the drama in your photos?  Share your favorite techniques and please feel free to upload into a gallery!

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Look at it THIS way: Shooting from Different Angles

pmangle1 So you ca’t get your camera centered on your model?  Who says you have to?  Pan & Zoom around your model and take snapshots from different angels.  Take shots from above, from below, from each side, and anywhere inbetween.

This is a great way of capturing different aspects of a fashion design on your model.  Allow your customers to see the outfit from various angles instead of just the front and/or back. This method is a fun way to give your photos more  edge!

  
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Focus!: Using Blur to Focus in on Your Subject

With fashion photography we see photographers attempt an on location shoot with a gorgeous background.  Too many times though, the background overshadows the true subject of the photo which is the clothing or the model.  It’s necessary to take the focus away from the background and put it back on the model to make an impact.  This can be done by simply cutting out your model using a low feather setting in Photoshop, copying it to a new layer, then applying a gaussian blur to the original layer.  In the photo below, I have also increased the exposure on the model layer to brighten it up a bit.
Original Photo

Original Photo

Burred Photo

Burred Photo

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