Sunday, February 24, 2008

Taking Shots at SL Photography

I love the possibilities that Windlight offers to taking pictures in SL. At the same time, I have strong reservations about the way many people use Windlight. In a nutshell, I have mixed feelings about it.

Photography is certainly personal and there are many views on what makes a picture interesting. It strikes me as cheating though when an SL picture looks good only thanks to a dramatic sunset sky with pretty clouds and pretty colors created with a simple selection of the right Windlight settings. Besides, how long will it be until everyone is going to get tired of those sunsets like I am? After all, sunsets and sunrises look beautiful to us because in the real world they happen only for a fraction of the time. In a world where sunsets are the norm we would learn to admire midday light instead.

More importantly, what is the right relationship between a piece of SL art created by one person and a picture of that piece taken by another person? Let's keep in mind that, in an artificial world like SL, everything involves aesthetic decisions made by a creator and therefore is "virtually" a piece of art (good or bad). There is certainly value in a picture that makes the subject look good and is all about the subject. But what is the role of a picture that looks good only because of a pretty sky and that shows its subject only as a dark silhouette? Is it really a picture of the subject or is it just another picture of a Windlight sunset? Does one have the moral right to use a recognizable creation of someone else in that way?

And things get even more complicated thanks to Windlight. Windlight introduces so many extra variables in the rapport between the vision of the subject's creator and the vision of the photographer. Even when a picture is really about showing off a creation in SL and not just making the picture look good at any price, lighting and atmosphere can transform a joyful image into a tragic one and vice versa. There may be future solutions for that, however. I think I have seen mentioning that there will be future features allowing owners of a sim to set the Windlight defaults. I wouldn't be surprised if there will be even more than that and a right click selection on an object will set your viewer to Windlight settings that are customized for that particular object. We would be able to venture through an exhibition and have our settings changed with every exhibit. For now though, I don't see a clear answer to this dilemma.

I don't mean to dis anyone's photographic style in SL, as I said it is something personal. The opinions I expressed here are meant only to explain my choice to create pictures that are more like postcards, with very little, if any, post-editing and with a more natural use of Windlight settings. To anyone who doesn't realize it, there is a lot of skill and talent needed even for pictures like that. And there is also a lot of satisfaction from creating pictures like that.