Tutorial: Profile Pics Basics

This is actually a tutorial for a class I will be teaching next week, but it seemed easiest to post here at The Blog, and perhaps it will help a few folks reading as well as the LEARN AVATAR students.

This isn't fancy, just the simplest way I could think of for people to improve their sometimes fairly horrible *wink* profile photos. Normally I would take a larger photograph and post process more, but not everyone has a program or the skills to do the full photography job.

These examples are mostly from Kirsten's S20 viewer with full shadows enabled.

Things you need.

  • A pose.
  • A locale. (Mine is less than picturesque in this quick example.) Choose a backdrop that enhances your photo rather than competes with it. I personally like natural settings like trees in the background.
  • A good Windlight setting. 

Once you have all three, take some time adjusting your pose, camera angle and lighting so that you have a photo you can be proud of. One of the most important Windlight slider for portraits is the  EAST ANGLE.

Click for larger and clearer viewing.

Shown here in Imprudence 1.4, but similar in all viewers that I know of -- the East Angle slider moves the sun from east to west and works along with the Sun/ Moon position. The important thing is that it gets rid of shadows on your face in non shadow viewers. The best setting for East Angle will depend on the standing direction of your avatar. So get in position and ready to take your photo, and THEN work on the fine tuning.

Older Style Viewers Based on 1.23 Codes
- Specifics for Viewer 2 follow-

Click for larger and clearer viewing.

To take a photo, open the snapshot window (usually a button on the bottom toolbar - also under File in the top toolbar in at least some viewers).

The easiest way to get a profile photo is to set your snapshot window to  400 x 300 pixels (or something very close to that).  Saving the photo to your hard drive and doing some post processing will give you a better photo, but even uploading from the photo window and using "as is" will work pretty well. I suggest however that if you are not going to post process, you practice your photography a bit and send yourself postcards to see how your photos turn out. There is no point in spending Lindens on photos you will never use.

Click for larger and clearer viewing.

You should always take your photos in a 4:3 ratio unless you are going to crop them in your graphics software during post processing. The profile window is designed for this ratio.  Uploading changes the size to 256 x 256. Resizing your photo and sharpening a bit BEFORE uploading will give you a better picture. That isn't a necessity, just an advisory.

Once you have your picture uploaded, simply open your profile window and drag your new texture (hopefully named something like "chicsprofile2-11" so it is easy to fine) to the profile photo pane. You can also click on the pane and then find the texture in your inventory.

Viewer 2 Differences

In Viewer 2 the profile pics are basically square. So take your photo in a 256 x 256 format if you choose. We will still look like ourselves hopefully. Life was a little less confusing when we were all on the same viewer.  

 In World or Website?

If you are using certain Viewer 2 interfaces, you have the choice of changingyour profile photo on the website rather than in the viewer. In this case you will save your photo in jpg, gif or png formats and upload using the website interface. To get to the web interface, right click on yourself and choose "profile".You can send yourself a postcard and use that photo if you aren't adept at graphics post processing.

While using the website for your profile pic changes saves you $10 (yeah), experiments showed that changing within the old style viewer -- should you have one available  gives a clearer and sharper photo. Apparently the website pics up any profile changes made in the older style viewers. It then "transmits" them to Viewer 2.

The differences are slight and depending on your graphics card and monitor they may not even be evident, but if you are picky like me, they are evident.

You can see from this photo at the left, that folks using an older style viewer will see a distorted version of a profile picture designed for Viewer 2 (ie square). The same would apply to those in Viewer 2 looking at photos made for old style viewers; they would be scrunched giving a thinner look to the face.

If you are more concerned about how others see you than you are about how you see yourself *wink* you might decide to split the difference between 1:1 and 4:3 ratios. The choice is yours.

This is how the square photo looks in the new Kirstens S21 viewer.  I have to admit that it is nice to "see" who you are chatting with. So for those of you in or moving to the Viewer 2 interface, it is likely time to update your profile picture.


There are certainly more steps to taking outstanding photos, but these will get you on your way. Have fun!

PS. I now have my daily default no shadow setting in sharable form, so if anyone would like that, just send me a notecard or IM me when I am in world and I will pass that along to you. Just right click on the .wl file and choose "use windlight setting".

  1. gravatar

    # by Laverne Unit - February 6, 2011 at 7:13 AM

    Thank you, this is really useful and clear.

    One thing to note is that in viewer 2.0, the profile picture in the sidebar (but not, for some bizarre reason, in the profile search) is displayed as 1:1 rather than 4:3, so people should expect it to look strange if they use that viewer.

  2. gravatar

    # by Nissa Nightfire - February 6, 2011 at 10:42 AM

    great tut, Chic. I'll mention that the profile pics in viewer 2 are square now ... just something to know... I've toyed with making the SL profile pic one ratio and the RL pic (with an avatar pic) the other ratio so that everyone can see at least one clearly. But -- then I finally just decided to use the one I can see the best. On some pics, it barely matters... but some can get distorted.

  3. gravatar

    # by Chic Aeon - February 6, 2011 at 3:08 PM

    Thank you both. I updated the post in BOLD with your info on squarish viewer 2 pics. That actually makes sense as many folks think in the 512ish format.

    So I am thinking that I look "thinner" in my my profile photo than intended. Oh well.

    Smiles and a big THANK YOU!

  4. gravatar

    # by Lindal Kidd - July 30, 2011 at 11:01 PM

    I prefer to take the picture full screen, and then crop it offline in Photoshop or GIMP. When cropping, use the aspect ratio of your final destination, e.g. 4:3. Then, before saving your image, change the image size so that the sides are a power of 2, such as 256x256 or 512x512. This will distort the image, but it will un-distort when you drop it in your Profile. Doing this yourself before uploading it will give you better results.

  5. gravatar

    # by Chic Aeon - July 31, 2011 at 8:39 AM

    Agreed Lindal, that's what I do to. This was written for folks without the ability or the desire to work with graphics programs.

    And it is important to note that NOW with different aspect ratios depending on viewers your photo will never look "right" to everyone. We can only do what we can do :D.