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Iris Wants To Know: How Much Photoshop Is Too Much When it Comes to Processed Virtual World Pics?

Kingdom of Jordan
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

It probably wouldn't be hard to place most SL photographers on a spectrum based on how heavily they rely on Photoshop for their everyday snapshots -- purists who have nothing but vanilla pieces on one end, highly embellished "Pile-up" superstars on the other. Second Life fashion pictures and Photoshop go particularly well together, almost inexorably linked, so it's no surprise that most virtual world fashionistas have become Photoshop addicts. Myself included.

But lately, something's changed.

Like many fashionistas (bloggers chief among them) I'm the kind of person who can't take a single picture in Second Life without touching it up in Adobe Photoshop later, and it's been that way for nearly as long as I've been in SL. My preference in others work was the same. Colors should be adjusted, bumpy meshed should be smoothed, jagged edges blurred...

At some point, a lot of that stopped mattering to me. At some point, the most appealing pictures became the ones that looked the least tampered with, like the image above by the Photoshop-free SL artist Loverdag... Though there's certainly still an art to making a picture look flawlessly un-Photoshopped in Photoshop. But either way, I'm not quite sure what exactly has changed. Is it a larger trend, a reaction to Photoshop snapshot saturation, or just shifting personal tastes?

So here's what I want to know: How much Photoshop is too much, both from an artist and a viewer perspective? Is there a point where all that post work is just a turn off, or do you eat it up regardless? Most importantly, do you feel the same way about it now as you did a few years ago? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Mixed reality iris 2013Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times, and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.


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Adeon Writer

As long as they aren't mixed I think it's fine. Photoshop is only "cheating" if it's mixed in with pictures where no post-processing was the whole point of the collection.

For things like vendor art I consider any post processing outside backdrop layering and text/logo/branding design to be unwelcome, though.

Pussycat Catnap

I could care less unless its a product image for something you're selling to be used inside of SL. Then my tolerance ends the moment you touch up ANYTHING related to the product itself.

Go ahead and mess with the scene, lighting, logos, and so on - but be honest in the product.

But if its not a product being sold for use inside of SL - why should it matter?

Roslynd Turbo

I never touch-top or edit in Photoshop at all. The only acceptable use for anyone doing store related images is to use it for layout (to add text overlays etc) adjusting things in Photoshop for anything relating to a store images is a deception.

For artists that's a completely different matter and they can do whatever they want.


I use photoshop depending on what I think it can lend to the picture. For example, I took a picture of a deer avatar I wanted to showcase, but mixed it up with some Minecraft backgrounds, Instagram filters, and public domain pictures:


I never post-process my photos. They go directly to Flickr. I think I am more lazy than arty. I use Windlight, but not PS. Sometimes the photos are too dark or overexposed, but for me, they serve as a kind of visual diary of my Second Life™.

Mellyn Llewellyn

(I'm not talking about marketing.)

The art world has had this kind of debate for a very long time, some preferring art where the artistic elements slap you in the face, self-consciously artistic, the techniques and brilliance in their uses foremost. Others want the artist to disappear, to present a subtle interpretation of reality that doesn't draw attention to itself. Conceptual photography vs. Ansel Adams. Citizen Kane vs. movies that never pull out of the pretend world in which you're immersed.

To me it's not either/or, good/bad, too much/too little, it's just different. Go play in whatever playpen feeds your soul.


I don't personally use Photoshop on my SL snapshots unless you count some cropping (including frames, for blog purposes) here and there, or for pictures with insets. Those are pretty obvious, and nothing in the actual image changes that way, save for maybe a stroke and shadow around the insets.

Oh, and there was that one Thanksgiving card a few years ago. That involved a green screen. I'm still proud of that one. :)

I might have done some color and/or balance adjustments on some I've posted early on (I can't remember), but nothing drastic… I personally prefer the challenge of working with windlight settings, whatever fun backgrounds I can find, and my very very amateur knowledge of image composition.

But that's all personal preference. It's amazing what you can do with in-world tools alone. But it's also amazing what some people can do in post-processing. Too much or too little really depends on purpose and whether what you're doing works. Do my screenshots work? In general, I dunno, but as practice? Yup.

Savoree LeDesir

I'm a fan of post-processing as an art form, so for artistic endeavors, I don't think you can necessarily do "too much." (Whether the end product looks good or not is very subjective, and would be the topic of a different conversation, obviously.)

As others indicated in this thread, I too think honesty is key. For in-world product sales, photoshopping that would make the end product look better than what the buyer is actually going to receive is totally unacceptable. Creativity with the background and lighting is usually OK as long as the photo still shows what the product will actually look like.

All of that being said, I have seen a few SL photographers who have a talent for capturing amazing photos in world and are proud of the fact that they use no post processing. There is A LOT of talent involved with this (having professional grade equipment and software also doesn't hurt), and I have a great appreciation for those who can pull it off successfully.

CronoCloud Creeggan

Since I occasionally blog fashion, I consider it my "duty" to show things as they really are and how they would really look. No Gauss, no glow, no smoothing out the edges. I might crop, I might work with contrast, but that's about it. I usually put the originals on flickr.

Tracy RedAngel

I'll throw my hat in for the no-photoshopping-vendors crowd. But if it's someone's own personal artistic away.
There's a broad range of photoshop-manipulated SL images from the very bad (HORRIBLE photo morphs) to images that almost become a beautiful digital painting.

Connie Arida

Photography IS fiction

ZZ Bottom

To be able to use anmy other tool to erxpress our visions of Second Life!
To just post raw pics, that are memories of our experience in the virtuasl worlds!
To do whatever, as long as it has a meaning and a purpose for the chreator!

Dahlia Jayaram

I'm happy that photographers have a range of stylistic and tool options available—both inworld with Windlight settings and outside with products such as Photoshop and GIMP. This allows us to be as straight-forward or elaborately creative as we need to be in order to have a photo achieve the results we desire. No one-solution-fits-all method should ever be considered sufficient in order for uniqueness and creativity to thrive.

Aside from cropping, the majority of my own photos that chronicle my in-world experience remain untouched outside of Second Life. For sellable art, however, I may or may not use Photoshop to correct and enhance images according to the goal of those projects.

And for product shots, I agree with others in the comments here that photos of products should not be enhanced outside of Second Life beyond cropping and importing into layouts. This way, they will more accurately represent products as consumers should expect to see them inworld. It also gives buyers the opportunity to make honest and appropriately-informed choices about their potential purchases and preserves the integrity of product creators by steering clear of potentially deceptive advertising practices.

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