Here's a handy video tutorial for those of you who like taking shots of your Second Life avatar with anything but the standard sombre expression on their face. Hot off the YouTube presses (they have those, right?) SL fashion and lifestyle blogger Alicia Chenaux walks you through creating the perfect "Smile Shape", which is to say a variation of your regular shape specifically designed to look more natural when using a smiling facial animation.
If you're unfamiliar with Second Life's facial expression morphs or the specific way that "smiling" in SL tends to make an avatar's eyes completely vanish, then a Smile Shape might seem unnecessary to you. To avatar photographers including myself who (as Alicia points out) have been stuck blending screenshots of smiling and non-smiling avatar faces together to get something that looks even half-decent, this tutorial is a stroke of brilliance. One of the reasons that mesh heads have becomes so popular with photographers is for their expressions -- not having to deal with the vanilla facial morphs that tend to squish and scrunch an avatar's features has given them a lot more freedom. Even so, there's no replacing your avatar's true face, and anything that can be done to make it more expressive without detracting from its overall... Unscrunchedness... Is helpful.
Janine Hawkins (@bleatingheart on Twitter, Iris Ophelia in Second Life) has been writing about virtual worlds and video games for nearly a decade, and has had her work featured on Paste, Kotaku, Jezebel and The Mary Sue.