Loads of people (well, four or five, maybe) have said they enjoy the pictures on Gwyneth’s blog; those who knew Fionuala said the same thing. Recently, I’ve been asked how I create these pictures, and so I took the opportunity to work on Gwyneth’s modern incarnation, who’ll inhabit Cranberry Cove sim (and possibly other places), and I took her on a little photo shoot.
Let’s start with a (gasp!) plain .png image, straight from the Second Life camera, with no cropping, editing, or filtering applied.
Modern Gwyneth Evans has a darker hair colour, more natural. I knew I wanted high graphics, so I took her to a premium wilderness that’s not usually very busy unless there are scheduled premium member events (to which I never go, natch). Here is the unedited photograph. These photos are taken straight with the Second Life camera, at the biggest size it allows (and full screen on a 27″ iMac), so I have a good amount of pixel depth to work with. They’re saved to my desktop and imported into Aperture for organisation (well, for some values of organisation). After that, I don’t touch the photographs in Aperture again unless I’m experimenting, because Aperture isn’t the sort of photo editor I need. In fact, the only thing I care about at this point is that the photos make it safely to my Photostream, because then I can access them on my iPad.
What? That’s right. I do all the photo editing for Gwyneth’s blog using two different applications. On an iPad. It’s not even an iPad Air; it’s a 4th generation iPad, the first model with a retina screen. The only special thing about this iPad is that it’s mine and it’s got a huge storage capacity. That’s it.
The two applications I use the most are a cheap little (69p!) app called MySketch, and a slightly more expensive image editor (£1.69) called iColorama. Recently, I’ve been using iColorama exclusively, and you can see the filter differences very obviously in the blog. But I’ll take us back to MySketch for purposes of this post, just so you can see how the whole thing evolved.
Here’s a screenshot of MySketch on the iPad. First, it asks you to set the sketch area. It doesn’t give you a lot of options, no aspect ratio to speak of, just a choice between landscape and portrait. At least it’s not one of those apps that’s geared completely toward Instagram that only give you the option to select square photos, but I digress. 🙂
I’ve already set the shot area for this picture in the screenshot. I decided on a landscape photo because the aspect ratio is close enough to SL’s optimal 4:3 in landscape that a landscape MySketch picture can be used as a profile picture in SL. The portrait shots are sometimes good for blogging, but not what I wanted here. Notice that Gwyneth is not centred in the photograph. Centred photographs look static and there’s no sense of place in a centred photograph. That’s fine for a school portrait, but not for the sort of photos I’m looking for for Gwyn’s blog: she talks about her life and the pictures help her describe it. Here I’ve posed her not quite in a perfect golden ratio, mostly because I didn’t want part of a box on one side or part of a tree on the other. Nothing is ever perfect, natch.
Now it’s time to decide how I’ll use MySketch to convert the photo into a sketch that could have, if you have a really good imagination, been drawn by Gwyneth herself.
Far and away, when I work with MySketch, I find myself choosing the Vintage filter. There are a couple of reasons for this. It allows for muted colours and has a non-white background, which I like. You also don’t get the paper edge effect that you get with some of the other filters.
MySketch is stupidly easy to use. Once you apply the filter to the picture, you can play with the darkness or the contrast level of the image, but that’s about it. There’s not a lot of room for error, which is a good thing. Now, why does MySketch work so well with SL images? I’m not really sure, but I think it’s that they come with some predefined edges that photographs are missing. And MySketch? Is completely crap with live photographs: you have been warned. 😉
In no particular order, here are the other filters I use most frequently in MySketch: True Colour, which while it has the dread white background doesn’t piss me off too much, Smooth, which provides a more pencilled look, Long Lines, which I use for things that need a bit more drama, and Freestyle, which gives a little more of a charcoal-y look to it all.
A couple of weeks ago, I read some reviews on some blog or other (I never remember these things) and picked up a copy of iColorama. Bear in mind that I was pretty satisfied with MySketch and felt it worked well with Gwyneth’s artistic “style”. But circumstances being what they are, Gwyneth’s life is about to go in several different directions, and I figured her “art” would reflect this.
I think I’ll just let the pictures do the talking. 🙂 Note the blue highlights at the top of the screen: they show you which effect is being applied. Each effect was added to the one before it.
On the whole, I enjoy working with iColorama more than with MySketch. There’s way more room to make mistakes! But I’ll be honest with you: as I was playing around with iColorama, a couple of people who saw my first experiments told me they liked the MySketch effects better, that they looked more like genuine artwork.
I know most of you aren’t the commenting type, but if you have an opinion as to what kind of artwork looks best here, please leave a comment here or approach me in world? I do this because I like it, but I kinda care if you like it as well.
I guess whether or not Gwyneth is capable of creating these images herself is immaterial. Her having a sketching habit was a rp anchor for the earliest of the photos I put in her blog, but I’m not sure how much has been written about the sidhe and whether or not they’re great artists, or just hacks like me.
A couple of people have asked me what happened to the “mural” banner at the top of the blog; the short answer is that some of the characters there aren’t relevant to Gwyneth’s current life, and I expect the looks of those who will remain relevant to change over the next few months. So the mural, the original of which still hangs in both my OOC houses, will be revamped and reinserted later.
Now that I have no secrets left, I guess the mystery’s all gone out of Gwyneth’s blog. Would you be impressed to know that I took more than a hundred SL photographs on this shoot, and it’s taken five hours to put this blog post together?
Now you probably just think I have too much time on my hands; the fact is I’m an insomniac and I’ve been sick recently, so that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
I’ve thrown a really good rating at the iColorama people on the app store, although I suspect they’d be surprised to see what I’m doing with their app.
So — what are your blog image secrets?
I dare you to tell me!