Making Eyes: controlling where your eyes look when photographing self-portraits

If you’ve ever tried to photograph a self-portrait in Second Life, you’ve probably encountered this problem: your avatar’s eyes just won’t look where you want them to look. You’ve found a killer pose, adjusted the lighting, and lined up your shot so that everything’s perfect – everything except the eyes! They’re either rolling into her skull, or dancing around like drunken party girls every time you move your mouse.

Here's an example: I want to model the new Suzana Pale 36 skin from LionSkins and I love how the Armidi Ginza hair looks with this skin, but how to keep the eyes from disappearing behind the bangs?

Professional SL photographers use a focus or gaze point to overcome this problem: models are asked to alt-click on a specific target, such as a coloured sphere, so that the direction their eyes are looking remains fixed. However, with self-portraits, this technique presents a problem. As soon as you alt-click on a gaze point, the camera instantly shifts to place that point at the centre of your screen. So now you’ve lost the original framing. But if you alt-click on your avie and use the mouse-drag technique to reframe your shot – zap! – there’s those shifty eyes again. A classic SL Catch-22!

So I've alt-clicked on a gaze point, and I think the eyes are good now - but the composition sucks!

Here's what I mean: I've alt-clicked on a gaze point, and I think the eyes are good now - except you can't see them anymore!

AMS PhotoStage and PhotoLite have some useful tools that will help solve this problem, allowing you to use gaze points effectively when doing self-portraits. Here’s how:

  1. Make sure your on-screen camera controls are open (View > Camera Controls)
  2. Rez a gaze point and position it where you want it. With the AMS PhotoStage and PhotoLite, this becomes a very easy process: once the gaze point is rezzed you simply use the Position Editor to place the gaze point precisely where you need it anywhere on the X Y Z axes.
  3. Compose your shot using the alt-click & drag technique to find the desired camera frame. This is just a preliminary framing, so be careful to note the camera position so you can return to it later.
  4. Cam or zoom out, find your gaze point and alt-click on it. You will lose the original camera frame of course – BUT, now your avie’s eyes will be fixed on the gaze point, and not bouncing around like ping pong balls.
  5. Use the on-screen Camera Controls and Keyboard Commands to reposition the camera on the model. I highly recommend using the Keyboard Commands for controlling the camera at this stage rather than relying on the on-screen Camera Controls alone. The Keyboard Commands tend to give you much more precise control over the camera’s pan, tilt, spin and zoom functions. The Zoom In (CTRL + 0) and Zoom Out (CTRL + 8 ) keystrokes are especially useful for framing close shots, since they allow you to move in much closer than the on-screen Camera Controls will permit. The Shift + Ctrl + Alt + arrow keys which pan the camera left, right, up and down are also extremely useful for self-portraiture. (I’ve listed the Keyboard Commands at the end of this post for any who may not be familiar with these highly useful tools.)
  6. If the direction of your avie’s gaze still needs adjusting, cam out again, adjust the position of the gaze point, and then reframe the camera. Once again, the AMS Position Editor greatly simplifies this procedure. You may need to go back and forth a few times to get things exactly the way you want. With practice and experience, you’ll soon learn how to place your gaze points accurately, then manipulate the keyboard and camera controls to get that perfect frame and beautiful eyes!

Voila - mission accomplished!

For more information on AMS products, please visit the AMS website, or stop by the AMS Demo Site or Metro Models store to try out the amazing PhotoStage and PhotoLite!

Camera Tools:

View > Camera Controls provides an on-screen camera interface

Keyboard Commands:

Note: make sure you close your Communications, or Chat, window; otherwise, the keyboard camera commands won’t work.

Ctrl + 8 = Zooms Out (Wide angle lens)

Ctrl + 9 = Resets camera

Ctrl + 0 = Zooms In (Telephoto lens)

Alt + arrow keys =  Camera rotates, or spins, right and left; zooms in and out (Note: will usually not zoom as far as Ctrl + 8 or Ctrl + 0)

Alt + Page Up/Page Down = Camera rotates, or tilts, up and down

Ctrl + Alt + arrow keys = Rotates camera up down and around (does basically the same thing as Alt + L/R arrow keys and Alt + Page Up/PageDown keys)

Shift + Ctrl + Alt + arrow keys = PANS camera left, right, up and down. For self-portraiture these are probably the most useful keyboard commands along with the Ctrl + 0 / Ctrl + 8 keys!

Try these! I guarantee they will make your experience of photographing self-portraits in SL significantly easier and infinitely more enjoyable!

(For more information on SL photography, be sure to read Torley Linden’s Guide to High Quality Photography)

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5 thoughts on “Making Eyes: controlling where your eyes look when photographing self-portraits

  1. Marianne: I’m so sorry but I accidentally deleted your comment! If you can repost it, that would be great 🙂

    You were expressing how happy you were to have the information in this post, and asked about whether you can rez gaze points in places where you don’t have build rights. At this point, the only way to do this is to ask the owner of the land if they would be kind enough to give you build rights temporarily for the purpose of taking some photographs. I do like your idea though, and will explore the feasibility of creating a HUD-controlled gaze point attachment 🙂 Thanks again for the comment!

  2. Yay! I was able to recover Marianne’s comment:

    Thank you! I have posted and asked about this topic before, and got the same lame answer “ask the model to rightclick on…” *sighs*
    Even after I have repeated that it’s help for stopping MY eyes I ask for. No one seems to understand what my problem was. I know English isn’t my first language, but sometimes I don’t think people read the question. I only have one thing to add: Does this work in places that don’t allow build? I don’t like to take all my pictures in a studio. It would be good to wear an object that I could lock my eyes on, and then rotate it around using a HUD. I have read the sites you link to, and maybe I’m wrong but it seems to be things that’s has to be rez’ed.
    I would like to have a tool that I can wear like a facelight, but that I can lock my eyes on and then position the eyes correct.

  3. Yay! Thank you Serenity, I’d only previously used the on-screen camera controls before, and now I know the keyboard shortcuts to speed up time + make things easier 🙂

  4. Pingback: Photo Studio vs Rez-a-Prim « Serenity Mercier

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