Second Life‘s Snapshot feature in its default mode is like a point-and-shoot camera. You aim it and it does the rest, providing you with just three options: to send the snapshot as an email, to save it in your inventory as a texture, or to save it on your hard drive as an image. However, for those needing more options, there are more advanced settings that may serve you better than the default settings. To see them, click "More >>" at the bottom of the default snapshot window.
Snapshot to email settings
Now we see additonal snapshot options, but what do they mean?
The two most useful options are to set the snapshot size and image quality. When you’re sending a picture by email, you should always be aware of the size of the image file you are sending. If your recipient has a dial-up internet connection or limited disk space on their computer, sending too large a file could tie up their internet connection for a long period or be impossible to save. That’s where these two snapshot settings can be useful.
You can send your picture as the same size as your current Second Life window, or as 640×480, 800×600,
or 1024×768, or you can specify your own custom size. If you’re running Second Life in a small window, then you might want to send a larger picture; conversely if you’re running Second Life full screen and don’t want to email a large file, then you should select a smaller size.
The Image Quality slider allows you to specify the quality of the image, and thereby the size of the file. The default setting is 75. Be careful about setting this higher – it can result in a dramatically larger email. For example, in my test, a size of 800×600 at the default Image Quality of 75 generated an 81KB file, but a setting of 100 generated a file almost five times larger, 391KB. Reducing the Image Quality from 75 to 50 resulted in a 30% smaller file, 57KB.
The other options will be discussed later, under "Save to your hard drive."
Snapshot to inventory settings
Selecting "Save to your inventory (L$10)" gives us a slightly different set of options, starting with the fact that it will cost you ten Lindens (3.4 US cents at today’s exchange rate) for every snapshot saved.
There are three preset Sizes: Small (128×128), Medium (256×256), and Large (512×512). These are the sizes you are most likely to need for applying Second Life textures. There are also options for using the current window size and your own custom size.
There is no setting for Image Quality; this applies only when jpeg files are created, which is only available with the "Send via email" and "Save to your hard drive" options.
Notice that unlike "Send to email" and "Save to your hard drive", when you save to inventory using the standard sizes, the texture you create will be square, not rectangular, and the areas from the rectangular screen image that will be discarded are shown in grey in the preview image.
Snapshot to hard drive settings
Understanding the "Save to your hard drive" settings is essential for anyone creating images on your hard drive that you plan to print, display on the web, or otherwise process.
As with the first two options, you can select a size when saving to your hard drive, but you have a greater choice of sizes: 320×240, 640×480, 800×600, 1024×768, 1280×1024, and 1600×1200 in addition to the current window size and your own custom size. The size you select of course depends on what you plan to do with the image.
You also have the choice of three file formats: bmp, jpeg, and png. Jpeg is the most common for displaying and emailing images, and it generally creates a much smaller file than bmp and png, but it’s not always the best choice for saving files. This is because each time you save a jpeg file, you have some loss of quality. If you have enough hard drive space, it’s better to save as either bmp or png, and make a jpeg copy when you need to email it or post it on the Web.
Bmp and png files don’t suffer this generational loss of quality. I generally save my files as png because these files are substantially smaller than bmp files. For example, in my testing, an 800×600 snapshot saved as a png file resulted in a 802KB file, but the same snapshot saved as a bmp resulted in a file that’s 75% larger, 1,407KB!
When you save as jpeg, the Image Quality slider appears, again with the default value of 75. When saved as a jpeg with an Image Quality of 75, the same 800×600 image that created a 802KB png file and a 1,407 bmp file generated an 81KB file. When Image Quality was increased to 100, it generated a file almost five times larger, 391KB. Reducing the Image Quality from 75 to 50 resulted in a 30% smaller file, 57KB.
If you choose a custom size, make certain that there is a checkmark in "Constrain Proportions". If you do, you can change either number and the other number will change to keep the same image proportions. Otherwise, your picture could end up looking stretched vertically or horizontally!
There are additional settings, but you generally won’t need to change them. "Capture" should always be set to "Colors" unless you are looking for special effects. If you want to show the Second Life user interface (menu bars, chat, etc) in your picture, then put a check at "Show Interface in Snapshot. If you want a HUD to appear, then check "Show HUD in snapshot".
If you’re doing a series of shots of the same scene, then it can be useful to check "Keep open after saving." This keeps the snapshot window open until you uncheck this setting.