Tutorial: Using the PhotoStage backdrop

19 January 2008 at 9:50 pm Leave a comment

A few PhotoStage users have suggested that a post series containing short tutorials explaining how to use PhotoStage would be good. I think that’s a great idea, so here I am starting. Most of the material that I will go through can be found in the User’s Manual, so don’t forget that this is a good source of information.

I assume that you know how to touch the control box to obtain the main menu. The control box is that orange cube that comes with the PhotoStage, and which often sits next to the backdrop.

Today I will examine the PhotoStage backdrop, that large curved surface against which you often photograph your model. When you rez (or reset) your PhotoStage, the backdrop is plain grey. You can change three things about it: colour, texture and brightness, which are, precisely, the three options that you see if you click the Backdrop button on the main menu.


Colour refers to the “base” colour that the backdrop will display on its surface. I say “base” because this colour can be “mixed” with textures, as I explain in the Texture section. You select a colour by clicking the Colours button on the backdrop menu, and then choosing one of the predefined colours that are available, such as Dark RedBlack or Dark Grey.

You can also create custom colours if none of the predefined colours suits you. In order to use this feature you should have a rough idea of how RGB colours are specified in SL; if you don’t, please check out the first couple of sections here.

To create a custom colour, click the Custom button on the backdrop colours menu and you will be able to change the red, green and blue components of the current backdrop colour one bit at a time. For example, to make the current colour a bit more red, click Red +; to make it a bit less blue, click Blue –. Every time you click one of the plus or minus buttons to incrementally change the backdrop colour, the amounts of red, green and blue being used are displayed on your chat channel.

The amount of colour that is incremented or decremented when you click the plus and minus buttons can be changed. By default, clicking a plus button increases that colour component by 20% (i.e. 0.2 units), and clicking a minus button decreases it by the same amount. This is convenient to make quick changes in hue, but if you need a finer control, use the percentage buttons on the top row of the menu, labelled 20 %, 5 % and 1 %, to set the increment amount to a smaller number. For example, if you click the 1 % button, any further clicks on plus and minus buttons will change the corresponding colour component by 1% only (i.e. 0.01 units).


A texture in SL is basically an image that you apply on the surface of an object. Since textures are images, they can depict anything, even real-life photographs. However, background textures for studio shooting are often geometric patterns or subtle colour tones that can provide an appropriate background against which the model is emphasised. Also, background textures are usually of the “seamless” kind, meaning that multiple copies of the texture can be put next to each as if they were tiles, with the seams between them being unnoticeable. We suggest that you always use high-quality, seamless textures with the PhotoStage.

The PhotoStage comes with a few textures, but you can add your own or delete the existing ones if you wish. Textures are stored inside the backdrop itself, so the only thing you need to do to add or remove textures from the backdrop is edit it and use the regular inventory editing mechanisms of SL. The User’s Manual provides step-by-step instructions on how to do this in case you are not familiar with editing object inventories.

The PhotoStage backdrop shows no texture by default. To apply a texture to it, click the Textures button on the backdrop menu. This takes you to the textures menu, where you can use the Next and Previous buttons to cycle through the available textures in the backdrop. Every time you change the texture using these buttons, the name of the texture being used is displayed on your chat channel.

If you have many textures loaded in the backdrop, moving one by one can be slow. In this case, you can use the forward and back buttons in the same menu, which jump a specific number of textures in the list forward or backward, respectively. For example, if you click the Forward 10 button, the 10th texture after the current one will be applied to the backdrop.

Finally, you can use the No Texture button to remove any texture that is applied to the backdrop. This does not remove the texture from the backdrop’s inventory; it just makes the backdrop “untextured” again.

As I say in the Colour section, colours and textures can be “mixed”. This happens when you apply a texture to the backdrop while a non-white colour is selected. The effect of the “mixing” is that the texture is tinted with that colour. The brightest areas of the texture will be coloured more strongly, while the darkest areas will be barely coloured. The overall effect depends also on the lightness of the colour being used; lighter colours let the texture show through a lot, whereas darker colour tend to “hide” the texture. Experiment with different combinations and you will see.


Brightness refers to how the backdrop reacts to the light it receives. As the backdrop is illuminated by the sun, moon or local lights (such as the PhotoStage lights that you can create), the intensity and colour of these lights affect the hue and lightness of the backdrop. This is a standard behaviour in SL, and if you are into photography I bet you have seen it plenty of times. Objects that behave like this are said to have “normal brightness”, and this is the default behaviour for the PhotoStage backdrop. Sometimes, however, it is convenient to make the backdrop fully bright, as if it were lit all over at the maximum strength. This is called “full brightness”.

You can change the backdrop brightness by clicking the Brightness button on the backdrop menu. Then you can select Normal or Full brightness.

I have tried to describe the basics of backdrop colour, texture and brightness here. I hope you find it useful. Please let me know what you think.

Entry filed under: PhotoStage, Tutorials. Tags: , .

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