Myra discusses the difference between photography in the Firestorm viewer and the official Linden Lab Viewer:
I have a confession to make: I prefer Linden Lab’s viewer. For a bunch of reasons which I won’t get into for fear of starting a viewer fight, I just feel more comfortable on the LL viewer.
However, I never use it. I use Firestorm.
When it comes to a photography fight between the Firestorm and the Linden Labs viewer, there’s not much of a fight – the LL viewer loses before the bell even rings.
Both viewers can take photos and both have nice options for saving to your hard drive, inventory, profile, and some of the social media sites such as Flickr. Both viewers are perfectly fine if all you want to do is take snapshots at parties.
However, if you want to take the most professional looking photos you can, you have to use Firestorm.
The difference between the LL viewer and the FS viewer is like the difference between a point-and-shoot camera and a digital SLR camera. The LL viewer will give you some nice photos, sometimes, just like your point-and-shoot, but you’re much more likely to get a nice or maybe even great photos from the FS viewer.
The reason for this is simple – Phototools. Firestorm has Phototools and the LL viewer doesn’t.Phototools windlight options.
Just like a DSLR camera, Firestorm’s Phototools give you an incredible degree of control over you photos. You can adjust pretty much everything you’d want – and some things you didn’t know you wanted – directly from Phototools. Windlight settings, depth of field, ambient occlusion, and a variety of other settings can all be adjusted in Firestorm’s Phototools. You can adjust and tweak settings for hours (I literally do.), often yielding professional quality photos you might never have realized you could get directly from your viewer.
Yes, it’s going to take time to learn to use all the options available in Phototools (There are some nice mouse-over tips to help you.), and just like shooting with a DSLR, no one can know everything, but exploring and using the various options you have available under Phototools is well worth it.
If you’ve never used Phototools, you’ll probably be surprised by the difference they’ll make in the quality of your photos. Just taking advantage of the various windlight options – Firestorm has dozens; LL only a handful – and adding depth of field and ambient occlusion will give your photos a better look.
When it comes to choosing a viewer for photography, there’s really no choice. You can take some perfectly nice photos with the LL viewer, and maybe sometimes you’ll take a real gem, but if you want to take professional quality photographs you have to use the Firestorm viewer and make use of its Phototools.
Tip: Don’t forget to reset your Phototools settings after taking your photos. You can get some great photos with your settings up high, but wandering around SL with the same settings can get you some brutal lag.
You can access Phototools either from the keyboard (alt-P) or from the menus (World-Photo and Video-Phototools).