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.

Windlight Phototools Option

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).


9 thoughts on “SL Photography: Firestorm or Linden Labs

  1. While I agree the Firestorm Viewer Phototools are an extraordinary feature of the viewer, and very handy for anyone interested in taking their photography beyond point and shot, I personally still prefer the quality of image I get with either the Linden Lab viewer or the Alchemy Viewer. I can save at much higher resolutions with either of the latter two viewers and for post processing purposes, the higher the resolution, the better final photo I am able to achieve.


    1. Obviously, good tools help, but in the end, it isn’t the tool that makes the great photos– it’s the photographer’s ability to capture the scene in an interesting way and hopefully present a unique perspective.


  2. Hi, Kerena. You can save at very high resolutions using FS, too. There are two ways:

    1) You can set your resolution manually in Snapshot (Ctrl-shift-s or Avatar-Snapshot). If you save to disk, you can save at pretty much any definition you want. I think saving to your profile feed will only allow 1980×1020.

    2) If you’re saving insta-snapshots (Ctrl-`), you can get high-res snapshots by selecting that option from the Advanced menu: Advanced – High-res snapshot.


    1. I typically save in png or bmp format at 4000×2121 to 5000×2651, on ultra settings. Firestorm struggles and more often than not crashes to desktop at these resolutions, where the LL viewer and other TPV readily handle it. Why this is so I do not know. Experience has taught me that for final shots, I’m best served using the other two viewers.


      1. I think FS does have issues, Kerena. Just speaking anecdotally, I have more issues with it than I used to with the LL viewer. And maybe pushing the resolution higher brings those issues to light for you.

        However, for advanced photography requirements, it’s harder to use the LL viewer. I’ll get into this more, later, but Depth of Field is a good example. The only way to adjust your DoF in the LL viewer is to go in and change debug parameters; in FS there are DoF sliders right there in Phototools. So I can adjust my various DoF parameters without having to constantly tinker with debug settings.

        That ease of use factor is hard to ignore.


  3. I use Ukando that is like LL viewer but with a quick tools bar with options to change draw distance, windlight skys, water and a few more.
    For the snapshots i take to flirck is more thne enough.


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