Myra Wildmist discusses the importance of Windlight in Second Life photography and art:

Changing your Windlight is one of the easiest, yet most dramatic, changes you can make to your Second Life photos.

What is Windlight?

Windlight is Second Life’s “physically accurate atmospheric rendering & lighting” system introduced by Linden Labs in 2008. By changing or editing your Windlight you can produce a wide range of environmental effects. Windlight allows you to control a variety of environmental factors, such as the position and angle of the sun and moon; the density and movement of clouds; and even the color of the ambient light (Yes, you can make your sunlight pink if you’re inclined.).

(More information about Windlight in Second Life is available in the wiki. There are a number of dead links in the SL wiki and not all the information has been kept up to date, but overall the information is still valid.)

What Windlight are you using?

While many sims simply default to the SL day cycle, many  other sims, now, use other Windlights. Usually these Windlights have been created by others, but sometimes they’re Windlights created especially for the sim.

How do you know which Windlight a sim is using?

In Firestorm, from the top menu select World – Region Details (Alt-R). Then select the Environment tab. Unless you own a region, these settings will be grayed out, but you can still see the Windlight the region is using.

In the case of Furillen in the image, below, the Sky Setting is [NB] MistyDay 8am – Furillen, which is probably their own version of the Windlight [NB] MistyDay 8am, and the Water Setting is Love of Life, which is probably a special Windlight someone created for the region.

Furillen with its default Windlight

Changing your Windlight

There are no rules that say you have to use a region’s Windlight. In fact, when you’re taking a photo, you’re likely to want to change it. Many regions have settings are that are dull or even inappropriate for the setting, or just won’t work for your photos.

Fortunately, changing your Windlight is easy. From the WL tab in your Phototools (Alt-P), uncheck the box by Use Region Windlight. The sky and water might change when you do this, but that’s okay, because you’re going to select another Windlight anyway. Select the drop-down list next to WL Sky and you’ll see all the Windlights available for you to choose.

There are a lot. A whole lot. These are Windlights created by Linden staff, SL builders, and SL artists (Torley Linden, Bryn Oh and many others have Windlights they’ve created included with FS Phototools.). Spend some just browsing through these. Find ones you like.

You can also change your the water settings in the same way, by selecting the drop-down list next to WL Water.

Furillen with another Windlight: sky -[TOR] MIDDAY – Maldives; water – [TOR] Waterslides
You can see examples of many of the standard Windlights and Torley’s Windlights on Kero Nishi’s blog. There are also examples throughout Flickr and the Second Life Pic of the Day, but be aware many SL photographers post-process their photos in PhotoShop or Gimp, so you might not always be seeing a true Windlight effect.

Changing your time of day

Even if you don’t change your Windlight, you can change the time of day. Towards the bottom of the Phototools WL tab, there a slider with the image of a sun moving across the sky. By moving this slider you can control the time of day, effectively changing the position of the sun or moon in the sky.

Tip: Move the slider almost all the way to the right or left and, depending on the Windlight in use, you can get some nice, long shadows.

Phototool WL Time of Day slider
Furillen earlier in the day. Same TOR WL

Style thoughts

Look at as many of the Windlights as you can. Look at other people’s photos. If they used a Windlight you really love, ask them what it was.

Tip: One Windlight I use all the time is Phototools (No Light). This particular Windlight essentially turns off all environmental light (i.e. sun and moon), letting me see a space with only incidental light. Try this. You’ll be surprised how lovely some spaces look with only the light from lamps and other objects.

As you use more Windlights and experiment with them, you’ll settle on some you really love or simply start making your own (That’s a blog post for another time.).

When selecting a Windlight for your photos, select one that makes sense. In the beginning you’re probably going to be tempted to use those wild and woolly Windlights that make your photos seem so dramatic. I know I did. Just go ahead and get it out of your system, then move on.

Once you’ve purged that tendency, ask yourself one question every time you select a Windlight: Does this Windlight work with my photo? A Windlight with bright, red skies and angry, rolling clouds might not be right for your beach photo – unless you’re on Mars.

Use Windlights to compliment your photos not detract from them.

If you’re using the LL viewer

If you’re on the LL viewer, you’ll notice you don’t have a lot of Windlights installed – very few in fact. According to the SL wiki, “…[t]hese settings are bonus goodies and not officially supported by Linden Labs.” In other words, if you want all the Windlights that come installed with other viewers you’ll have to download and install them yourself.

If you’re using the LL viewer, Strawberry Singh has a nice tutorial on how install additional Windlight settings.

Some Windlight resources

  • The Second Life wiki entry on Windlight settings: There are links to other blogs where you can get more Windlights, some videos, and information on how to install additional Windlights on the LL viewer.
  • Kero Nishi’s Windlight samples. A good resource for visual examples of preset sky and Torley’s Windlights.
  • Strawberry Singh’s Windlight settings. A great post on using Windlight with the LL viewer. Information on installing Windlight’s yourself (Applicable to all viewers.), plus links to more Windlights you can download, including some of her own.
  • Chic Aeon at Phil’s Place. Links to nice videos on using Windlight.
  • Flickr. Want to be a better photographer? You have to look at photos and there’s no better resource than Flickr. And be sure to join the Official Second Life Flickr Group.
  • Second Life Pic of the Day.



One thought on “SL Photography: Change your Windlight and change your world

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