SL Photography: The problem with profile photos

Kultivate contributor Myra Wildmist is back with a new tutorial! This time she discusses the problem with profile photos:

Do profile photos look stretched or compressed to you?

You’re not alone. There’s a good chance a large part of the Second Life (SL) community sees your profile photo wrong.

The problem is Firestorm (FS) – and probably some other third-party viewers – or rather the way Firestorm handles profiles.

profilephotos.png
FS profile pic on left. Same pic as it appears in LL viewer

 

The problem: Linden Labs web profile photos use a different size and aspect ratio than the Firestorm profile photos.

Several years ago, Linden Labs (LL) revamped their profile system and went to web profiles. When they did they changed the default sizes of profile photos. Before transitioning to web profiles, profile photos were a weird size and a non-standard aspect ratio – 178×133 pixels, almost, but not quite, a 4:3 aspect ratio.

[Note: Using standard aspect ratios is super important for ease of use and ready sharing of images. You can read more about aspect ratios in this article.]

When LL went to web profiles, they changed the default size of profile photos to 300×300 pixels. 300×300 pixels has an aspect ratio of 1:1, a standard aspect ratio that lends itself easily to the SL default upload size for snapshots – 512×512 pixels, which is also a 1:1 aspect ratio.

Firestorm maintained the old, legacy profile and didn’t migrate entirely to web profiles. By default, Firestorm uses the legacy profiles which means your profile photo has to fit into the old legacy size of 178×133 if you want it to look nice on the Firestorm profile view.

The problem: Linden Labs viewer uses 300×300 pixels for its profile photos while Firestorm uses the legacy size of 178×133.

When you look at a profile pic made for LL profiles in an FS profile it will appear stretched out, but when you look at a profile pic made for FS in the Linden viewer it will appear compressed.

Why did Firestorm continue to use legacy profiles?

If this is an issue why did FS stick with the legacy profiles?

  • FS legacy profiles are faster. Web profiles take longer to load.
  • Web profiles sometimes fail to load, at all.
  • Legacy profiles are better organized and have a couple more features (e.g. online status) than web profiles.

Unfortunately, while there are good reasons to continue to use the legacy profiles, it does create this problem with the profile pictures.

It is impossible to take a profile photo that looks good on both LL and FS viewers.

Because of the difference in aspect ratios, LL profile photos will look bad in the FS viewer, and FS profile photos will look bad in the LL viewer. FS will stretch a profile photo that looks good in the LL viewer, while an image that looks good on FS will look squashed in the LL viewer.

Is there a solution?

Is there a solution to this discrepancy between the two most popular viewers?

The best solution would be for Firestorm to change the default size of the legacy profile pictures. The burden is really on Firestorm since the legacy profiles use a non-standard aspect ratio for their profile photos.

Aside from that, there’s not much you can do. You can use web profiles in FS (Avatar – Preferences – User Interface – check “Use web profiles by default”), but, as mentioned, they’re a little slower among other things.

What format should you use for your profile picture?

Should you use the Linden viewer dimensions or the Firestorm viewer dimensions for your profile photo?

This might seem like a dilemma, but it’s really not. Make your profile photos for the LL viewer.

Advantages of taking a profile photo that fits the LL viewer:

  • It’s a standard aspect ratio. You can easily use your profile photo elsewhere without it looking distorted.
  • More people use the LL viewer, so more people will see your profile photo correctly.
  • If an FS user wants to see your profile photo correctly, they can just click on it. That will bring up another window showing your photo in the 1:1 aspect ratio (This doesn’t work with your profile photo, though.).
  • You can easily use a SL snapshot without having to crop it to fit into the weird FS profile photo dimensions.

For these reasons, even if you use the FS viewer, use a 1:1 aspect ratio for your profile photos.


1:1 aspect ratios sizes. Some examples:

72×72 pixels, 300×300, 512×512, 1024×1024, 2048×2048, and so on. Just make a square.


Want to take better profile photos? Check out these other articles I wrote:

SL Photography: Taking your profile picture

SL Photography: 6 ways to take a great profile photo

 

4 thoughts on “SL Photography: The problem with profile photos

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