February 18th, 2009 | Published in SL Business
By Jae90 Nizna
You may already have heard about PhotoLIFE. If you have heard of it, you may have a strong opinion. But fan or not, it would be difficult to deny the innovative thought that has been put into its development by creator OomPoppaMowMow Snookums. This high tech virtual photo studio, now in its second stage, continues to wow the SL world of photography. Only recently, I was introduced to PhotoLIFE and I am still amazed with what it can do compared to the typical “box and light” studios many of us are familiar with. Completely built and scripted by Snookums, he has added a 21 scene memory as well as a dual mode pose stand. The studio also boasts an alpha layer backdrop. This kind of studio was unheard of in SL before PL came along.
(Snookums, CEO and creator of PhotoLife, poses by his Second Life photography equipment.)
There is no doubt that Snookums, the CEO of PhotoLIFE, has brought Second Life a long way with his developments. Luckily, I managed to get hold of him for an interview – I just had to know everything about about how the studio came about from original idea to final design.
Jae Nizna: First of all Oom, I would just like to thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with SLentrepreneur this evening.
Oom: Well thank you for taking time to interview me. It’s a real pleasure.
Jae Nizna: When did you come up with the concept for PhotoLIFE?
Oom: I believe it was around March of 2008, when a few events unfolded that brought the concept of photoLIFE about.
Jae Nizna: Care to describe these events?
Oom: I was a builder in SL, having done work on sims and I’d made a couple of production homes. I had a customer of mine complain about the quality of another studio manufacturer. I enjoy helping people – especially those who do business with me. So customers often contact me for help on other issues. MariaBeatriz Beck was the name of this particular customer. When I saw the studio in question, I realized it was a studio I had known to have a few obvious flaws. I actually contacted the studio owner and offered my assistance to make adjustments/improvements. My offer was declined. Maria asked for help from the company, but received what she felt was inferior support. So she called me. After I realized the company was not able to deliver the kind of studio Maria and so many others were looking for, I decided to try and make one myself.
Jae Nizna: What were your main considerations and goals in creating PhotoLIFE?
Oom: My goal was to build a high quality photography tool that eliminated as many limitations as possible for SL photographers. The considerations were compiled from as many SL photographers as I could find to contribute. Interestingly, I found one photographer more than willing to help. Maggie Mahoney was doing full-time photography at the time and she’s currently known throughout SL as the CEO and Editor of Runway Magazine. Before her rise to fame, she agreed to help me in the development of the studio. Giving photographers what they want in a photo studio is what PhotoLIFE’s main consideration will always be.
Jae Nizna: What were some of the challenges you faced in getting PhotoLIFE started?
Oom: There were so many. They ranged from getting the prims to be as tight as possible to showing no seams and creating a fluid and dependable script schematic while creating a design that’s both powerful and intuitive without being overly complicated at all. Those were challenges of the entire PhotoLIFE project.
Jae Nizna: How do you think that PhotoLIFE has impacted photographers in Second Life?
Oom: PhotoLIFE the company has been built on honesty and support. We care about our customers and as we grow, we’re making steps to ensure that the people who stand beside photoLIFE will have someone who stands beside them. When our customers have had experiences with photoLIFE, we’ve been able to bring them in as a part of our family. The end result is “photographers helping other photographers.” We’ve seen this happen a lot with our company.
PhotoLIFE has offered classes and we’ll continue to. We’ve had an amazing amount of positive feedback from those who’ve attended the classes, saying they’ve been able to meet other photographers and even found new friendships and support networks. I’d say we’ve created a family of photographers. It has been one of my greatest joys in SL.
Jae Nizna: *smiles* Sounds like a family I want to be a part of.
Oom: *smiles* Well, it’s a great group of “real” people.
Jae Nizna: Do you think that the art of photography in general has been aided by the technological developments of the 21st Century?
Oom: I do. I think, at least for me, I found the digital era as being some kind of replacement for what I’ve done in the past with film. But also, doing work in the audio field, I think that the digital era has reached a level of quality that is equal to that of film. For a long time with audio, it was hard to get the same “authentic” warmth of what a reel- to-reel machine could give. Now, with professional tools and other developments, they’ve been able to duplicate so much. With photographic images, we can say much the same thing. Not long ago, we saw 5.0 Megapixel cameras boasting images equivalent to “film quality.” Now, the Nikon D-90 is almost 13 megapixel and we see digital photography quality levels that were at one time strictly reproducible only with film.
Jae Nizna: How does Photolife 2.0 differ from the first version?
Oom: Version 2.0 introduces the texture panels. We wanted a machine that wasn’t limited, so being able to use panels on the unit increased the studio’s abilities. We also rearranged some of the features and added different menus to increase ease of use.
Jae Nizna: Could you tell me about how PhotoLIFE innovates?
Oom: PhotoLIFE has been innovative in many ways. We were the first in SL to do sidepanels. We were also the first in SL to do layered backdrops. These and other PL innovations were developed by what I call a single creator concept. What I mean by that is that when a studio is built, designed and scripted by a single person, it has several benefits. Understanding the different systems of the studio often sparks ideas on how to incorporate new ideas.
Jae Nizna: Is there a certain type of organization that has an edge when it comes to fostering innovation?
Oom: I think innovation can come from many directions. As for an organization that fosters innovation, I would have to say that PhotoLIFE has emerged from the great team of individuals that support it. We’ve been very fortunate to work with so many kind people. We’ve worked with Opium Fashion Agency, which is a sister company on the Opium Sim, organizing events. They’re a great group of friends and are what we all really consider to be part of the PhotoLIFE team. I’d never want to exclude the impact they’ve made on Team PhotoLIFE.
Jae Nizna: With every successful product, there will still be those who criticize it no matter what. How do you respond to criticism? For example, someone might say that your product is so packed with options that it takes away from the creativity of the true photographer.
Oom: Well, as long as people are willing to communicate with respect, I welcome all criticism. PhotoLIFE is not for everyone. But it IS for those who are looking for powerful photography tools within the world of SL. As far as it being so packed full of options that it takes away from creativity, I would ask: what other ways would there to be to encourage creativity except to give the photographer as many options as possible? That’s why we’ve done what we’ve done – to promote creativity.
Jae Nizna: Where do you see PhotoLIFE headed in the future? I’ve heard rumors of a 3.0 coming to us soon? Can you reveal a little to me about what improvements it might include?
Oom: Yes, PL3 is still currently in development, but we’re seeing the development taking a final shape, so I feel comfortable predicting weeks rather than months. As far as new features, we have an innovative pose stand, less prims with more features, and a new library-based system, giving owners a whole new array of options. The entire studio functions much like PL2, but the whole format was changed so that in the future we can continue to add new features and PhotoLIFE products. In the future, we plan on offering PhotoLIFE props, poses and textures to give the photographer as many options as possible. PL3 gives us a lot more options to be able to do that.
Jae Nizna: Well Oom, I must say it has truly been a pleasure speaking with you. You have afforded me an insight into the future of photography in Second Life and your role in bringing us there. Again, I truly appreciate you taking the time to speak with me. You are doing great things in the world of SL photography.
Oom: Well, thank you for the kind words! We’re excited to be a new part of so many Second Lives.
Final Commentary: I must say that it was absolutely lovely speaking to Oom. He is smart, innovative and progressive and we need more people like him in Second Life. He is doing a magnificent job in making a difference in Second Life. I can only imagine what he will bring to SL next!
And for those of you who purchased PL2, Oom has promised to upgrade your current studios to PL3 for free when it is released in the coming weeks!
User Feedback by Reporter Miss Bonde
Certified photographer Aleida gave some feedback on her experiences with PhotoLIFE.
1) How long have you been using PhotoLIFE? How much did it cost you?
I purchased my PhotoLIFE studio in July 2008, so I’ve owned it approximately 6 months.
2) Would you purchase the equipment again if given the chance?
Yes, I definitely would.
3) What are the main benefits or features of the product? What can the product do?
It has many features – like lighting systems, backgrounds, poses and a HUD which helps ease the work process. In the beginning, it can be a challenge to use it because of its many features. I quickly realized, however, that with patience and an increased comfort level with the basic features, it can be a great tool for serious photographers. The good thing about PhotoLIFE is that you can add your own background, poses and much more.
4) What issues do you have with the equipment? Complaints?
I had some problems with initially understanding the basic features, but after some quality time spent learning, I see it as very good equipment and well worth the money spent.
5) What features would you like to see added to the equipment?
I think it has it all covered and if I need something else, I’ll build it myself.
6) Do you feel your photographs are significantly improved by using this equipment?
No, I don’t think so, because in the end, it comes down to the specific photographer’s technique of working with taking pictures from different angles. You must have an eye for imagination. So it’s more about the skills of photographer, than the equipment available.
7) Are there other types of SL photography equipment that you would recommend over PhotoLife? What do they cost? Why are they superior?
I think PhotoLIFE is the best I’ve come across so I don’t have any others in mind at the moment to recommend.
8 ) Have you had any experiences with PhotoLIFE customer support or staff? Were they helpful?
Yes, Oom is very helpful and kind and helped me a lot in the beginning. Great guy. The PhotoLIFE shop also offers easy overviews and good information. Easy to read and follow.
9) Have you heard of the PhotoLife photography certification program? If so, what do you think of it? Is it widely recognized in the SL photography industry?
Yes, I have and I am a certified photographer. I think it’s good – there’s a standard of quality they continually maintain.
Photolife Second Life Location:
PhotoLife Blog: http://opiumsim.wordpress.com/