Most of us are wandering around SL and other virtual worlds (e.g. MMOs) looking at things in two dimensions: Things far away are just as sharp as things near. Things might seem smaller in the distance, and that’s a great way to give us a simple impression of distance, but in real life things in the distance get harder to see, too. In real life, stuff in the distance gets fuzzier.
This fuzziness is determined by your depth of field (DoF). Without DoF, your photos will always look 2D and flat. There’s absolutely nothing “wrong” with your photos looking flat, but if you want more realistic looking photos in SL, you need to turn on your DoF.
What is depth of field?
Depth of field is simply how far away from the point of focus you can see before things start to go out of focus. When we’re talking about the human eye, this depends on what you’re looking at and how good your vision is. If you’re reading, your DoF is going to be shallower (i.e. things near your book are in focus, but everything beyond is out of focus.), but if you’re looking off in the distance at a tree, for instance, your DoF is going to be deeper (i.e. stuff in front of you and farther away all appear in focus.).
The human eye is pretty flexible, so your DoF has a whole lot of range. (It’s too bad the human eye has such a high failure rate, though, and most of us end up in glasses.). Real life photography uses lenses to simulate some of what the human eye sees, as well as achieving effects the human eye can’t.
If DoF yields a more realistic world, why isn’t it on by default?
DoF isn’t on by default in SL, because it requires more computing power.
If you’re standing still taking a photo, DoF isn’t going to put a strain on your PC, but if you’re wandering the world where your DoF is constantly changing, requiring more graphics power, it’s best to keep it off. If you have a have a newer PC or Mac, you can probably keep it on if you like seeing the world more realistically, but for most people, it’s best to just keep it off while you wander.
And if you’re trying to get a more realistic photo, you absolutely should turn it on.
How to turn on your DoF
To use DoF, you have to have your Advanced Lighting Model (ALM) on.
Here’s how to turn on ALM:
In Firestorm: Avatar – Preferences – Graphics – General Tab. Check the Advanced Lighting Model box.
In the Linden Viewer: Me – Preferences – Graphics. Check the Advanced Lighting Model box.
And here’s how to turn on your DoF:
In Firestorm: Avatar – Preferences – Graphics – Depth of Field. Check the Depth of Field box.
In the Linden Viewer: Me – Preferences – Graphics. Press the Advanced Settings button. Check the Depth of Field box.