Welcome, dear follow SL photographers. Take a seat, lean back in the desk chair, release the drawing pens and touch the scroll button for a fantastic, amazing and for some probably even shocking ride through the world of diffuse glow with me as your guide. ;)
The Diffuse Glow Story Prologue
I sometimes wonder if the photoshop filter Diffuse Glow is something like nuclear weapons: some say they should be abolished, others say they should be used. But even the latter folks do not agree on where and when to use them. And even then, what at first glance seems like reasonable use would only be abuse.
Although I would not put capital punishment on the use of the Diffuse Glow filter and I know there are genuine, good reasons to apply it, only to often I have to shake my head when seeing this powerful tool, given to us by the Adobe Gods, abused. The same goes for it derivatives as there are for instance the Beautify filter. Although Bella thinks I’m an enfant terrible, I’m not going to name the offenders here or point to their respective Flickr streams, but I think you surely know who you are!
As it draws attention to a photograph and gives it a feel of ‘liveliness’ a normal Second Life snapshot does not have, the Diffuse Glow filter is mainly used to ’save’ photographs that are else lousy or average at max. Yet, one can find some major reasons for Diffuse Glow abuse:
- To make up for lack of composition.
- To make up for lack of content/idea/story in the photograph.
- To make up for lack of creativity.
- To make up for lack of time spend on getting the lighting in Second Life correct.
- Because one does not know better.
See where I’m going?
Yet I do not claim Diffuse Glow is evil, only that one needs to think on as to why one is using it and if it _really_ adds to the photograph, in stead of just making the snapshot look a bit more catchy.
So if I claim it can be used without ‘overdoing it’ and well thought trough, then why do I not prove it? Aha! Here it comes. Sit back, relax and feel free to mention so if you disagree. ;) When you read carefully you will find at least one alternative way to use diffuse glow.
My Story of Diffuse Glow
We all know I have a tricky skin: as it is white, major post-processing or boosting the contrast makes me loose all zits and detail. Yet this original snapshot does look like it could use some boost in ‘liveliness’.
Now, as Diffuse Glow is the answer to all boring photographs, let’s do that! At the same time this might help fix what bothers me most about this photograph, the harsh edges between my dark hair, my pale face and the red background.
Hmmm. Looks way better, but the harsh edges problem is not entirely solved yet. I think it needs some more diffuse glow and it will be _just perfect_.
Yeey! The harsh edges are gone. Does it not look awesome? And this way it takes up even less disk space! This photograph will surely catch attention now it’s glowing almost entirely. Let me quickly submit it to Flickr. A shame it does not contain any boobs. I’m sure I would get even more views with that. Ah well, the boobs - of course with diffuse glow on them - are for tomorrow.
No, maybe I was wrong. Maybe I just lost all detail in my light tones and did not make my photograph any better or interesting, but just more glowing. Let me try something else: I’ll return to my background layer and invert that. Yeah, that’s a great idea!
Now. Hmmm. What do I do next? I know! I know! Diffuse glow, the solution to all.
Strange, now all my details in the hair are gone. Let me undo this one and try again with a higher clear value and a lower diffuse glow one. Way better!
Maybe the inverted image is a bit over the top, I wonder what happens if I press ctrl+I again?
Oh my f*cking god! The harsh edges are gone. What I just did made the black hair blend in with my face texture and the background texture more. Geeh, that I did not expect. Diffuse Glow can be used for something else then just casting a white glow?! W00t!
Yet, the eyes are a bit dark. What if I return those to normal by using a mask? I must take care to leave a bit of the upper part of the eye dark, as that’s the natural shadow the eyes casts. Let me try…
Awesome! Who would have thought… . Yet, it does not catch the eye as much as a diffuse glow photograph and now I’m scared that people will not look at my photograph. Wait, I’ll just Diffuse Glow it to make it catchy again!
More catchy, indeed. Let me quickly submit this one. Or.. ow… wait… something just does not look natural. My face is way to white compared to my neck, and all my detail is gone again. Now, which retard stole my detail yet again?!!!
But yet… some glowing is natural, nah? But… yeah… got it! I am genius! What if I mask out the entire layer, and then use the white masking brush to only show highlights where they are supposed to be, as on my - cute - nose, my - sexy - lips and my - elegant - cheekbones?
Hmmm. Sweet! But some of the edges are a bit to hard, and do need some retouching. And oh, no! I know by now that Diffuse Glow does not _really_ solves that problem. My god, would I dare? Would I actually do some local spot correction which takes 5 times the time applying the Diffuse Glow filter? My Adobe Gods, I’m scared. I don’t know if I can handle this. Blur the edges manually?! Do some cloning? Manual labour?! No way! How the hell could that solve my problems and fix my self portrait?!!
Strange. Apparently manual spot correcting does solve a lot of the problems. Who on earth would have guessed that!
Moral of the Diffuse Glow Story
There’s more in life than just Diffuse Glow. There’s even more in Photoshop than this particular filter. Using Diffuse Glow once in a while is not a shame, but go easy on it, and know why you are actually using it and what you are trying to achieve - if that is not a quick and dirty cheap diffuse glow effect. Take the time to get your photograph exactly how you like it and for the love of the Adobe Gods, once in a while, dare to experiment - with something else but diffuse glow.
Diffuse Glow is like dry shampoo, it’s good once in a while if you are in a hurry, but at least a few times a week, you need a decent wash and need to lick every paw and ear that you have.
This ‘enfant terrible’ posting is dedicated to Bella March, who - despite what she thinks - keeps inspiring me, puts me with my two paws on solid meta-ground once in a while, is one of the best conversation and discussing partners I know off and has enough creativity in her virtual body - and thus probably also in her human - to be a great SL photographer with an eye for awesome scenes, a good scripter and an always interesting person. Even in her bad moods. With letting her go, Avatrait made probably the worst decision in their career and I’m glad I never accepted their invitation. Bella, meid, respect! ;)
Disclaimer: It could be that this Diffuse Glow Story is not totally truthful and that for some diffuse glow applications I knew from the beginning what they would result in. Surprise may be faked.