Regarding whether images captured in SL should be considered “photographs”, Hamlet writes:
I’m not totally convinced. Photographs, after all, are created by exposed light hitting a film or data strip. That doesn’t happen in Second Life. And while I think it’s fair to say that an image which is captured “raw” from SL is very similar to a real world photograph (I discuss that here), it’s also possible to subjectively manipulate the world’s appearance in a way that’s totally different. (When an RL photographer needs more light, he can’t just move the sun where he wants it.)
What’s more, many SL images are drastically altered in programs like Photoshop. A lot of real world artists use photographs as their medium, staging them in fictional narrative scenes, say, or even painting on top the actual photo, and because of that very process, they’re not called photographers– they’re called artists.
I consider Hamlet’s view here to be somewhat narrow.
There is no significant difference in the amount of scene-manipulation in RL photographs versus SL photographs. RL photographers may not be able to move the sun on a whim, but they can and do carefully schedule the time of day of their shoots, and use bounce cards and/or studio lights to manipulate the lighting of the scene. You can bet that they’d move the sun if they could. (And I bet some SL photographers would die for the ability to have light bounce off cards in SL — both realities have their challenges.)
Nor is the amount of post-processing (Photoshopping) significantly different between RL and SL photographs. We’ve seen the Dove Evolution film that demonstrates how much manipulation goes on before, during, and after a RL photo shoot.
Both RL photographs and SL photographs run the gamut from casual snapshots (“This is us having a good time at Jack’s bachelor party”), to careful attempts at capturing reality (“Behold the natural beauty of a majestic waterfall”), to highly manipulated digital imagery (“I cloned in the crowd of a thousand cheering fans later”), to strange and beautiful photo-collage and mixed-media imagery (“I think you’ve been sniffing too much rubber cement, Marcel”), and so much more.
The compositional skills — framing, balance, depth, contrast, and so on — apply equally to RL and SL photography.
So we’re left with one distinction. RL photographs are created by photons bouncing off physical objects, passing through the lens and aperture of a physical camera, and stimulating photosensitive materials. SL photographs are created by careful mathematical projection of virtual objects, rendered as polygons onto a framebuffer in a computer. In both cases, the result is a 3D scene being projected onto a 2D image plane.
It’s just that one of the scenes exists inside the computer.
I’ll leave off with one last thought: Photography has long been about capturing the vision of the artist. That’s not always the same as an accurate representation of the physical world.