I don’t think I’ve ever written about anything controversial – or even potentially controversial – in my blog. But I am about to make an exception.
I get the occasional request for a morph photo. Recently, I’ve gotten several. I don’t do them, for a variety of reasons. I’ve decided to devote a post to explaining why.
If you take a look at my Rate Information page, you will see this right at the very beginning:
When I say “Portraits with a difference”, I mean, if you want a typical shot of yourself photoshopped over a busy background or a morph, then Pics by Peep isn’t for you.
First, what is a morph? A morph is when someone takes a photo of an avatar and superimposes it over a real life photograph and blends the two. This can be done with any two photos (not necessarily an avatar and a human), but for the sake of this post and the requests I receive in SL, I will stick with this definition. I used to see these in a lot of Second Life profiles, then for a while they appear to have been less popular. Lately they seem to be coming back with a vengeance.
The photo in this post is actually a morph. However, I couldn’t bring myself to even use a real life photo for purposes of example. So I overlaid a photo of my avatar’s head onto a different photo of my avatar’s body. And yes, it is a VBM (Very Bad Morph). I really didn’t do anything more than roughly select my head from one photo, slap it on another and erase a bit of the original. No blending, no other adjustments of any kind (as I’m sure you can tell lol). Honestly, I was making a point. I didn’t feel the need to try to make it look better.
Now, why won’t I do them?
Aside from the fact I find them personally creepy, there are two main reasons I won’t do them. The first reason is that the vast majority of photos that are used as the basis for the morph have just been Googled and pulled off the net, with no regard for copyright infringement. I am only guessing here, but I’m pretty sure it would be a safe bet that the image of Angelina Joli or Kate Moss the photographer pulled wasn’t a stock photo they paid to use or that they were given written permission to morph some random avatar’s face onto the model’s. Incidentally, this occurs with a lot of profile shots where the avatar is superimposed over a background. Probably not as often as with morphs, but a lot of the background shots are ripped straight from Flickr or Google, without any thought given to copyright. I seriously doubt clients would be willing to pay the royalties for use of the photos; even the rights to most stock images aren’t cheap and not all will allow use in other than the original state. While there may be morphs out there that are of the avatar superimposed over the typist, I can’t say that I have personally ever seen one. And I have never, ever, ever seen a credit on a photo for the source of the original.
It is not just morally wrong to take someone else’s work without permission or payment; it is illegal. I am not going to risk my business, Second Life account and most importantly, my integrity, by grabbing a picture off the internet to slap someone else’s face on it to make a few Lindens.
The other main reason I don’t do them is because I think SL avatars are beautiful. Even if it is an avatar I wouldn’t personally choose, someone has taken the time to shape their avatar into what they want to represent themselves. I have been known to cringe when doing profile pictures and the client asks me to try to portray them in a way that doesn’t match their style; but I do my best and if the client isn’t happy with my work, my policy is to offer a re-shoot. That hasn’t happened yet, but sometimes what I see as beautiful can be very different from the client’s vision.
No matter whether a client wants to look sexy and sultry, glamorous and glitzy or sweet and innocent, I will do my best to find a way to do it with the way they present themselves…not by plastering their face over America’s Next Top Model.
As for the acronym I coined – VBM – I think that applies to all SL/RL morphs – no matter how technically-proficient the photographer(s) may be.
If I have insulted anyone who wants a morph photo or finds them appealing, I am not going to apologise. There are plenty of photographers out there who will be happy to create a morph for you. But it ain’t gonna be me.
Pretty stuff I’m wearing: