Lighting Your Renders

Fooling around with lighting effects in Keyshot using figures I created in Daz3D and dressed in Clo3D

I briefly discussed using rim lights in my IACDE project and it was something I wanted to do an in-depth post on. Getting your renders to look great and believable depends a lot on using the same kind of lighting techniques as a photographer would. I have recently been playing with Keyshot, an amazing tool that lets you light a scene the same way you would in a studio. The Samuelsohn scene was done with a few clicks of a few buttons, which would have otherwise required hauling backdrops and sandbags and light stands and strobes… I’m in love. But more on that one later.

The word photography means, essentially, to write with light. One studio which I think does an incredible job of writing with light, and entirely in the virtual, digital space, is The Fabricant. For one thing, I’m so glad to see deep rich blacks and bold lighting colors again. I love me some Annie Leibowitz, and some of the Marvel movies were nicely graded, but I’m a bit tired of the look. And other than the lighting they use in their renders, I just love what they do in general.

So when they announced that they will be giving a workshop on lighting techniques in Clo3D and Cinema 4D, I decide to shelve my lighting post. Let some REAL pros do the talking. So sign up for their workshop while there is still space. Then, maybe, if I feel I have something to add I will post about it.

One thing I will mention is that you can learn about how an image was lit (if you are lucky) by studying reflections. This applies mostly to portraiture- you can see the shape, size and position of a light source by studying the catch light in the eye- was it a big square softbox positioned at 45 degrees or a round beauty dish or umbrella? It’s common for broadcasters to use multiple lights so next time you are watching the news or some talking head, look to see if you can see three UFOs reflected in their eyes.

In the case of the following image of the puffer jacket I stole from The Fabricant, we can see three strip lights were used. On the wearer’s right sleeve, right on the edge, you can see a long rectangular reflection which would have been a strip light with a green gel. Strip lights are one of my favorites in real world lighting, especially paired with an egg crate grid to control the falloff of the light and make something very dramatic. Over the top of the garment there is another strip light (maybe two? Can’t tell for sure) without any color and we see down the mid front of the wearer’s left another long reflection of a strip light with a purple gel. These two-tone light effects are very popular right now (see GoPro’s website) and will quickly become cliche, but at least for the moment they help to show off the renderer’s mastery of lighting.

There is a bloom effect on the second garment where the highlights bouncing off the garment create some glare. These are very intentional and help to make the render look more like a real image by recreating artifacts caused by lenses. It’s so ironic that real-life photographers spend huge amounts of money trying to avoid things like vignetting, chromatic aberration, and flare, common lens problems, while the digital world spends equally huge amount of time trying to recreate them on purpose on digital imagery just to make them look more real… If there had been more visual information in these shots, no doubt they would have added some blurring to recreate the bokeh effects of a wide aperture or super long focal length. If none of what I just wrote makes any sense, google some of the terms as there is a wealth of information on the net about these common photographic techniques and issues.

The Fabricant
The Fabricant

UPDATE Aaaaaaand that was a bust.

You would think a tech company would have figured out it, um tech. The Fabricant’s lighting workshop didn’t get off the ground because they couldn’t get the streaming service to work. They will be back. It seemed like they were going to show us some lighting techniques in Clo and how you can do the same thing SO MUCH FASTER in Cinema 4D. And then Clo dropped a great video on 3-point lighting which you can see here, so it saves me the hassle. I’ll still do a post on some of my rim lighting techniques adapted from physique photography soon.