Intro to Blender Lighting

I have used Blender for years. In that time with practice and patience, I have learned to model and texture reasonably well. Or at least well enough for my purposes. But after years of practice and literally hours/weeks/months of experimenting, I still have serious problems with correctly lighting an image or scene. You would think by this point I would have learned how to achieve at least semi decent lighting. Not so. A fact that all too often leaves me both frustrated and somewhat embarrassed.

So I have decided that it is long past time to do something about my lighting problem. This is the first in a series of articles where I will be discussing my exploration of proper lighting. Obviously I have an understanding problem when it comes to lighting. Something, somewhere just is not clicking. And I think I have figured out what at least part of my problem is.

While reading “The Essential Blender” recently, I discovered there are some rather obvious (probably well known) things about blender’s lamps that I have somehow managed to never realize or use properly. Yep, you guessed it. A basic Blender Lamp review is in order. So I might as well get it over with. 😛

Now obviously there are already numerous descriptions of the Blender Lamp types, not only in the written manuals, but also in the blenderwiki. So I am not going to cover everything that the lamps do or don’t do. I am going to cover some of the things that might not have been so obvious.

Lamp:

Blender’s default lamp. Think light bulb (like in a household lamp). Drop it where you want it, and that’s about it. You can only create shadows with the Raytrace option enabled.

Sun:

Creates uniform lighting coming from a single direction. All the light from a “Sun” Lamp shines parallel to the dashed visualization line used to rotate the lamp.

(You would think this would have been obvious during previous lighting attempts, but somehow I never understood the basic concept of the Sun lamp. Which would explain why I have never had much success with ”Sun ”lamps. It seemed no matter where I placed or moved a ‘Sun” lamp, the light never changed or got stronger as I moved it closer to an object, like I expected it to. Now knowing that the light from a Sun Lamp stays constant and only flows in the direction it is pointing should make my use of them more productive.)

Spot:

Think big Spot light (like at a car lot or movie premier).

Using a spot lamp requires using more controls/settings related to how it uses/calculates shadows. Something I will deal with in future articles.

The big thing to remember about spot lamps is that they can be a very flexible way to create soft shadows without the time drain that comes with ray tracing.

Hemi:

Is a great way to evenly illuminate a scene or produce a color cast. It works on the concept a big light casting half sphere. Also Hemi Lamps have no shadow settings either ray traced or buffered. (Now knowing that, might have improved quite a few scenes I have worked on.)

Area:

While very realistic, they are also very time consuming during rendering. Area Lamps create very realistic soft shadows-that get softer as they move away from the object casting the shadow. Don’t forget to enable the “Ray shadow” button when using Area Lamps.

Using the size spinner you can control the size of the Area Lamp. Larger sizes will create shadows that diffuse (or fade out) the farther it gets from the object casting the shadow. If you choose “Rectangle” you can tweak both the horizontal and vertical individually for fully customizable light source sizes.

Big thing to remember, these lamps work best when the object you are lighting is at the end of the dashed distance line. If the object is closer than that it will get too much energy (light) and will look blown out. (Well that explains some issues I have been having.)

Well that is the basics of blender lamps. There are of course many settings and things to consider when lighting an image or scene. You can find more information about lamp settings online or you can wait for further articles as I work through some lighting exercises.

While going over the basics may not seem to have explained much, I can already see where some of my problems with lighting started. Now I am off to apply a little of this newly discovered knowledge and see if I can “Light it up”.

 

 

 

 

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