Lighting: “YIACBI” a case study

Like most art forms, lighting will always be an exercise in subjectivity, because what looks good to some, of course doesn’t look good to others. Then there is that whole mood/emotion of the image thing to also consider.

Keeping that in mind, as well as some of the lighting tips I learned from “Essential Blender”, I sat down to light my latest image. Since the image itself was simple and not overly cluttered, I wanted a simple but effective light set up. I also knew I wanted something of a blue cast to it. (I like blue tones for Christmas / winter images) And I wanted a cozy/inviting feel to the image, which might have been something of a stretch considering the image was simply an arrangement of Christmas ornaments. But hey this is about experimenting and learning. So let’s take a look at what I did and how well I accomplished my lighting goals.

First, before I even started setting up my lamps, I set up a few things that I knew would interact with my lamps to create my overall tone / mood. To help create the “blue” tone for my image, I set the world/background settings to a white/blue gradient and then put a blue ramp shader on the white floor. There by “cooling” the whole image down.

When actually setting up the lamps, I wanted to start with something simple and work from there. A 3-point light rig seemed a good place to start. But I did alter the standard set up a little. I placed an area lamp as my key light, at about a 45 degree angle, above and behind the camera. I then set two identical hemi lamps, one to either side of the main area of the image. They are placed fairly low to the ground and are facing slightly forward into the image area. (see figs 1 & fig 2)

Ok now the lamps are in place. Lets take a look at each one and see what it adds to the image. We’ll start with the hemi lamps. I chose hemi lamps for my fill lamps for their ability to give a even light without extra shadows to the scene, without the “time” cost of AO. (see fig 3)

The energy is set low, just enough to brighten the image without blowing it out. I also turned off the diffuse and specular for the hemi lamps. I didn’t want competing hot spots. The hemi lamps are set to a very pale yellow, to add a subtle richness to the image. (0.785, 0.980, 0.395)

You will notice that the effect of the hemi lamps was subtle. In fact you could almost get away without using them at all, as you will see when we take a look at the area lamp.

Ok, the area lamp is providing the main light source for this image. It is set to “square” with a size of 12. It is set to a distance of 20 and I remembered to move It back until the end of the dotted line was just in front my assembled models. (Remember, we learned in the last article that area lamps work best if the object being lit is at the end of the dotted line, otherwise the object appears blown out).

The energy is set to 0.65, lower settings will help us create that cozy inviting look. Bright lights have a tendency to look commercial. And the color is set to white. I could have chosen a blue color for the lamp, but there was already enough of a blue tone created/present in the image thanks to the world settings and the blue color ramp on the floor.

By setting the end point of the lamp just before the main part of the image, the back of the image slides into a darker blue, creating an nice background. It also creates some nice soft shadows under and around the objects.

If you take a look at the image rendered with just the area lamp (fig 4), you will see that you get a nicely lit image and that you could easily not bother with the hemi lamps. I still used them anyhow, the difference is very subtle, but I think it adds just that needed bit of richness and creates the cozy look I was going for. (final image)

Well that about sums up this case study. Keep in mind that there is no one “correct” way to light an image. I’m sure other’s would have done it differently depending on the mood/vision they were going for. Hopefully you learned a thing or two from the way I did mine.

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3 responses to “Lighting: “YIACBI” a case study

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