Lighting: Plan it out

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Lighting: Plan it out

by Sandra Gilbert



We all know by now that lighting seems to be my nemesis. And honestly, you would think with all the study and research I have done on the subject that I would be a lighting master by now. Yeah, not even!

But there's a funny thing about obsessive research and study, eventually the volume of information starts to reach a point of critical mass and things start clicking, or in my case, finally registering. For example, I was recently reading the lighting chapter from Allan Brito's new book (Blender 3D: Architecture, Buildings and Scenery) where he was advising the reader to sit down and think about the lighting. And how it was important to look at your image and define where the light is coming from before you start adding lamps — in other words, «to plan it out».

Now you would have thought that was so obvious that it didn't need stating, but just as obviously, it needed to be stated to me. As I thought about how I generally go about lighting an image, I realized that more often than not, lights just keep getting thrown into the scene, adjusted, deleted, added etc. with no real planning involved.

Depending on your image, planning it out can still be time consuming. Even if you know exactly where you want your lights (lamps), you will still spend time adjusting the intensity (energy) and color. Then there is the whole issue of shadows. But don't despair, eventually you will get the hang of how it all goes together. Of course, it helps if someone points you in the right direction.

For single objects and or portraits that normally use the traditional three point (studio) setup, a rather dated and overused method, try adding some variation to your setup either with colored lights or altering the positions to add an extra punch to your image. While you can achieve decent lighting with Ambient Occlusion to create general overall lighting, you might instead try a single spot focused on your object and an additional hemi light to add overall brightness. Changing the position of lights can also change the mood or tone of your image, so don't be afraid to move the lights around.

Once you move past single images and portraits is when the real planning begins. To a certain degree, landscapes, interiors and/or any other image that contains logical lighting sources are somewhat easier to plan lighting for. Refining it on the other hand takes practice and experience... or someone to write up a nice little guide explaining how to go about it. :P

...which is just what I found recently while browsing through the BSoD section of the Blenderwiki. I don't know how I missed it before, maybe I just wasn't yet ready for such relevant information. But there it was, a lighting guide filled with just the information needed to push my understanding past the critical mass point.

Guillermo S. Romero(gsrb3d), author of the BSoD: Introduction to Lighting, in addition to explaining lighting in general and lighting options in Blender, included a series of exercises to explore different lighting conditions. Breaking away from the three point studio setup, using the same scene for each exercise he explains the following lighting conditions:





Variation 1: Movie Full Moon

Variation 2: House Light



Variation: No Window

One thing I really liked about the exercises, in addition to the fact that he broke down and described what each lighting condition required, is that he actually explained the use of each lamp and what it added to the image. There is even a blend file to study for each exercise.

One last tip, actually a quote from Guillermo:

«Finally, no matter if it should be right based in the values we use, we have to get it too look right, even if that means forcing things, doing nasty cheats to cover issues and taking advantage of our errors if they look fine anyway; or maybe rethinking the original plan a bit. It is not what should be correct, but what looks correct.»

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