View Full Version : simulating studio lighting

07 July 2002, 05:06 PM

I'm interested in creating replica studio lighting setups to illustrate virtual products, in this case it's a perfume bottle. This is my first attempt, using FinalRender GI in Max.

The setup I've mimicked is a softbox (a flash with a large diffuser) as the main light source over the subject and a large reflector to the right of it. The idea is to soften the shadows and distribute light over the subject. I've placed it all on a curved background just like the ones used in actual product photography. Realism isn't really my primary aim, but rather more subtly I'm aiming to produce idealised images which would make things look more attractive than actual photos, but in such a way so that the casual observer would not think that it isn't a photo.

Any suggestions or comments would be appreciated, especially regarding the lighting and how it matches real world situations and/or shows off the product.

One thing I'm definitely not interested in is adding any grime or noise or film grain as it would distract from the idealised vision I'm going for!!

Cheers. :)

07 July 2002, 12:45 AM

the softbox and reflector screen reflected like that would exactly be the kind of artefact reflection a good product photographer would avoid. you should have added the tripod and the Hasselblad/4x5 Sinar too. ;)
Reflection screens, light boxes etc are used to enhance the form and atmosfere of a product. If instead of that obvious softbox there would be the illusion of a window, and some nice gradations, the reflection of a real space giving some atmosfere, or better placed sharp reflections which paint that bottle in a graphical way..........
have a good look at the photography you are refering to...
this looks still like a cheapo packshot of the 100 in 1 hour type.
Experiment with rear lighting (for the outline) and deliberately chosing forms or stage/situation to be reflected. light that little rim this bottle has. create some darkness. take a real world light (ouch), a perfume bottle and a fair amount of fair sized cardboard reflectors, tape, a camera and experiment. and Experiment.
Personally i would prefer a little more contrasty lighting instead of that dull even clouded sky light so typical in easy cg or photography lighting.but if its that what you want, make the thing float, and dont come with them @^#^#&& softbox reflections!!!
the point is in cg that you have the ideal photostudio, and you can make any arrangement, even those impossible in realworld studio, but you have to know what you want to achieve and how to get at it. Maybe then you will reach the level of an image "more attractive" than the photo.


07 July 2002, 07:25 AM
Thanks for responding :)

A couple of very interesting points you make there, notably about the reflections. A real life photographer would not be able to avoid the softbox reflection, but as you so rightly point out I can do what the hell I like with it!! I will follow your suggestion and create a more suitable environment to be reflected in that bottle. I'll need some time to think exactly what would be best but I will post a follow up when it's done.

As for the softness of the lighting, I think that it suits this product, no? Real life photographers go to all sorts of lenghts to get soft lighting (I have had a very good look at the photography I'm referring to :)) and in this case hard contrasty lighting would not suit the image IMO. I might however experiment with a rim light as you suggest and see if I like it. A dark background is definitely out though, I want to keep the colours soft and pastel - again it's what I had in mind for this particular image. I want something pale and soft, imagine this is for an advert in a typical women's magazine. I understand that as a CG person you might be sick of seeing soft GI lighting, but I don't think that the average joe (or in this case joanne :)) on the street would care or notice that this lighting is a CG cliche, and to be fair this isn't just a tank on a plane with a skylight. :)

Thanks for the feedback though, you've made me think of some very useful points.

07 July 2002, 09:45 AM

sorry for sounding a bit harsh. :rolleyes:

A real life photographer would not be able to avoid the softbox reflection
well, as a real life photographer i wont try to make dissapear those reflections, but dissimulate them in some illusion of form or space.

As for the softness of the lighting, I think that it suits this product, no?
yes, and
there is a whole world in between shadowless soft lighting and soft shadows. what i was referring is that awfull soft lighting which results in flat lighting. it is perfectly possible to make a nice soft atmosfere using soft shadows, and even with darknesss in the image.....depends what you choose, and if you want hi-key, you can still make nice soft form-creating give the thing some 3 dimensionality although the object is floating in light....
softness does not equal shadowlessness, or hi-key......

that this lighting is a CG cliche
it is not only a cliche in CG world but in real world photography too, and yes it is very typical in womens magazines and advertisement in general. i sense some laziness in this approach. (not yours, but in imaging world) But if your goal is to mimick exactly that type of image, you are on right way..

Real life photographers go to all sorts of lenghts to get soft lighting
euh, to get an allover soft light is actually quiete easy, while creating good subtle and/or soft shadows and lights is a lot more time consuming and complex to achieve....

post your image again when you feel like it.
(how long took that render?)


07 July 2002, 10:35 AM
Hiya again,

if you are indeed a real life photographer then you are exactly the sort of person I want to get feedback from. I was actually considering posting this image on some photo websites in order to get some "real world" feedback.

The commercial look of advertsing is exactly what I'm aiming for, however that doesn't mean I'm not interested in new ideas. I will definitely look at the reflections as you suggested in your first post, lighting-wise are you saying you would like to see some more defined shadows? I do want to keep it pastel and high-key, but I'm not averse to having a little shadow to define the forms.

As for the render, at 1000x1000 it took about 30 mins on a fairly ancient PIII 750 with 1G of RAM. Test renders at 400x400 were very fast, about 2 mins with low quality settings. FinalRender is an excellent engine, this image is full GI, and the bottle has soft reflections and SSS.

07 July 2002, 01:00 PM
hi again,

you can try looking at reflection and diffuse lighting separately....
round reflective objects gain three dimensionality by letting them reflect a gradient......this can be a long deep tube or a globe with a hotspot in some part and gradation towards grey from there to back. that way you can get a soft gradation towards the borders of the object to a darker shade. reverse can be too..but might not work so well in high key.

The curved backdrop in photography is used to simulate infinity, in cg there is no problem in using very large ones...Make a slight gradation in it too, opposite to the one reflected by the object. or overlight towards the borders of the image. keep focus shallow. or even very shallow.

reflective objects for highkey setup typically are lighted in a kind of lightsfere, making some hotspot to give a sense of volume. in cg you can use a map.....and selfillumination

Constructing a fake room wich gets reflected in the bottle might work too.
A diffuse area lightsource could be moved away from camera axis, to get some shadowcast and volume. try using another color for backdrop to test it with colorbleedin. oeps infinite possibilities

i can recommend these books with examples of lighting setups:
Still Life (Pro-Lighting Series)
New Product Shots: A Guide to Professional Lighting Techniques (Pro-Lighting Series)

so long


07 July 2002, 09:20 PM
will you post a sceen shot of your scene so i can get an idea of your layout!! I really like the look you got with that setup.

07 July 2002, 10:30 AM

I've updated it, taking into account your suggestions Sirius. I've gone for more sidelighting this time, and I've changed the reflections so that there is a room. Rather than using a window (which I thought was too literal) I've made the softbox round and moved it back.

Shadows are far from perfect, I've just used a simple blurred shadow map. GI soft shadows didn't seem that much better and added significantly to the render time.

I posted the original image on a photo site this morning and everyone commented on the reflection, so you were definitely right. Thanks :)

I've added some specular bloom in Photoshop, it's a bit OTT but I reckon it would appeal to an advertising art director :)

Adam: the layout is really simple: the background is a plane that curves up behind the subject, quite far back. This makes it recede with a soft gradation. Then there are some simple wall objects and the softbox object (which has a strong self illumination material and high reflectance in the GI settings) which are just to control the bouncelight and reflections.

edit: there is some weird artefacting going on where the outer bottle meets the inner part on the left hand side, must be a setting somewhere that needs tweaking.

08 August 2002, 01:10 PM
how is the light setup now?
just one light really? is it in the same place as the softbox?

the light areas on the right down outline part of the bottle are a bit strange, move the that light more to the right to have it lighting the the rim of the under part but not the downright outline which should be darker.
also i am not distinguishing very well the form and material of the bottle cap. is it glass? or silver. is it round or hollow? the room lacks contrast, so the bottlecap material looks a bit dull.
it looks as if it is a non symetric form seen from above. if thats the case you might move the cam up a bit. if you dont want to change perspective, move up the cam, without changing angles, and make the rendering format vertically larger. then render cropping to the lower part. this is the cg equivalent to parallel corrections in a tecnical view camera .
to enhance furthermore the material aspect:
1. if the cap is glass, you need a seethrough refraction effect or an inner reflection. this can be achieved by giving a pattern to the backdrop,and/ or by placing carefully a light or a small piece selfilluminated surface which give a spark in the glass
2.if it is silver, just place specular highlight... insisted on using the overhead softbox. A fake window, a big rectangular softbox placed on one of the sides will give better 3 dimensionality and more clues about materials.
4. walls of the room have to be illuminated like real with shadow towards the corners, soft gradations ect.
i see some strange muddy things in the reflections of the wall.
that should be clean.
render without sss and the photoshop bloom to correct these things.
5. try the shallow focus (just the cap of the bottle in focus) you will automatically get defocused higlights. try making the focus plane from the V shape in the lower part of the bottle to the center of the bottle cap. use a bigger shadowmap. with a shallow focus the shadow will get defocused in distance anyway.

euh, thats it for now. you wanted photostudio realism?:D


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