Self Education: Understanding Light

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  01 January 2014
Self Education: Understanding Light

Hi cgsociety!

Over the past few weeks I've been looking to improve as an artist through self education because I believe that my technical knowledge and fundamentals in certain areas are lacking. One such area is lighting, and at a basic level I feel as though I understand how light behaves and how things should look with proper lighting. However after working with mental ray more and more these days trying to improve my scenes and renders, it's forced me to arrive at the conclusion that my understanding of light is almost exclusively intuitive and not at all based on how light actually works.

This needs to change. I want to understand how light behaves, I want a solid understanding in the fundamentals of lighting but also have a good grasp on more advanced concepts. I want to understand why caustics, refraction, reflection, transparency, and indirect illumination happen, but also the actual science and physics behind light itself. Truthfully this all came about from reading articles on physically based rendering techniques in film and video-games , and it really piqued my interest in the subject over all.

I've been looking for just about any resource to help me gain a better understanding, but I thought cgsociety would be a great place to ask for suggestions or advice. Besides the few articles linked above, I have been looking on amazon for any books that might be helpful. Below are some that I've found, although I know how hit or miss books can be and I'm unsure if they would be worth it. Some seem to be based on reviews, but I thought this community might help me in my quest for knowledge.

Art Fundamentals:
Digital Lighting and Rendering:
3D Photorealism:
Digital Texturing and Painting:
Light for Visual Artists:

A quick one-off that I thought was very interesting is Principles of Lighting and Rendering with John Carmack.

But anyway, sorry for the long post (and I hope this is the right place to ask for help), but can anyone suggest helpful resources, point me in the right direction, or flat out tell me the best way to go about getting a better understanding of light/lighting?

Thank you for your time!
  01 January 2014
From a more artistic perspective I loved reading "Color and Light" by James Gurney.
  01 January 2014
Jeremy Birns book is really popular, and I would defiantly recommend it. Its a great overview of the subject, but it doesn't go too deep into any one topic. He also occasionally post on the forums here.

If you want to get into the maths and programing stuff, there are some free computer graphics courses from various top universities that offer a great primer on the subject.
  01 January 2014
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