Student Critique: Resort Pool


Hi all, I’m Tim Bahrij

I am a fairly young 3D content creator, currently studying a bachelor of animation. I’m interested in many, many, many aspects of CGI & art in general, though as I have a 3D environmental modelling course this semester I thought I would try some environmental/archvis work.
*nb, I really want some criticism, but I am a bit ‘wet behind the ears’ so my skin may not be as thick as yours, so please keep it constructive :slight_smile:

From the beginning of this project I had decided I wanted to work all linear 32bit images. I have experience with photography, and in particular HDR photography (for IBL & just for viewing). I originally wanted to composite in photoshop, however its handling of 32bit files was a bit problematic to start off, so I took the opportunity to learn some nuke. Couple things caught me off guard (like terminology such as ‘shuffle’)

IMAGES: 2k res

100% 512x512 crops of the original 4k image 1

Things I learned:

32bit HDR images are great
Nuke is great (seemed a bit slow at first, but you forget that when you see how powerful it is)
How much I had to ‘soften’ my render to make it look somewhat photographic was astounding!
Treat the render as a photo (tonemapping in luminance HDR, don’t be afraid to overexpose,blur,introduce aberrations)


I rendered out 9 passess for the primary foreground; Diffuse colour/direct/indirect, Glossy colour/direct/indirect, Translucent colour/direct/indirect.

Doing this wasn’t completely necessary, however I was able to apply some noise reduction to specific passes (DifDir and DifInd) plus it was a good exercise in node wrangling.

Here’s the node layout:

After nuke, I took the .exr into a free program LuminanceHDR for tonemapping

output to 16bit tifs

and finally into photoshop for more touch ups + output to .jpg for web upload.

So, what do you think? Any ideas on improvement?
I think one of the areas could have gotten a bit better at was compositing and maybe a bit more control over colour palette.

inspiration image


Oh and here’s an upload of a full resolution render here


looks really nice but something looks a little off about the ice, if its ice it should be a little blue and possibly reflective and if its snow it shouldnt have those dark lines in it, also the exposure for where the light is coming in is a little to bright, you should stay away from pure white.

On the right side of the cave entrance there is a almost perfect half circle bight out of it, might look better if it was a little more random.

maybe more plants, just one makes it look lonely.

maybe have the lifesaver (orange floaty) sitting a little more flat.

that looks like a lap pool if you want it to look more like a party pool maybe have it a little wider.

Love the decoration hanging from the roof, looks fantastic.

what about some lights for night time?

Cheers and keep up the good work.


Hi Avitus,

Thanks for the reply and the constructive criticism!

Regards the surrounds:

As you can see in the link ‘inspiration image’ , this is actually a real place. The cave itself is stone, I believe this is Santorini, Greece

regards the ‘perfect circle’: Good spot! I missed that.

regards pool: Good idea, I wasn’t sure whether to go party pool or lap pool, but given the whole shape of the cave lap pool seemed to fit better, but given the mise en scene (the seating, the lighting and the hanging sculpture) maybe recreational pool might have been better.

regards the exposure:

Yes! When I was creating this, my first reaction was to make sure everything was exposed nicely, but as I did some research, the trend in architectural photography is to overexpose like in these photographs . However I do have the exterior sky visible, so maybe a bit darker to fit in with that would be better, those examples above are interior shots, and all exterior are not visible due to the ‘blinding’ environmental light coming in.

regards nighttime: Did you mean putting more lights in for the nighttime render? I had one inside the sculpture which cast some nice shadows, and a few exterior to light up the place.

Thanks again!


I think the lighting for night is fine, no need for changes there but where is the blue coming from in the water reflection.

now that you say the cave is stone I guess I can see that but it dose look a little frosty, almost like ice, and looking at the reference image there is a more constant white, your rock has a bit of a vainy look and its more chaotic, some parts are smooth and some very rough.

The lounge chairs look a little like there made of stone maybe add some extra creases in them if possible?

hmm I think the surface of your water is to reflective, it sorta looks like a mirror, maybe make it a little more clear like the reference image?



In the night pool scene there are lights under the water, that’s probably where its looking like a reflection.

I guess my stone is more ‘dramatised’. the concave and convex shapes of the wall are a lot larger and deeper, I think if I wanted to get closer to the picture I would need to tone that down.

regards the chairs, yeah that’s one thing I struggled with, maybe I could add a really subtle fabric texture/displacement to make it look like canvas or rough cotton.

regards the water: yeah I was working with a custom water shader, a mix of refraction and glossy. If I made the water more realistic and transparent it didnt look too good so I opted to make it more reflective.

Thanks for your further help!