Lighting Challenge #6: Candle Light


Thanks for the feeback MrZap

The frame is mat gold material not wood. If I made it wood, it would not jump out as much. But as to whether it is acurately representing what a gold frame would be with the lights i have in there… then I think it probably does - I’m feeling it’s the lighting I need to look to help convince you it’s all candle lit… see what i mean?

i.e. my frame is not the same as yours so it won’t look like yours.

also there’s no glass, it’s chrome/silver.


posted twice by accident


I’m aware it’s not intended to be wood… :wink:

Right now, my eye says “glazed yellow plastic” about it. Are your reflections gold colored? For a gold look, it should reflect a gold color (which I’d say is a hair more orange than the color you are using) and have basically no diffuse component.

But gold is difficult! There is a reason I made my metal parts more coppery, it’s a much easier color. I have a suspicion gold actually does something spectrally w. light which isn’t really well representable in RGB.

  • I’m feeling it’s the lighting I need to look to help convince you it’s all candle lit… see what i mean?

This is indeed tricky… I have the similar problem that it either looks “overlit” or “too dark” and it’s hard to nail the middle-ground “candle lit”.

also there’s no glass, it’s chrome/silver.

I noticed that when I tried to copy your cool candle holders and actually made them glass, which wasn’t at all the look you had… I really liked your silver ones.



MasterZap, as usual, great great stuff! From the number of renders you posted, I can tell you are really having fun with this image!!!

I hope to get to work in this one soon, I am horribly busy right now, but can’t wait to get my hands on this challenge.


Jeremys challanges are great testing material. Perfect for surface- and light-shader code. :wink:



Code? What is this “code” you speak of, Master Zap?

The last time I saw code I was trying to write a “Zork” game in Basic on my dad’s TRS-80.

Man, if these programs didn’t have GUI’s, I’d have a different job :D.

Anyway, my next post’ll have an image instead of my silly blather.

I may try to change the palette up a bit, after first solving the problems with my first pass. I’m seeing lots of wood and dark smoky-ness. Maybe a stainless steel table, or stone…But that’s after fixing the lighting.


Here’s a new version… with more subdued lighting, i think it’s moving in the right direction.
Need to sort out those flames!


nice one seggy! I really like the glowing ember and the porcelain dish. Something about the gold candle holders still seems slightly off to me, but they are definitely headed in the right direction.

Also the candles seem a little too smooth and perfect to be wax, makes them look a little more like plastic.

Anyways, great updates everyone.



Greetings to you all =) Well here’s my little contribution. I made this with 3DSMax, started at 6PM with texturing and just finished my first try at 4h10AM lol. So I guess Im off to bed now =P Any comments are more then welcome. Good luck to you all :wink:

needs sleep, hands shaking


Excuse me for double posting :confused: hadnt figured out how to post an image. :rolleyes:


Seggy - Nice one! It’s funny how the ambiguous flat-mouthed expression on the kid’s face looked happy in your previous render, but in this one, with the reflection mimicking a tear, he looks sad. I’m not sure on the reflections, especially the deeply saturated blue windows reflected on the right of the vase, whether they fit with the scene. I like how you have the incense glowing on the plate. I guess we have to wait a few days for people to start adding smoke to the scenes.

Barrymcw - Doing technical things is 100% optional on this challenge. If you want to replace the flames with volumetric fluid dynamic simulations, create bokeh effects, use sub-surface scattering, you can. But if you just want to use simple tools to render the scene, that’s great too and it could come out just as well.

MasterZap - Your scene is looking great. A religious icon type image in the frame makes a lot of sense. It looks as if the right side of the vase is getting some blue fill light that isn’t hitting the right side of the candle next to it, maybe it’s just confusing because something that’s really a reflection looks like a kick of diffuse illumination, but still it looks like the candle should be getting some.

fulg0re - Great start! It looks like the shadows need work, it looks like a combination of some lights that don’t cast shadows at all, and some that cast razor-sharp raytraced shadows. If you could find some middle ground and make all the lights cast softer shadows, it would add greatly to the image.

Captain Obvious - Thanks for the LWO scene, it is on-line now. I ordered a new computer too, I bought a BOXX workstation after seeing them at SIGGRAPH. I’ll test out the candle scene on it after it arrives.

Kadazil - Welcome. Wow, that’s a fresh, interesting take on the scene. If I had thought that vase would be rendered transparent I would have modeled more of the inside.  I like the depth of the colors you are using. Some areas look as if more shadowing or occlusion could help, especially underneath the front candle-holder, right now it looks as if it could be floating above the ground because there aren’t the shadows there to establish a solid sense of contact.



Here are some photographs I just shot to explore how candles look at different exposure settings. There is almost no fill light, so we are just looking at a scene by candle-light alone, and I started at 1/4 sec exposures at f1.4, ISO 200, on a Nikon D70 with a Sigma 30mm f1.4 lens:







f16, 1/8 second

f16, 1/30 second



I was just having a joke with my code comments - clearly not a funny one. No offense meant at all. Believe me, if I could write code, I surely would.

Doing some GI tests now, image to come soon.

Oh, and thanks for the photos. They’ve very nice reference to have.


WOW! THANK YOU Jeremy for those priceless photographies! Really helps to understand how the candle delivers such a soft light. Your annotations have been heard. Indeed shadows are a problem but I figured after 14 hours of Max I should stop =P Ill work on it tomorrow. I also believe the back is maybe overlit a tad and the metal looks pretty weird. For the glass vase, no worries Im on it :wink:

Seggy, if I may, a few comments: Getting niccceee =) I think you’re getting the candle light quite right, the candle holders also very nice maybe a tad too reflective though, they only stay that way the first week you buy them :wink: Other then that, maybe think about the glossiness of your candle sticks cause apparently theres only specular on the top. For the flames, I would suggest having fun with a gradient ramp and some falloff as a mix mask. You could also add some texture details on your insense which, no offense, looks for the while like the tip of a paintbrush. One last thing, I think the frame has a specular problem. Or maybe I do =P

MasterZap, exactly what I had in mind when I saw the insense ^^ You could push this further by adding maybe some smoke on those insenses all going straight to the top. That adds a lot of mood =P About the light I also think its overlit a bit. Try playing with the inverse square decay maybe, I think it helps for candlelight.

Barry, I really love the mood in there, almoost magicalllll… ERmmm dont have much to say except maybe u could light the front part of the table just a teency weency bit. “maybe” :wink: Other then that I really like what u did to the frame. Nice job.

PS: Im new here so if u guys think I should just post my work and be quiet, be sure to mention it =) If not, well glad I can be of some help.


Hi all…
Rendered with Inspirer…


hi jeremybirn ,
pic mixture between candle light and morning light ,I will try to do ,only candle light in next time

hi res


A somewhat better, I think, version of my earlier one. It took me forever to find GI settings that didn’t take a year and a day to render. A little shadow softening in PS as well.

I’m not sure what’s up with the janky lighting on the foremost candle. It’s a bit odd to say the least.

@ Seggy, agreed that the glowing incense is a nice touch. Also, I really like the craquelure texture on the vase.

@ Fighter4d, the glass table is a good idea. I may have to borrow it for my next render of the scene :D. Also, nice reflection on the glass vase.

@ Buca and Kadazil, the blue palettes add a great mixture of images for us to look at. I went straight to smoky red and I’m thinking that I may try going cooler on my next round. Buca, maybe add some aging to the table top. It looks very clean and new.

@ Kadazil, I’m new here too so I hope I’m not out of place saying that comments are more than welcome. For me at least, I wouldn’t post pics here if I wasn’t expecting critique.


I’m glad lots of people are giving feedback!

Buca - Welcome! Good start. The subtle shading on the background screen is really nice looking, and you’ve got some good shaping on the vase. The glow around the flames has a strange pattern in it; maybe you could render without the glow, and add the glow around the brightest parts of the image in Photoshop or a compositing program? The table looks a little flatly lit, as if the front were as bright as the top, it would be nice to see it fade off a little.

fighter4d - Looking good, I like the glass-topped table! That table really works well with the scene. I think you could find a different shader and look for the vase, though. The lighting is nice and low-key, which fits with a candle-lit scene, but I don’t really get the impression of light coming from the candles yet. Maybe the saturation of the flames is a bit high, too?

barrymcw - Overall that’s shaping up to be a really solid scene. Something fishy about the render settings, though, look at how the reflection of the incense on the plate is much brighter than the incense itself. That might be because shadows aren’t visible in reflections, or it might be a GI-related issue, I can’t tell. I’ll make the next suggestion to everybody.

To everybody: if you haven’t got the candles looking waxy and translucent yet, and you need to work on getting that gradient of illumination right near the top, it’s a really good idea to hide everything but 1 candle and just do a series of quick test renders with 1 candle until the top looks good. There are lots of approaches (in Maya you could use a ramp shader on the incandescence, or a volume light set to emit ambient only, if you have the time you could even use a sub-surface scattering shader) but that translucency effect is a key to the look of a lit candle.



Nice reference photos jeremy, I can see I need to re-work the sss on this shot:

Rendered with Maxwell Render v1.1


Thanks Jeremy! I can’t wait to get stuck into this one when I get some free time.

Here’s a .max version if anyone wants it - candles_MAX.rar