Before we get started please pop over to this thread http://www.daz3d.com/forums/viewthread/17351/ and read the first post then pop back here and continue…it is worth it, trust me.
This is a long post because I get asked about lighting tips and tricks a lot and there is no way to condense, in my case, 3 years of knowledge into a forum post. So I am writing this for anyone who might get something out of it.
I am not trying to scare anyone; on the contrary spelling it like this below will hopefully give you something to think about on what steps you want to take and how determined you are to learn. Yes there is some information that may go straight over your head at this point. Come back in a few months and read it again, I bet you will understand the jargon a lot more. For some it comes easy for some it can be a hard road. One thing many of us agree on though is that it does take time and a thirst for learning. With anything we get out what we put in.
Before I start I would like to say that there is a ton of information out there on the internet. This is where Google comes in handy. See a term you don’t understand just type it in to Google. It is not often I can’t find the answers I need. Some searches may need tweaking but yeah Google is our friend. Your financial situation may dictate your course like it did with me or you may be in a position to afford to pay for courses. But consider this for a moment or two, some people use the forums and the info shared to learn quite quickly. Most find using Google to search the Daz Forums gives better results. Or just ask one question at a time. For me I prefer to seek out the answers myself and have been quite successful in doing so. I find doing it that way the info sinks in and stays put. It is not often I ask questions.
It also helps to understand that there is no make art button (a running joke for some) it takes time, dedication and a love for learning to grasp the complexities of digital art.
Lighting: It all depends on what you want to achieve and what type of images you want to create.
Realism: If you want realistic images then you need to understand real world lighting and then replicate/translate that in to the CG world of lighting. But this is not that easy in a biased render engine for which 3Delight is (Daz Studio’s render engine). It is possible but it does require a lot of learning. Yes there are ways to create Global Illumination and Indirect Lighting, plug-ins and light sets you can buy that can help toward realistic lighting but there is more to realism than light.
Surfaces play a big part too in getting realistic results, lighting and surfaces go hand in hand, they are dependent on each other. You can have the best light setup in the world but it won’t make any difference if the surfaces are poor and vice versa.
With any biased render engine (see NOTE 1 below) we have to treat the surfaces differently than how they act in the real world. For example and crudely put take reflections and glossiness, in Daz Studio we can control Glossiness and Reflection separately and independently from each other whereas in the real word they are the same, the shinier a surface is the more reflective it becomes. An unbiased render engine (see NOTE 2 below) ties the two effects together, so reflection strength is directly related to how glossy a surface is and how much light there is. (I think)
Take human skin for another example, learning how light reacts to skin really helps in replicating the different effects in CG, given the right tools, to give more realistic results, but again it takes time and effort to get good results in any software.
NOTE 1: Biased Render Engine: 3Delight (Daz Studio), FireFly (Poser); You set the quality of the render, the render engine then renders that image to those predetermined parameters and then stops.
NOTE 2: Unbiased Render Engine: Luxrender and Octane are types of Standalone unbiased render engines. They do a better job of replicating real world lighting and how light reacts with surfaces. You start a render and you decide when it is finished. In theory you could leave a render going forever but obviously there is a quality threshold were you wouldn’t notice the difference.
Light: In the real world the light rays from the sun effectively never stops bouncing around. It also bounces back from the atmosphere giving our planet its blue colour. If there are a lot of bright and reflective surfaces then light gets bounced around like crazy and brightens up shadows etc. Whereas caves or buildings etc made of dark dull/matte surfaces don’t bounce light around as much. Light walls in a dark house will bounce light around more than dark walls.
CG Lighting: This is what both types render engines are doing, shooting rays out, detecting surfaces and depending the surface properties the light gets bounced, absorbed, reflected and refracted etc. With the biased render engines like Daz Studio has these bounces are predetermined by the settings we give. In the unbiased engine the bounces can go on forever effectively.
But this is not to say we cannot get realistic results using a biased render engine as some have proved otherwise.
Take my Pipe Smoking Working Man on page one of my render thread done in Poser using a light rig made by another which I purchased. This light Rig (PhotoBox) uses Indirect lighting that is part of the FireFly biased render engine that Poser uses. It took me two months of learning, test rendering, adjusting textures, merging displacement maps together, more learning and more testing before the final render took place. The only postwork done was the smoke. All the dirt, liver spots, nicotine stain on the thumb etc was all rendered in one pass (one image). This was a self appointed challenge to see how much I could do in one render and how realistic I could get with the tools and textures I had. With more computer power and learning I KNOW I could do the same or better in Daz Studio. I am just waiting for the day I can try.
AT this point you might say well I want to do realistic images so why not use a different render engine well some do with the birth of the Reality plug-in for Daz Studio which uses Luxrender. This doesn’t mean it will deliver realistic images from the get go, far from it. You still need to learn about real world lighting, surfaces and how to set those up. Plus Luxrender takes a long time to render but like everything it depends on your computer and how much time you are willing to wait for a final render to finish. Some moan about waiting half an hour where some of us have let Daz Studio renders run for days.
Artistic: If you want to create more artistic (I like to call them opposed the realism), comic, surreal type of images then Daz Studio is perfect for the job too. Take this image for example. I spent half hour on setting up the lighting as I had every intention of doing a lot of postwork so the lighting didn’t matter so much. I forgot about realism. As long as I could see the detail then that was enough. Some people don’t even use extra lights they just render using the preview light and apply all the lighting, highlighting and shadowing etc effects in Photoshop. This is where good use of image manipulation software like Photoshop, GIMP, and Paint Shop Pro etc pays off.
My point is for me I don’t care how I make my images, any software is a tool and how I choose to use them is up to me alone and not influenced by trends or other people’s opinions on what art should be. How many tools does it take to make a chair? Should we only use hand tools or power tools? Don’t be swayed by others, do what you want to do. If it pleases you and harms no one then what more is there to add. Do it for recognition, a pat on the back then forget it then you are doing it for the wrong reasons.
If you are serious about learning about lighting, not dyslexic like me and can afford it may I suggest purchasing this book Digital Lighting and Rendering (2nd Edition) by Jeremy Birn It comes highly recommended by many around here whom I trust and who inspire me to learn more. I just wish I could take info in, in that form. I have to learn by reading in small chunks and a lot of it has to be in layman’s terms. I love video tutorials, see monkey do and all that. Plus I do hours and hours of testing this that and the other. I can spend days testing things and not making images.
I don’t normally recommend any paid for education because we all learn differently, what works for one may not work for another. But this will be the second time I have suggested this as I honestly think if you can afford it Dreamlight’s Light Master Course is a good place to start to understand different types of lighting and what they can be used for and how. If you bide your time you may get it even cheaper as Dreamlight tends to have a lot of sales.
NOTE: This course will not hold your hand through Daz Studio but it will help you understand the different types of lighting we have in Daz Studio and other CG software. And with that information, and if you apply yourself, you can adapt to different lighting for different types of scenes. But like everything you need the basics first and this course does just that teaches the basics.
Do you have an artistic background? If yes then you will know about the golden rule, spiral, rule of thirds and all that, shadow and light, what draws the eye to where blah blah blah. I ask this just in case because there is more to making images than good lighting and surfaces.
Think of Daz Studio is just that a dark studio and we are the lighting technicians, art director, camera person, special effects, wardrobe etc though we do contract out for premade props, light rigs and clothing.
My personal view is to stay with Daz Studio for a year or two and then go on to the more advanced tools and plug-ins. But again it all depends on what type of images you want to create, how quick you learn and how much time you spend. I quickened my learning curve by learning Bryce (basics), Carrara, Poser (basics) and Vue all while learning Daz Studio. This helped me learn more aspects of this CG black magic. This approach may not suit you if so stick with one program. Deal with each hurdle one at a time. Go slowly then it will not be a s frustrating when things don’t go to plan. Also I had to work on learning about art in general having no previous experience in art at all. But I am fairly house bound these days which affords me more time…... to waste.
Have fun which is what matters the most.
Here is some suggested reading, videos and links:
The Science Of CG
Daz Studio Lighting
Cameras and lights in Daz Studio - by maclean
Optimising Render Settings in DAZ|Studio
The different bits of the surface tab by neil
Learning UberEnvironment 2 by Adam
WWWDAZ3DCOM’s Channel – YouTube
Also with Daz Studio we now have ready to render scenes, these can be helpful seeing how they are set up, reverse engineering so to speak. But one thing to remember there is no right or wrong way to light a scene just good and bad lighting.
Photobox for Poser