January Contest Thread “Compostion” (WIP Thread)

Cris PalominoCris Palomino Posts: 4,365
edited February 2015 in New User Contests and Events

New User's Contest - January 2015

Sponsored by DAZ 3D and Cris Palomino

Are you new to the 3D World? Are you at the beginning stages of learning 3D rendering? Have you been around for a little bit but feel you could benefit from some feedback or instruction? Have you been around awhile and would like to help other members start their creative journey? Well then come and join the fun as we host our newest contest...

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

"Composition"

This contest is a general render contest with the focus being on how you compose your image. We're providing you with lots of great links on Composition from a variety of sources. Composition is key to pulling a viewer into your image and leading their eye to where you want them to see things. It's a fundamental skill that we, as artists, not only need to learn, but will continue to hone over the years. Read about and look at the examples, in these articles, for how composition works and how artists, from the Masters to people like you and me, put these compositional guidelines to use to make our pieces more appealing and invite the viewer to look around your image as you intended.


General Composition Rules:
http://design.tutsplus.com/articles/5-fundamental-skills-every-artist-should-master--psd-28054


The Golden Ratio:
https://holycrop.wordpress.com/tag/golden-spiral/
http://www.thephoblographer.com/2011/04/08/an-introduction-to-golden-spiral-composition-method/#.VGKnLFPF_C4
http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/golden-ratio-in-moden-designs/


Some Tools for DS and Bryce:
Golden Rules Camera Prop v1.5 by Jaderail http://www.sharecg.com/v/67783/browse/21/DAZ-Studio/Golden-Rules-Camera-Prop-v1.5
Golden Rules Composition Helpers for Bryce by David Brinnen Horo http://www.daz3d.com/golden-rules-composition-helpers-for-bryce


Artists, filmmakers and photographers share similar traits in how we present our work, so you will find that a study of the art of photography will help, which is why you see various links to photographic articles included.

Photography Composition:
http://digital-photography-school.com/5-elements-of-composition-in-photography/
http://digital-photography-school.com/5-more-elements-of-composition-in-photography/


Color can be used as a compositional element, especially when you have color contrast. Here are some fundamentals on color:

Color Fundamentals:
http://www.tigercolor.com/color-lab/color-theory/color-theory-intro.htm

Other Types of Contrast:
http://www.neilblevins.com/cg_education/composition_contrasts/composition_contrasts.htm
http://photoinf.com/General/NAVY/Contrast_and_Framing.htm


Examples of Composition:
http://www.cybercollege.com/comp_ex.htm
http://www.cybercollege.com/comp_ex2.htm
http://www.pinterest.com/dawnshiree/rules-of-composition/


I will be checking in as will the rest of the Community Volunteers to try and help with anything you all may need.


For a list of the current contest rules, please see this thread : Contest Rules
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Closing Date: January 31st 2015

Post edited by DAZ_ann0314 on
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Comments

  • Kismet2012Kismet2012 Posts: 3,484
    edited December 1969

    I use Jaderail's Golden Rules on every render. Some of the links to articles are very interesting.

    This is Yeager.

    Comments welcome.

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  • Cris PalominoCris Palomino Posts: 4,365
    edited December 1969

    That's looking pretty good, Kismet. The one thing I wonder is that what you have in the background appears to emit light but there are no reds falling on your figure. It might help to merge him with his surroundings a bit more.

  • Kismet2012Kismet2012 Posts: 3,484
    edited December 1969

    Thanks for the input Cris. It was harder than I anticipated to get some red highlights to show.

    Latest version.

    Yeager_24.jpg
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  • LinwellyLinwelly Posts: 3,625
    edited December 1969

    Newby here an right into the contest. The topic seems something good to start learning.
    I call this one Mirror Image and I used the following programs:
    DAZ Studio 4.7 Pro
    Pond Builder - Base
    V5 Summer Set
    Dial-an-Elf.

    Feedback is very appreceated
    Lynwelly

    mirror-image.jpg
    800 x 618 - 56K
  • yhzmurphyyhzmurphy Posts: 338
    edited December 1969

    Firstly, thank-you for the links. Very helpful in understanding beyond the rudimentary photography skills I've picked up over 50 years of blind trial and error.

    Well, after spending too much time staring at a blank eCanvas thinking of composition and the near infinite control when you can create/buy/pose/place everything, I switched over and spent waaaay too much time in Hexagon trying to create an object as a starting point. Truly work in progress...still thinking on the story (there will be at least one character). It all starts with a prim...

    SuspectDevice800.jpg
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  • Mental AmbushMental Ambush Posts: 28
    edited December 1969

    Although I have been using DAZ for a few months now i still consider my self a Noob!! I thought I was getting the hang of it until i found the Galleries. Some of the images are mind blowing to say the least.

    This has made me realize I need help using the software to its full potential.

    Here is one of my better images.

    Comments and suggestions are very welcome!!

    work_in_progress.jpg
    802 x 569 - 223K
  • yhzmurphyyhzmurphy Posts: 338
    edited December 1969

    Well, here's the next stage in the WIP. (where by 'next' I mean '25th or so, but I'm done for the day and posting this for feedback before putting any more work into it'). The story is starting to emerge now that I've added some characters to the suspect device. I think I've read more tutorials and learned more about 3D today than in years of dabbling. I guess that's what these contests are for.

    Any and all constructive feedback welcome.

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  • Kismet2012Kismet2012 Posts: 3,484
    edited December 1969

    The January, 2015 issue of DS Creative is out and has an article on composition and the Rule of Thirds.

    The thread on DS Creative is here: http://www.daz3d.com/forums/discussion/42372/P165

    If you want to read the magazine you need to register here: http://www.issuu.com/

  • SirustalcelionSirustalcelion Posts: 23
    edited January 2015

    Howdy folks, I was hoping for a bit of a critique before I post this, and maybe some tips. Something about it isn't quite right, and I can't put my finger on it. I was hoping to get some rule of thirds, light/dark contrast and figure/face balance with this one.

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    Post edited by Sirustalcelion on
  • SirustalcelionSirustalcelion Posts: 23
    edited December 1969

    Also, I know it's not DAZ-specific, but BlenderGuru has an excellent tutorial on composition: http://www.blenderguru.com/tutorials/understanding-composition/#.VLXXcSvF89Q

  • giovannipaologiovannipaolo Posts: 249
    edited December 1969

    ;-)Greetings! You might try reducing the strength of the light in the background by as much as 50% and add a spotlight (as a fill light) on the figure at 25-40%. Currently the focus of attention is on the light, not the figure. Hope that helps.

  • DollyGirlDollyGirl Posts: 2,145
    edited January 2015

    Howdy folks, I was hoping for a bit of a critique before I post this, and maybe some tips. Something about it isn't quite right, and I can't put my finger on it. I was hoping to get some rule of thirds, light/dark contrast and figure/face balance with this one.

    sirustalcelion,
    You have done a beautiful job on your textures in this image. The satin looks like satin and the flocked wall paper looks flocked.
    So I see two things that you could change to make your image more interesting.
    1) The rule of thirds has not been applied to the image. Below are your images with my playing around with them. In Image 6 I have taken your image and overlayed a grid that shows where your interest points (the white dots) should be. So if you are trying to make the girl the point of interest she needs to move left or right and a little lower in the picture. The way the camera is pointing now, the point of interest is the lamp. On the second image, Image 9, I cropped your render to see if I could get the girl to be more of the focus and I think I did. So I would recommend that you move your camera's point of view just a little bit to position your girl's face in the upper right point. Does not have to be exact but some where near there.
    2) As giovannipaoloartist has suggested drop down the intensity of your lamp to move focus from it. If I were working on this image I would start with the three spot light configuration, two in front and one in back, and try and get a halo of light to frame her face. It might take a few more spots then just three to get the halo but I think that would also make the girl the focus for sure.
    Those are two things you asked about but I would maybe work on making the bed look more comfortable. I would do this by applying some dformers and make it have some give around her body.

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    Post edited by DollyGirl on
  • Cris PalominoCris Palomino Posts: 4,365
    edited December 1969

    Thanks for the input Cris. It was harder than I anticipated to get some red highlights to show.

    Latest version.

    Paid off though. :)

  • SirustalcelionSirustalcelion Posts: 23
    edited December 1969

    Thanks for the feedback, guys. Dollygirl, I think my math was off on my thirds, because mine were in different spots. Doing it again, I took the guesswork out and just went ahead and put the thirds directly on the image. In Daz, I used a plane with the same dimensions as my final render, parented to the camera, with an alpha map of a 3x3 grid on it. Is there an easier way to get the camera to display composition guides?

    I went ahead and moved the camera around a little bit, and adjusted the lamp around. I actually decreased the main lamp brightness to 25% of where it was, but by moving the lamp, I was able to keep the rim lighting. I went ahead and put a soft spotlight on the figure, like giovannipaoloartist suggested...I didn't think it would help that much, but the difference was immediately apparent.

    reclinewip_8E.png
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  • Cris PalominoCris Palomino Posts: 4,365
    edited December 1969

    smurph9 said:
    Firstly, thank-you for the links. Very helpful in understanding beyond the rudimentary photography skills I've picked up over 50 years of blind trial and error.

    Well, after spending too much time staring at a blank eCanvas thinking of composition and the near infinite control when you can create/buy/pose/place everything, I switched over and spent waaaay too much time in Hexagon trying to create an object as a starting point. Truly work in progress...still thinking on the story (there will be at least one character). It all starts with a prim...

    I'll comment on this image only briefly as I saw you put in a new WIP.

    The first thing that stands out is the many vertical lines everywhere. It tends to make an image static. Playing with banking an image can add a little movement even when everything is very square and vertical.

    There is very little contrast as everything is being lit very evenly. You have torches, but in a very lit scene. Making the scene more realistically lit and allowing the torches to guide your lighting will add drama and contrast to your scene so that you can make out your cool contraption from everything else in the scene.

  • SirustalcelionSirustalcelion Posts: 23
    edited December 1969

    Although I have been using DAZ for a few months now i still consider my self a Noob!! I thought I was getting the hang of it until i found the Galleries. Some of the images are mind blowing to say the least.

    This has made me realize I need help using the software to its full potential.

    Here is one of my better images.

    Comments and suggestions are very welcome!!

    You could get a much more realistic result from your render by using the "Uberenvironment," and setting its quality up. That would help put in a fast ambient lighting and add some ambient occlusion, which could show off your textures much better. You could also use raytraced shadows (depending on how powerful your rig is). If you don't have uberenvironment (I think it comes free with the main program), setting up a bunch of colored, dim distant lights could help get a similar effect.

  • Cris PalominoCris Palomino Posts: 4,365
    edited December 1969

    Although I have been using DAZ for a few months now i still consider my self a Noob!! I thought I was getting the hang of it until i found the Galleries. Some of the images are mind blowing to say the least.

    This has made me realize I need help using the software to its full potential.

    Here is one of my better images.

    Comments and suggestions are very welcome!!

    Nice image. You're breaking up the forms nicely. No major tangents. One thing to check. Does the metal on the back pedastal, for your boulder-carrying figure, have ambient on it? Ambient can "light" a surface when the lights are throwing other things into shadows. Most of the things in that area of the room are in shadows, but not the metal surfaces.

    The image definitely tells a story. :)

  • Cris PalominoCris Palomino Posts: 4,365
    edited December 1969

    smurph9 said:
    Well, here's the next stage in the WIP. (where by 'next' I mean '25th or so, but I'm done for the day and posting this for feedback before putting any more work into it'). The story is starting to emerge now that I've added some characters to the suspect device. I think I've read more tutorials and learned more about 3D today than in years of dabbling. I guess that's what these contests are for.

    Any and all constructive feedback welcome.

    Your story highlights the device and figure in the foreground as it's larger and more lit, but you've positioned the camera to really bring attention to the figures in the background. Play with your camera angle, try rendering it from a few different vantage points.

    Also, take a look at this page. There is some great information on different compositional devices for differentiating parts of your picture, pulling focus through means of diagonals, color and contrast.

    Dean Cornwell is one of those Artist's Artist. Definitely among the artist who should be closely studied. There are many illustrators from the early 20th century that really heightened the art of illustration and looking at their work is a good thing to do. There is a wealth of good examples from people like the Leyendecker Brothers, Howard Pyle, N. C. Wyeth, Norman Rockwell and so many more.

  • Cris PalominoCris Palomino Posts: 4,365
    edited December 1969

    Thanks for the feedback, guys. Dollygirl, I think my math was off on my thirds, because mine were in different spots. Doing it again, I took the guesswork out and just went ahead and put the thirds directly on the image. In Daz, I used a plane with the same dimensions as my final render, parented to the camera, with an alpha map of a 3x3 grid on it. Is there an easier way to get the camera to display composition guides?

    I went ahead and moved the camera around a little bit, and adjusted the lamp around. I actually decreased the main lamp brightness to 25% of where it was, but by moving the lamp, I was able to keep the rim lighting. I went ahead and put a soft spotlight on the figure, like giovannipaoloartist suggested...I didn't think it would help that much, but the difference was immediately apparent.

    The one thing, as an artist, that I noticed, is that you seem to be trying to imply that the light behind her is the main light in the room. It's very bright, but yet she is drawing and she would block most of the light that would light where she is working. You have supplemented with the banker's light, but though while these lights tend to throw very focused light onto the surface, the light is very diffused. So at this point, the light is not feeling like it's as natural as it could be.

  • ScavengerScavenger Posts: 2,664
    edited January 2015

    Hey:)

    Well, this is where I'm at right now...

    I'm not entirely unhappy with it, but I'm not thrilled.....So far, the big fight has been trying to get the camera in the position that will give me the best shot.

    Things I need to do:
    *work out a better pose for Ronnie (the girl)....not liking that one now..she's supposed to be walking/dancing down the aisle, and that's not coming across.
    * Get the back wall and door looking better...it's supposed to be basically a garage type door opening letting blinding light in...not coming across.
    * Get lights working...I think I want a lot of darkness with the lights being the mega light from the door, and a straight down above Eddie (the guy).
    * deck out the set a bit..some speakers and what not.

    (and figure out what that sparkle on the rug is...someone needs to vaccum).

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    Post edited by Scavenger on
  • Scott LivingstonScott Livingston Posts: 4,278
    edited December 1969

    Thanks for the input Cris. It was harder than I anticipated to get some red highlights to show.

    Latest version.


    Composition, posing, and expression all look good to me. Lighting is improved, but if possible I'd go even stronger on the red, especially the rim light(s). It's possibly a little dim overall too, maybe consider adding another light source or increasing the intensity of existing lights. I'd like to be able to see the character's face a bit more clearly.
  • Scott LivingstonScott Livingston Posts: 4,278
    edited December 1969

    Linwelly said:
    Newby here an right into the contest. The topic seems something good to start learning.
    I call this one Mirror Image and I used the following programs:
    DAZ Studio 4.7 Pro
    Pond Builder - Base
    V5 Summer Set
    Dial-an-Elf.

    Feedback is very appreceated
    Lynwelly


    I love the concept and posing and the overall mood, plus the fog effect looks great. The lighting looks a little flat to me--as far as realism goes that's probably to be expected in an atmospheric scene like this one, but for the sake of aesthetics I think there's some room for improvement...I'd think about adding some eerie colored lights, and/or some specular-only lights to bring out the details in the textures. Do your lights have shadows enabled? I'd recommend going with Raytraced shadows with a high Shadow Softness value. As far as the composition is concerned, I'd suggest playing around with the camera angle and framing, keeping in mind the rule of thirds.

    Very nice start overall...looking forward to seeing more!

  • yhzmurphyyhzmurphy Posts: 338
    edited December 1969

    Thank-you Cris. This is very helpful. I'm about two articles away from really understanding what is meant by 'value' but it's starting to make sense, and I suspect it's something I should be paying more attention to ;-) I've bookmarked the site for more reading...but I love the line: "Composition" includes many things, and design- the arrangement of shapes- is only one of them."

    smurph9 said:
    Well, here's the next stage in the WIP. (where by 'next' I mean '25th or so, but I'm done for the day and posting this for feedback before putting any more work into it'). The story is starting to emerge now that I've added some characters to the suspect device. I think I've read more tutorials and learned more about 3D today than in years of dabbling. I guess that's what these contests are for.

    Any and all constructive feedback welcome.

    Your story highlights the device and figure in the foreground as it's larger and more lit, but you've positioned the camera to really bring attention to the figures in the background. Play with your camera angle, try rendering it from a few different vantage points.

    Also, take a look at this page. There is some great information on different compositional devices for differentiating parts of your picture, pulling focus through means of diagonals, color and contrast.

    Dean Cornwell is one of those Artist's Artist. Definitely among the artist who should be closely studied. There are many illustrators from the early 20th century that really heightened the art of illustration and looking at their work is a good thing to do. There is a wealth of good examples from people like the Leyendecker Brothers, Howard Pyle, N. C. Wyeth, Norman Rockwell and so many more.

  • ScavengerScavenger Posts: 2,664
    edited December 1969

    Ok, zeroing in I think.
    I got a lot of the points I mentioned previously done...the back wall and door looks a lot better...you can't see it because it's all in shadow now, but if you saw the photoshop work I did to make it all, you'd go oooh :D

    I have the poses and camera the way I want it now, I think.. The sax both pointing too and mirroring angles of Ronnie.

    I'd like to blur the foreground some, but not sure how to do that with the render camera, so that might go to to post work...

    I dunno, anyone have any thoughts on what all is here? :D

    123333123578901.jpg
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  • Kismet2012Kismet2012 Posts: 3,484
    edited December 1969

    Scavenger said:
    Ok, zeroing in I think.
    I got a lot of the points I mentioned previously done...the back wall and door looks a lot better...you can't see it because it's all in shadow now, but if you saw the photoshop work I did to make it all, you'd go oooh :D

    I have the poses and camera the way I want it now, I think.. The sax both pointing too and mirroring angles of Ronnie.

    I'd like to blur the foreground some, but not sure how to do that with the render camera, so that might go to to post work...

    I dunno, anyone have any thoughts on what all is here? :D

    If it is DOF you are looking for Scavenger you might find this thread helpful: http://www.daz3d.com/forums/discussion/5084/

    There is this in the DAZ documentation centre: http://docs.daz3d.com/doku.php/artzone/pub/software/camera/camera_dof

    And Flipmode has a tutorial on DOF in DAZ as well: http://flipmode3d.com/depth-of-field-daz-studio/

  • Mental AmbushMental Ambush Posts: 28
    edited December 1969

    Although I have been using DAZ for a few months now i still consider my self a Noob!! I thought I was getting the hang of it until i found the Galleries. Some of the images are mind blowing to say the least.

    This has made me realize I need help using the software to its full potential.

    Here is one of my better images.

    Comments and suggestions are very welcome!!

    Nice image. You're breaking up the forms nicely. No major tangents. One thing to check. Does the metal on the back pedastal, for your boulder-carrying figure, have ambient on it? Ambient can "light" a surface when the lights are throwing other things into shadows. Most of the things in that area of the room are in shadows, but not the metal surfaces.

    The image definitely tells a story. :)

    I haven't got a clue? I will have a look when i next work on the image. I plan to add detail to that boulder (Earth, that statue is Atlas)
    Thanks for your feedback.

  • Scott LivingstonScott Livingston Posts: 4,278
    edited December 1969

    Although I have been using DAZ for a few months now i still consider my self a Noob!! I thought I was getting the hang of it until i found the Galleries. Some of the images are mind blowing to say the least.

    This has made me realize I need help using the software to its full potential.

    Here is one of my better images.

    Comments and suggestions are very welcome!!

    Nice image. You're breaking up the forms nicely. No major tangents. One thing to check. Does the metal on the back pedastal, for your boulder-carrying figure, have ambient on it? Ambient can "light" a surface when the lights are throwing other things into shadows. Most of the things in that area of the room are in shadows, but not the metal surfaces.

    The image definitely tells a story. :)

    I haven't got a clue? I will have a look when i next work on the image. I plan to add detail to that boulder (Earth, that statue is Atlas)
    Thanks for your feedback.
    Yeah, the metal does stick out as odd. Check it for Ambient, or if not that, the Reflection settings might need to be adjusted. Aside from that I think the image is good. I like the contrast of light and dark areas, though it might look good to add a little fill light to the dark areas (either with something like UberEnvironment2 to add ambient light, or else some low-intensity spot lights or point lights in those darker places. The statues are both looking really good! If you want the sphere to look more rounded, you can try subdividing it (select the item, go to the Scene Pane and click on the Active Pane Options icon--the one with four horizontal lines and a little triangle--or right-click the Scene Pane tab itself, then choose Edit>Convert to SubD).

  • Scott LivingstonScott Livingston Posts: 4,278
    edited December 1969

    smurph9 said:
    Thank-you Cris. This is very helpful. I'm about two articles away from really understanding what is meant by 'value' but it's starting to make sense, and I suspect it's something I should be paying more attention to ;-) I've bookmarked the site for more reading...but I love the line: "Composition" includes many things, and design- the arrangement of shapes- is only one of them."

    smurph9 said:
    Well, here's the next stage in the WIP. (where by 'next' I mean '25th or so, but I'm done for the day and posting this for feedback before putting any more work into it'). The story is starting to emerge now that I've added some characters to the suspect device. I think I've read more tutorials and learned more about 3D today than in years of dabbling. I guess that's what these contests are for.

    Any and all constructive feedback welcome.

    Your story highlights the device and figure in the foreground as it's larger and more lit, but you've positioned the camera to really bring attention to the figures in the background. Play with your camera angle, try rendering it from a few different vantage points.

    Also, take a look at this page. There is some great information on different compositional devices for differentiating parts of your picture, pulling focus through means of diagonals, color and contrast.

    Dean Cornwell is one of those Artist's Artist. Definitely among the artist who should be closely studied. There are many illustrators from the early 20th century that really heightened the art of illustration and looking at their work is a good thing to do. There is a wealth of good examples from people like the Leyendecker Brothers, Howard Pyle, N. C. Wyeth, Norman Rockwell and so many more.


    I agree with the other commenters. Think about the story you're trying to tell with this image--what you want the viewer to focus on--and arrange the scene (or at least the camera angle) such that the eye is drawn to those elements.

    In terms of lighting: I like the torch light effect, but it looks pretty white--I'd expect the light to be warmer-colored, especially given the color of the flame itself. I also like the way you've surrounded the box thing with soft light...definitely draws attention to it. The orc dude in the background, on the other hand, kind of fades into shadows so it's hard to see the details of that figure. Maybe that's intentional, but if you want to make him stand out more, add a (stronger) light source offscreen...maybe another torch just out of frame that will throw some light onto his right side (the viewer's left)?

    One more thing...the textures of the dungeon are pretty uniform. To add visual interest, consider adding some rubble or other appropriate items around the margins of the floor. Or if you have access to some appropriate shaders, you might try using a different one on the floor in order to break up the uniformity (this could also be achieved by adjusting the surface settings, like diffuse color, or tiling if it's a tiling texture).

  • Scott LivingstonScott Livingston Posts: 4,278
    edited December 1969

    Thanks for the feedback, guys. Dollygirl, I think my math was off on my thirds, because mine were in different spots. Doing it again, I took the guesswork out and just went ahead and put the thirds directly on the image. In Daz, I used a plane with the same dimensions as my final render, parented to the camera, with an alpha map of a 3x3 grid on it. Is there an easier way to get the camera to display composition guides?

    I went ahead and moved the camera around a little bit, and adjusted the lamp around. I actually decreased the main lamp brightness to 25% of where it was, but by moving the lamp, I was able to keep the rim lighting. I went ahead and put a soft spotlight on the figure, like giovannipaoloartist suggested...I didn't think it would help that much, but the difference was immediately apparent.


    Your changes to lighting and composition have yielded a huge improvement to what was already a pretty nice-looking render. Both the figure and the overall scene are looking great. I do agree with Cris that it seems like there should be a pool of light around the banker's lamp.

    I think my only other suggestion is to think about mood and theme. What is your subject's emotional state, and what emotions to you want to invoke in the viewer? The drawings in your scene are really convenient ways to play around with this, and you can be as direct or subtle as you like.

  • Scott LivingstonScott Livingston Posts: 4,278
    edited December 1969

    Scavenger said:
    Ok, zeroing in I think.
    I got a lot of the points I mentioned previously done...the back wall and door looks a lot better...you can't see it because it's all in shadow now, but if you saw the photoshop work I did to make it all, you'd go oooh :D

    I have the poses and camera the way I want it now, I think.. The sax both pointing too and mirroring angles of Ronnie.

    I'd like to blur the foreground some, but not sure how to do that with the render camera, so that might go to to post work...

    I dunno, anyone have any thoughts on what all is here? :D


    I like the new framing, and I think the lighting is coming together. I do feel like there should be a stronger backlight effect on the female figure. Only other thing that bothers me is the vast amounts of basically empty space. Is there a way to fill the left and right margins (the green areas) with appropriate props or figures, without distracting the viewer's attention from the two subjects? Maybe something to experiment with.

    For blurring the foreground, definitely check out the links in Kismet2012's post. Depth of Field may seem daunting at first, but it's actually pretty easy to learn, and once you do it can be an incredibly powerful tool.

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