Robh Ruppel shows how to create depth
Ed Pheromone, US
This is one of the fundamental challenges in art: overcoming the flatness of the paper or the screen by indicating as much dimension as possible. There are conventions for this, taught to artists and photographers alike, that are possibly getting overlooked nowadays with the increasing need to teach specific software rather than concepts. Yet the principles of readability remain.
Applying perspective in your basic design is just the start. Getting a shape to look three-dimensional can be done in tonal values with the 1-2-3 side read: each plane is assigned (or lit with) a value to show off its difference in space. If you light them all the same, the scene remains flat and lacks depth.
This holds true if you’re looking into a space as well. You want to show depth by having the 1-2-3 side read on an interior. If you render all planes with the same value and same falloff, even though this can occur in the real world, it looks bad. It flattens out the space; it makes the space confusing and ambiguous. This, more often than not, is not what you want to do. So, the secret is to pick a dominant direction for the light and subordinate the other planes to the dominant one. That way the image retains depth and readability on the flat surface. Exaggerate dimension, eliminate flatness.
In an alleyway, even with soft, natural light, I pick a dominant direction for the light and keep the other planes lower in value regardless of the textures or local colour. To add depth, always look for the 1-2-3 side reading. Make the planes read with different values, even if the changes are small ones.