HOW CAN I IMPROVE THE LIGHTING OF MY PROJECT?
Rita Comby, Oxford
Many elements can help us to achieve engaging lighting effects in a scene, and if our aim is to achieve realism in our image, the lighting is the first thing to improve. There isn’t a formula to do it since the light placement and values depend on the scene and atmosphere we want to give to the project, but for sure the main thing is to learn all the tools and techniques that can help us to reach a better result.
There are four types of lights: point light, spotlight, sun light, and area light. The point light is a light that emanates the same quantity of light in all directions. The spotlight emanates light in a cone with more light in the centre, gradually tapering off towards the sides of the cone (this light is the most complex of the light objects and in fact, it considerably increases the render time). The sun light is a recreation of the natural light of the sun and is produced by a light source at an infinite distance from the scene. This type of light occurs in every software, with the only difference often being what it is referred to: for example in Unreal Engine 4, this option can be found as ‘Directional Light’.
The Area Light is a light that simulates the emission of light originating from a rectangular surface (for example the screen of a smartphone, a TV or a computer). And last but not least, in some software it can be possible to find a fifth type of light, the Hemi Light, which is a constant light source that provides light from the direction of a 180-degree hemisphere.
All of these lights can be placed in different locations and modified by changing the parameters (colour, power, radius, shadow, specular and so on).
For example in this medieval kitchen, I chose to give more importance to the centre of the scene, and to do that, I shaded the sides and concentrated the light at the centre. So the first thing to do to improve the lighting in your project is to define all the elements that should emit light, for example, windows, chandelier, fire, and so on, and then place these lights according to the kind of source.
For example in this scene I used a point light for every single candle in the project, sunlight placed outside to simulate the sun coming through the windows, and a point light and spotlight (with a wide angle) for the fireplace. With this simple step I achieved a natural light, and a daylight atmosphere. For a warm look and feel, increase the temperature of the light, or for a cold/bluish appearance, decrease the temperature. Take time to experiment and test out the many different alternatives for your project.
TRY AN HDRI MAP
Another way to light your scenes is through the use of an HDRI map. Simply place one in the background (world) material to import real-world lighting into your project.