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One of the best ways to add believable depth to an image is to adjust its lighting so it's attractive. Fortunately, After Effects has a comprehensive lighting system that allows you to relight your scenes, and these tools are pretty straightforward, especially if you have a photography or video background. Let's take a look at this scene here. We're going to adjust the overall lighting for the entire scene. Now this is a very bright day. To do this, I'm going to add a light, and I'll start with the ambient light, which is the available light for the entire location. I'll click OK, and it drops it in.
Now what I want to do is play with the intensity, and you notice I could bring it up or down, and this will affect the base lighting levels. In this case, I'm going to set that to about 75%, darkening the room like you would a studio so you could then add light to build up a sense of directionality. Let's take a look here at this next one. I'm just going to temporarily turn off that Adjustment layer. That's looking pretty good, and we'll add a couple of lights, Layer > New > Light, and we'll start again with the Ambient light.
However, this time I want to add a little color, and notice that the light itself could cast a bit of a tint. In this case, it's putting a slight yellow glow to the scene, or we could change that to maybe a gentle blue. So it feels a little later in the day, and you see how you can use that to impact the color temperature of the scene. In this case here, we'll drop in one more Ambient light.
Let's set that back to white, and we'll drop that down to about maybe 70. That's good, and that'll give us some room for some shadows. I've brought in one more project that has some depth, and it's unique in that there's both indoors and outdoors. We're dealing with some shade and some direct sunlight. You'll notice here that I've applied an Ambient light to this comp, and the Ambient light level is affecting the shade of this area for the statue under the awning. However, I don't want it affecting the backdrop there.
So if I twirled this down you'll see that we have Material Options, and I could say that this doesn't accept lights and in doing so the Ambient light is only being applied to the area beneath the canopy. This way the backdrop stays the same. So I could adjust the intensity of the light for the shadows, and this will affect the area inside. That works pretty well. We've got a nice, believable depth there. Once you've placed your ambient lights, you could start to add additional directional lights to really create the sense of depth and even add some shadows.
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