Join Donovan Keith for an in-depth discussion in this video Describing light, part of Cinema 4D: Studio Lighting.
Lighting is one of the least understood and most ignored elements I see in the work of beginning 3D artists. Learning how to describe light is an excellent place to begin. But how do we do that? It's important to have a vocabulary to describe the way that light looks. Partly so that you can work with other artists. But also, so that you can look at light in the real world, and know how to recreate it. This is an image of a semi-reflective sphere on a seamless white backdrop. It's a pretty simple setup, but it's going to allow us to describe a lot of different light properties.
We can talk about a light's intensity or its brightness. A light can be dim or dark. Or a light can be bright. We can also talk about a light's direction or its angle. Here we see a light coming from the top. This is sometimes called a top light. We now see a light coming from the upper right-hand side. Or a three quarter angle. We can also talk about the hardness or the softness of a light source. This light source has sort of a medium hardness, whereas this is a very hard light.
Its got very crisp shadows, there's a clear delineation of form on the surface of our object. And this is an incredibly soft light. The only shadow that we see is at the very base of the object, and it's also very diffuse. The lighting across our scene is very even and almost gray. When we're talking about lights we can also talk about how near or far they are. Here's our neutral shot again. Here's a light that's very close. I've adjusted the exposure so it's not blown out, and here is a light that's very far.
Notice that our highlight is very small and that our shadows have become harsher. We can also talk about the colour of light on an object. Is it white, blue, orange, or yellow, is the light warm like this? Is it a soft yellow? We can also talk about the shape or the throw of a light. Here the light has no discernible shape or throw. It's just a broad, even light. Whereas here its got a circular throw, probably coming from a spotlight.
And here we see that the light has a rectangular shape and it is being thrown through a window of some sort. We could also talk about whether a light is direct or indirect. In this shot we see a light that is coming from the upper left and it's coming directly from our light source. Here's the same scene again with the addition of indirect light. We now see that the shadow has been filled in with light that has bounced off of our seamless backdrop. The light that is filling in our shadow is light that has been bouncing around our scene.
We can also describe whether or not light is motivated or unmotivated. An unmotivated light source, like what we see here, is a light that is taking over our scene, but has no clear origin or purpose. Whereas in this scene, we have the same red cast added to our image. But we can clearly see where that's coming from. A light like this is said to be motivated. When you're talking about a light, it's sometimes helpful to think in terms of opposites.
When you're looking at it, is it bright or is it dim? Is it coming from the left, or is it coming from the right, or head on, is the quality of the light. Is it hard, or soft, is it warm in color, or cool in color? Is the light that we're looking at coming directly from a light source? Or is it an indirect, bounced light? It's possible to have an intuitive understanding of light. But until you name those concepts, they'll remain a little fuzzy. Naming the properties of light and using those names to describe light can actually affect how you see the world, and interpret what you see and imagine in three dimensions.
- Describing light
- Understanding the difference between real light and light in CINEMA 4D
- Using lighting direction to reveal form
- Adjusting light hardness
- Top lighting a subject
- Rendering reflective objects
- Shooting glass
- Separating objects from the background
- Hinting at a world outside the frame with gobos