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An Introduction to Photographic Lighting In Poser 4

Author: Syyd

Tools Needed

  • Poser 4 Pro Pack


When you first load Poser it will automatically load the default lighting setup. Although this setup has many benefits like lighting the figure evenly to enable easier posing and setup of your figure, it really is only very basic and consists of 3 infinite lights and no spot lights. This is equivalent to three naked light bulbs of various colors and at various distances. It lacks mood and drama and if at all possible should not really be used in serious rendering. One of the problems that I have found with the default lighting setup is that it produces dark vein like marks on the skin of figures. Using spotlights seems to lessen this effect considerably.


Step 1 - Key Light


The first light that we will add is called the KEY Light and is used to give what photographers call 'modeling' to the subject. This light can be used to add incredible drama and mood to an image. This produces very 'hard' shadows, and although it can be used on it's own it can also be too harsh for many subjects. This light is usually placed high to the right or the left of the figure, directly pointing at the figure.

Step 2 - Fill Light


The second light that we will add is called the FILL light. This light is used to fill the shadows on a figure, thus lightening them. This light is usually placed just above and behind the camera, pointing down at the subject. It is very important not to cast double shadows, so turn off 'shadows' in the FILL light preferences.

Step 3 - KEY and FILL Lights


Change your camera views to see the KEY and FILL lights.


Step 4 - Adding the Side Light


The SIDE light is a supplementary light and is used mainly for adding a hint of color or as a hair light. Turn off the shadows on this one too. Care should be taken when placing this light as it is possible to place it too far to the front of the figure dominating the “KEY” and “FILL” lights.


Step 5 - Drama and Expression with One Light


In this part of the lighting tutorial I will try to give you some insight into how to create more drama and expression with only one light. When you think about it, taking photographs outside in a natural environment you are actually only using one light: The Sun.


We have all seen those photographs of people shot in dark rooms where the figure is illuminated by slats in a window. Imagine a dark room with a small hole in the wall letting a little light in. This lighting effect will simulate what happens when the figure moves gradually further away from the source of light. We will be using only one spotlight. To control the effect we will use the “Angle End” dial in the translation roll out for our single spotlight called 'KEY' light.


Step 6 - Single Source Lighting


You can make dramatic images using only light source as well. See how working with a single light source adds drama to an image. Lets start by adding a light to the left side of the image. To do this, we'll work with the KEY light angle end parameter.

Step 7 - Narrowing Your Light Source


With the “Angle End” dial set to 10.000, the effect of the light being cast on the face is small and reletivly sharp. There is a lot of contrast as the rest of the face is in total darkness. The figure looks like she is hiding, or spying from a darkened corner.


Step 8 - Expanding and Softening


With the “Angle End” dial set to 20.000, the effect of the light being cast on the face has expanded and softened somewhat revealing a little more of the face. This is similar to what would happen if the figure moved a little further away from the light source.


With the “Angle End” dial set to 50.000, the effect of the light is much more viable and similar to a 'Low Key' portrait style. Although there is still a massive amount of contrast, the face is half visible. The light coming from the left is gradually fading from light to dark. Note that the neck and shoulder area are still not visible.

Setting the “Angle End” dial to it's maximum setting of 160.000 gives the effect of the figure moving much further away from the light source. Although softer, the shoulder and neck are now visible.

Step 9 - Wrap Up


Try making a new spotlight and placing it at the exact opposite side of the face using the top and side views. Set the “Angle End” on both lights to 10.000 and give them a color. This can give some interesting results. You could try different colors. Maybe direct one of the lights onto the mouth and see what happens.


Experimentation is the key factor. Many of the best lighting setups are basic and simple. Complexity is fine after a little practice. Try to only add supplementary lights if it is really of benefit to your image.