I am going to give you 3 tips, how to make your rendering more realistic. You can download the blender file and the photo used as a background by Joshua Newton on Unsplash at the bottom of the page.

Tip number one

Analyze the lights in the scene

The most important thing in photography is light. Without good light, even the most magnificent view will fall short. To get a good light photographers spend sometimes hours waiting for the right moment to get the perfect shadows or color in the picture. Or if they are lucky to have their own studio, they have controlled environment where they can create different moods by changing the lighting. What draw me to Blender is that I have controlled environment where I can do what ever I think of. Any possible light setup I can recreate in here. Ok, enough for the introduction, lets talk about light in this scene.

Take a look at this scene (or any other scene) and ask yourself:

  1. How many light sources are in the scene?
  2. Are they natural light sources or artificial?
  3. What is the time in the day you would like to show?
Room with windows showing light direction

In this demonstration scene there are two or possible three light sources. Take a look at the original image. There is a strong natural light (sunlight) coming through the window. I could have gone two ways. Setup my table closer to the window and make the sunlight fall on the table, coffee and donut. This would create very interesting image but I knew I will use this image as a header image for my website, I wanted to have less contrast with negative space on the left side. Other source of light is that floor lamp (artificial light) next to the armchair. It could be some lights on the ceiling but in this case I think that’s it. By the angle and length of the shadows, this is about afternoon daylight.

My idea for the scene is to create warm soft, afternoon atmosphere in the room.

Original scene had just one white source light above table and between background image. I had to reposition the source light – that will be my key light and to add one more lights as a fill in light. You always setup your key light first. I positioned my light low in between background image and table. By this low angle I got nice glow in the camera lens, and beautiful very realistic highlights on the objects and that also emphasised table texture and made smudges more subtle. I setup power of the light so that background image is nicely visible.

For my fill in light I setup an area light, roughly size of the lamp and aimed it toward the donut and coffee. I also made it invisible to camera and Volume scatter. Purpose of this light is to create light reflections on objects and to make shadows little less deep.

In front of it I added emission panel for two purposes:

  • to hide ugly reflection of panel light on the left side of the table
  • to imitate soft yellow light reflection coming from the floor lamp

All lights are slightly yellow in tone to imitate late afternoon light. And that’s it regarding the lights.

Tip number two

Setup your camera

This is one is obvious one but lets go through it.

  1. f-stop
  2. focus
  3. horizon

Original scene had camera setup to f-stop 8.0 and I changed that to f3.2. I wanted to blur background more and to put more attention to donut. For people who does not come from photography background as I am, shortest explanation would be – higher the f-stop number is, more of the scene will be in the focus. Depends of how far positioned your camera is in the scene and lens that you are using, you will have different amount of blurred background. This is subject for a long article so I will give you few tips. Wider the lens, more things will be in the focus. For product shots try to avoid lenses wider than 75mm since they can start showing deformation. I didn’t have chance yet to test how good is Blender in creating bokeh since I am only 3 weeks noob, but I have seen there is an option to change number of blades for the lens. Good lenses have 8-9 blades and they form full circle. That creates those nice round light when you have f-stop really low number (f1.2-3.2)

Make sure that object that you want to draw attention to is in the focus. My focus point is on the top of the donut closer to the camera. There are couple of ways how you can setup your focus to the object in Blender. I find it most useful advice that Andrew Price nicely explain in his donut tutorial. If you are interested you can watch it here, you can fast forward to 13:46 if you want to skip the rest of it.

Last thing that you should pay attention to when you setting up your camera is horizon line. You want that in most cases straight. There are exceptions of course where you can create more dynamic and interesting compositions when you angle your camera, but in this case I wanted to have calm scene. Also we should always pay attention to vertical lines. Our eyes are very good in picking up when something is not in good alignment or when something is not in proportion. It is little bit tricky to align objects with background so that it doesn’t look fake, but over time your eyes will get used to pick up these misalignments.

Tip number three

Add some special effects

This tip is open one since it is really about personal preferences when it comes to look at the final image. As I mention above, the scene I had in mind for this scene is cozy room in soft warm afternoon light. That is why I decided to add some warm tone in my lights and to turn on Volume Scatter on my key light. You can do a color grading of your render in the composer but I have my own workflow that I use for my photography so I use that.

You can add glow effects, lens flares, streaks, volume scatter, fog, dust particle, etc.

I did my last final touch in the VSCO application on my phone.

Donut with a coffee on a table Bad Lighting Donut and a coffee good light setup

Slide left/right to check the before and after image

It would mean a lot to me if you recommend this article and help me improve. If you have any additional tips please add them to the comments.

I would love to know your thoughts!


Download files:

Blender sceneBackground image