Learn to create and light product shots in LightWave

Eugenio Garcia Villarreal reveals how to successfully create and light product shots in LightWave for maximum impact. Discover his top tips and tricks in this free tutorial!

This LightWave tutorial aims to show you the techniques I use in my day-to-day job when making product shots for clients, covering everything from gathering references to color correction and post-production.

1. References

If you haven't got the physical object to hand then re-creating it in 3D is going to be essential. To find good – and big – images of the object in question, I usually search Google images filtering the results by the Large size option. Another good source is Flickr, because you can often find content that can be used commercially with the Creative Commons option.

Once you have the necessary images you can start to weigh up the complexity of the project and plan the modeling stage. I always try to find diverse angles for my final renders to achieve exceptional results. It can also be helpful to rough out some sketches at this stage, to help you plan how you want the model to look and to give you an idea of what the final shot will look like.

Gathering resources

Gathering resources

2. Modeling

For the modeling I use simple box modeling for the most part. I only use the Bevel tool, Multishift tool, Knife, Bandsaw and Bridge. I also subdivide the objects to have better detail – in the end, the shaders will do most of the work. I also make use of the Chamfer tool a lot to add little bevels.

The battery I'm modeling here is just a subdivided cylinder. I made some planes to create physical lights, too.

Modeling the battery and casing

Modeling the battery and casing

3. Layout

Once I've modeled the objects I can proceed to arrange them in the scene. At this stage I work with my camera view to adjust the right angle. I use Monte Carlo Radiosity for my scene.

Putting the separately modeled objects together

Putting the separately modeled objects together

4. Lighting

This is a really important step of the tutorial. Right now, I'm looking for good contrast in my scene. I use a main area light with a fill color, and a secondary rim light with a warm color. For the reflections I use an HDRI map to get those great reflections.

The planes I modeled earlier can now be used to achieve white reflections on the metallic surfaces, as well as on the plastic box.

The lighting setup used for this scene

The lighting setup used for this scene

5. Texturing

At this stage I can add the battery logo. I search for an EPS logo and paint simple color textures for the cover of the battery.

For the torch, I use a PSD with white typography on a transparent background. This way I can apply it to the UV of the torch.

For the shaders I use the presets in LightWave with some minor tweaking, such as Noise map, the anisotropic reflections of the map, and blurred reflections at 10% for the box. I only use a high specular level and a strong procedural texture as a Bump map.

The textures used on these products

The textures used on these products

6. Camera setup

I was looking for a nice composition – something less boring than an original brand setup. To do this, I use a 35mm camera to get nice lens focal length, and I render it all at 3600 x 2300 pixels. I use the advanced camera – the VPR option is particularly great for pre-visualizations!

Choosing the right camera can make all the difference

Choosing the right camera can make all the difference

7. Rendering

I separate the background by adding a constant Alpha at 0 to have everything in one image. Later I can split the elements in Photoshop. I use level 12 antialiasing with the classic Reconstruction filter and low-discrepancy sampling pattern. The render took 7 minutes using the LightWave internal render engine, rendering in .targa format at 32-dpi (to have the Alpha channel).

Getting the render right

Getting the render right

8. Color correction

Once I have my final render I open it up in Photoshop. First of all, I separate the object from its background and I perform some Levels correction to get a nice contrast. I then play with color correction of the saturation. I clone the image and make an HDR adjustment to get better and crisper contrasts. Later I use the Unsharp mask tool to bring through more nice edges and details. I also unify the tonal values with a blue filter at the end.

Making changes in Photoshop

Making changes in Photoshop

9. Final details

We don't always have to keep our raw render details. I sometimes like to use the Dodge tool to add more brightness to my images, for example.

Adding brightness to the image

Adding brightness to the image

10. Final Image

When I'm happy with the image I add some extra details, like chromatic aberration in some parts of the image (but not all). I move the red channel in my flattened image, copy all, then I undo this action and paste the chromatic aberration image. I apply a mask and with a soft round brush I unmask the details, like metals and glass, to create this effect.

The final shot

The final shot

Pro tip: Imperfections and contrasts

To make a great product shot, always look for variations and subtle imperfections, as these will help your images to look more interesting. Also look for good contrast, too; the human eye loves contrast!

Related links
Check out Eugenio Garcia Villarreal's website
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