3D lighting simulation for portrait photo shoots

Ambient portrait photography with 3D simulated lighting

Several years ago in our French photo studio Zebureau, we acquired the set.a.light application, a 3D lighting simulator that allows you to prepare a portrait photo session in a fairly realistic way.

3D Portraits photo studio Lyon, France

Why use a 3D studio lighting simulation?

  • Prepare a professional studio shoot.
  • Experiment with lighting set-ups, without wasting a model’s time.
  • Evaluate lighting equipment with a view to equipping yourself.
  • Conduct photo training with all possible lighting.
  • To provide a client or advertising agency with visual mock-ups.

It’s a tool that can be extremely useful for a professional photographer (and even more so for an amateur photographer) to prepare the set-up of a studio shoot with a precise lighting set-up and adjustment plan.

3D reconstruction of the photo studio set

The first step is to recreate your workspace, integrating the walls and your studio background with all the lighting equipment you wish to use.

In our Lyon photo studio, the shooting space is a little atypical: it’s a former framing workshop with a large glass panel on one side and a sloping ceiling.
The application simplifies the creation of the room in 3D, proposing a parallelepiped for which you choose the dimensions and color of the walls and floor (and/or its material).

Simulation 3D photo studio

With a bit of ingenuity, we managed to recreate our gambrel ceiling with the beams and the window band, but without the outside light…
Fortunately, we have a system of black curtains that allows us to block out some of the outside light for certain portrait sessions.

We also manage to recreate the large step that leads to the raised level of our set, which doesn’t really seem to have been foreseen by the software, since we can’t raise the feet of the flashes, which remain at the initial level.

In our rather narrow, brightly lit space, the walls and ceiling are white, semi-blackout gray curtains are placed in front of the windows, and we have the option of adding blackout curtains all around the set.

All around a studio lighting scene, in addition to any objects, the walls, floor and ceiling, and even the photographer’s clothes and people around him, can reflect the light from the flashes and generate stray light on the subject.

The color black prevents most of the reflection, which is why studio equipment, stands, projectors, the back of softboxes and your camera are usually this color!

Depending on the material or paint, the reflection coefficient of black can be very different, which is why there are special paints and fabrics for photo studios.
Vantablack, developed from carbon nanotubes, absorbs 99.6% of light and is currently the blackest black in the world.

A comprehensive choice of studio lighting

The set.a.light application offers a wide choice of lighting options: flashes or continuous lighting with diffusers or grids, with adjustable power and kelvin temperature for the light.

Light boxes, umbrellas, spotlights, snoots, beauty bowls and much more can be selected and set at will.

Studio lighting set in 3D application

In addition to the lighting equipment and reflectors, we also provide background material and a few pieces of furniture and accessories.

Camera positioning and flash settings

All studio equipment can be easily moved, enlarged or rotated.

Placement of studio lighting

A wide choice of female and male models is available, with numerous poses and fine adjustments to skin and hands, eyes and facial features, etc. Each light, as well as the camera, can be directed manually or automatically at the model.

Each light, as well as the camera, can be directed manually or automatically at the model.

Realistic 3D rendering of lighting displayed live on the model

Réglages d’éclairages studio avec l’application set.a.light

The main highlight of the set.a.light application, as you can see in this video, is the 3D rendering of live lighting.
By manipulating a few sliders and all the elements using yellow arrows, you can instantly visualize the results of your settings.

Exportable studio lighting plan

Lighting set-up plan for a photo shoot

Beyond its fun side, the purpose of this lighting simulation application for photo studios is to prepare an extremely precise setlist for your shooting session. 

The export function for the complete scene allows you to recreate all the carefully prepared settings in front of your computer screen.

3D rendering of our virtual portrait photo shoot

Realistic 3D photo studio portrait

The result of rendering a portrait photo in the American shot corresponding to the screenshots used in this article.

3d simulation of a Harcourt-style black and white portrait

A 3D rendering of a black-and-white photo portrait, Harcourt-style.

Color portrait photo in 3D simulation

A 3D rendering of a full-color portrait, worked with colored gelatins and a brick background with a pattern projected using a gobo projector.

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