Bathroom scene

This is a project I’ve started 1-2 months ago, based on two of Andrew Price’s tutorials:

I’ve made several attempts to make this scene interesting but somehow everything seemed to go wrong with it.

A couple of days ago, I decided to give it one more shot, since I realized that I can get really good advice and feedback here:

This is just a raw render (with still too much noise after 4-5K samples). I tried to make the scene looking like a morning shot, so I added some volume scattering to the light coming from outside (a simple hdri). This increased the rendering time by a great deal, and I don’t know if it’s worth adding it, at least with this method (maybe adding it with some postwork in PS could give similar results, I don’t know).

I’m ready to take any advice on how to make this render more interesting.

I think it is already quite interesting (and at least for me is has far better design and architectural style than Andrews).

A couple of things that you could try:

I think the scene is a little under exposed. Try to use a grey card to correctly calibrate exposure and of course use filmic (if you’re not using it already).Period
This method is described here. Post #33

Start using de-noiser (already in 2.79 test builds and 2.85 daily builds) it will give less noise with almost half the samples.

You could also use a big area (fill) light hidden behind the camera, dimmed down (to your liking) just to bring more light. A photographer would probably do the same thing with a soft-box or a reflector.

Maybe some recessed lights on the ceiling?

Volumetrics tent to give more noise and I haven’t tested de-noiser with them yet.
If you want god-rays you can do it easily and with much more control in the compositor.
It will also save you some time.

Look at some bathroom reference photos not just the tutorials.
If you’re aiming for photo-realism always refer to photos and not other cg-artists work.

First thing i thought of also.

“Start using de-noiser (already in 2.79 test builds and 2.85 daily builds) it will give less noise with almost half the samples.”

Thank you guys for taking the time to post here.

@SunBurn. Thanks for the detailed answer. I already use Filmic Blender in this scene and I had placed recessed lights on the ceiling and behind the mirror, but turned them off for this particular shot. I guess I’ll have to try one more time with those lights on and see if it’s more eye-catching.
I’ve quickly read the calibration method you describe in the link. I’m not sure if I understand everything correctly. This is something new to me (I’m just a CG hobbyist). I’ll give it a shot and ask for advice if something is too difficult for me to comprehend, if this is not too much to ask:).

@DigitalNeutrino. Thank you. THere is one problem with the Denoiser. I use “Progressive Refine” in my Render settings (I want to see the render as a whole from the first Samples) and the Denoiser is “greyed” in this case. I guess I’ll have to render my scene with the classic bucket or tile method.

Ok, so I re-enabled all the hidden lights (ceiling, mirror etc.). I also readjusted the hdri strength and removed the volume. Now it’s more like an evening clear shot. Tell me what you think.

If it is still too “underexposed”, I’ll add an area light behind the camera, as @SunBurn suggested.

I’m waiting for your feedback. Thanks in advance.

PS I’ll try the denoising feature when the project is almost done.

So, for the last few days I had the chance to get precious help through thorough critiques on my progress by @SunBurn and under his guidance I made some drastic changes in my scene and I’m very happy to post this final render:

I’ve changed almost all materials and created new ones based on the new Principled BSDF. I also changed the hdri and used a free one by hdri heaven (thx Greg Zaal for these magnificent free samples).

The final image was a mix of two identical renders with a different seed in order to reduce noise (I’ve learned this technique here in the blenderartists forum). I avoid the denoiser for the time being.

As always, I’m open to any suggestions, critiques and advices.

Credits to @SunBurn. He’s been really helpful and (most importantly) patient with my ignorance.