This was a unique project because instead of just reference images I had the object in hand to expose to different lighting, get a real close look from every angle, etc. The main idea was to focus on getting comfortable with cycles and the node editor and give my best shot at pushing towards photo realism. I’ve called it ‘done’ but I’m very open to critique and would like to know whatever comes to your mind! As I’m posting now, I think the numbers are too obviously a separate mesh. And, maybe it needs some sort of grime/dust pass.

And here’s an album of some work in progress renders, just for fun.

One major thing you need to do is rough up the edges. Are you using any kind of reflection map?

Oh I should have seen that, thanks Shane! The edges are definitely way too uniform. Would multires sculpting be a good way to give the edges character without requiring me to apply all my modifiers? I’ve never gotten this far into polishing a render…

If by reflection map you mean an environment to vary the lighting and give the dumbbell something to reflect, yes I am using an HDR. Or if you mean a map that specifies areas that have lost their glossiness, that sounds like a nice touch.

I just did a model and multires worked perfect for adding little scratches/dents into the mesh. As for reflection map, yeah I was talking about an HDRI or something of that sort. I do think a specmap would be a good touch though.