Help on Lighting: What is Making this Scene look Fake?

Good evening Blender artists :smile:

This is my first time posting here, but I need some help on a project I’ve been working on. Generally my still-life renders come out with a good degree of realism, but for this one I have a bit more complex scene than I usually do, due to the less controlled lighting.

Usually I light my still-life scenes with a sun lamp that comes through a window to the left or right of the subject, which can be offset by a couple area lamps, but in this case I am attempting to put the main lighting source behind the subject.

I know the window is very busy, but I wanted to have elements such as the rough glass, a metal shader, some normal glass with dispersion, and some organic subjects in particular.

Some ideas about why the scene lacks realism:

  1. The flower models I created are not quite perfect? I have not tried to apply any sub-surface scattering effects to them, and the leaves are currently flat.

  2. My materials are not quite right? Perhaps some of the elements are too glossy, such as the window sill?

  3. The reinhard tonemapper has created unrealistic exposure and contrast?

  4. I have chosen a 70mm focal length to flatten out subjects, however I am aware that 50mm is closer to the human eye. I also have experimented with 85-105mm focal lengths to flatten out the scene, but I am not sure which is right for this subject matter, or which will be most pleasing.

Thank you for your input!

*There are some rainbow-colored splotches on the glass that are artifacts from the Intel Denoiser. These will not appear in the final-length render!

*I tried to post a screenshot of the scene, but new users can ‘only put one image in a post.’


Very nice!

  1. Flower model looks good, however I see some mesh intersections. First I would try to get rid of those.
    Are you using translucent shader on the leaves?
    Also I would definitly try to add solidify to them as they are unrealisticly thin.

  2. I think window material is fine, but the window itself should be a lot thicker. Wodden windows are thicker then plastic ones and they have more space between their window planes, which should also give those double reflections more distance between them. Saying that, that’s my personal expirence (i’ve seen some old wooden windows) BUT I’m not a window expert.
    Also I think glass on the jar would look more realistic if it had some dust on it what would make it less reflective in some places.
    One more thing, and problably the most important. You can’t see any reflections of the room in reflective objects. You can fake it with adding a plane with a picture of a room and emittion shader.

  3. I think the problem will be gone with you add that room interior as all of the objects will be lit by the inside and the dark areas won’t be that dark.

  4. If it’s not some crazy value like 35mm then lens shouln’t make the scene any less realistic. If photorealism means as realistic as a photo then you shouldn’t worry about that.

Those apples remind me of plastic apples I had on my painting classes. They need some SSS as the skin of the apple is not fully opaque and there should be some coloured tint on the edge of the highlights.
Same goes to plums. Some SSS would defnitly help.

One more thing. I think that black statue doesn’t belog there. I know it’s to balance the composition as there is already other dark element in the other side. You definitly need something dark in that corner. But in this current lighting it’s really hard to tell what this statue is. My first thought was it’s some black garbage bag. My suggestion is to replace it with something else or rearrange the scene.
Maybe the problem will be gone when you add that room interior.

Good job! I’m looking forward to see the finished version :slight_smile:


I agree, I think adding a third dimension of depth to the leaves and petals and adding SSS where needed will give a huge boost. In terms of lighting, you should add an HDRI. It is not easy to light a scene well with just lamps… heck, it’s not easy to light a scene at ALL with just lamps. Your scene is dark. Light it up! Throw an HDRI with some sun in it in there! :smiley: Keep the light source, just don’t rely 100% on lamps.

I have an HDRI map and a sun lamp. The darkness is the Reinhard sampling and artificially darkening it in post.

The sky looks underexposed. The clouds would probably be blown out.

Your organic matter is lacking SSS. The glass jars have distracting reflections while lacking thickness. The outside view probably would need to be blurred out more. Outside view’s chroma is killing your comp.

Apart from what the others say about the flowers, what catches my eye is that the window pane is clean. Add some dirt to is and I would buy it as a photo for a few moments more. Same thing for the jars but less jarring. :slight_smile:

I would add some translucency to the flowers and leaves, they look like they are made out of paper.

PH Bob
Minion World

maybe even some SSS on the petals

First of all, i dont thing this image lacks realism. It can be improved though. Is the part outside the window an image, is the tree part of it or a single model. It appears abit flat so i tend to think its all an image. So my idea would be to create a tree model so that it would appear to have more depth. Then you could make a procedural nackground, or find an image with the background you like.
But this might be all wrong if my asumption is wrong. Anyway, all over its a good image, i especially like the flowers alot.

From my experience, most of what makes it look unrealistic is the 3. point “Reinhard tonemapper”. And IMHO, all other notes are secondary, minute in comparison to the overall image impression.

Took it for a spin…

Did you put that though a LUT?
Amazed by how color tone can impact the feel of the image

I read these critique post exactly because of comments like yours :). I always learn so much when receiving critiques or observing others. Thank you.

And thanks to OP for posting this piece for critique.