Photo Realism

I ask this because I have searched and not found much advice.

What are some good pointers for achieving photo-realism in renders (especially using the blender native renderer)? What sort of lighting, texturing, modeling, and other considerations are key to making a render seem real?

Not to be rude but I’d say
Experimentation, Observation and lots and lots of experience.
If you are looking for the press this button, setup this light type of answer you are in for a surprise:
It all depends on the scene and your enviroment.
For easier rendering of photorealism probably unbiased renders (note BI is not one of those) is the way to go and even with those it is not as easy as pressing a few buttons.

It’s easy if you use Indigo render, but blender internal…i don’t know, i haven’t made anything remotely realistic with BI .
But seriously, try Indigo, it’s awesome!
Here’s a sample.
Well maybe it’s not very photorealistic, but i wasn’t trying to make it look real.

What build do I use to get the “render in indgo” button?

Musk: I was looking more for principles, less for tricks.

well it depends on what you assume as photo realistic and for far you want to simulate nature.

caustics, color bleeding, indirectly illumination (light bounces) are practically imposible with blender. but those can to an extend be faked.

search the internet for light rigs/arrays.

light dome: a sphere with lights attached simulation diffuse lighting.

AO: will help to simulate indirect illumination scene wide, can use the color of the world.
look for the new svn build with the sky/atmosphere option.

3 key light: very used but also not very realistic, however good to know.

area lights hemi light: play with area for soft shadows and hemi light for simulating indirect illumination to brighten up dark areas.

radiosity: you might also want to look into the old radiosity solver. it is kinda dusty but think depending on the scene can be very useful, specifically indoor.

depending on what you want to render also the material is 50% of the realism. the materials have to be as close to nature as possible to prevent to perfect looking surfaces.

if you look into car renderings lookout for the shadows, do you see details or are the shadows black? they should never be 100% black.

keep in mind that your eye is not a camera - it adjusts to light and darkness and can balance them out (exposure problems with cameras)

the book lighting and rendering 2nd edition a book about about texture generation/painting would be good to read.

look at many renderings to get inspirations AND take a camera and make pictures of real objects to have reference images.

DO NOT work from your memory, make it easy and take pictures and study them to know what you have too look for.


Use SVN with blurry reflections, refractions, and soft shadows for all lamps, those three things can greatly improve realism.


i think it is good to know both, faking realism and also trusting programs like indigo to do some of the work for you.

keep in mind even when indigo takes hours, you can render over night and secondly with indigo you can pause, quite the app, resume the render as often as you want !!!

secondly with indigo you can pause, quite the app, resume the render as often as you want

How do you do that?

you have to include the resume flag when starting indigo as far as i know.

i did it only once two semester ago. i would ask at the indigo forum for it.