Currently I’m working on a series of castle images in Blender. I wanted to make something half in light and half in shadow.
The background cliffs and mountains are all duplicates of the same sculpted rock object rotated different ways. I made a snow material by separating the Z channel from the normals so it only went on the tops of things.
To work fast, I only added the details I needed. Depth of field is your friend. Since only the main character’s backs are in focus the background people are very simple. They don’t even have armatures. The foreground characters don’t even have faces.
I rendered the foreground and background as PNGs separately so I could use different sampling on each. These were linked inside a Photoshop file for color adjustment and a bit of painting.
You can purchase prints, puzzles and other images on my FAA page. https://fineartamerica.com/featured/winter-castle-shaun-swanson.html
Blender and Photoshop