Understanding Lighting in Poser 5

I came to the computer as a photographer. Initially, I did black and white photography and did many portraits using three lights. Below is a basic lights setup. There are no lights turned on nor are the lights regulated for height or angle. The larger light (M) represents the main light, the smaller square light is the fill (F) light, and the conical shaped light is the hair(H) light. The shapes are only being used for convenience.

Initially, the main light is set up to light up the figure and the distance from the figure is used to soften as well as to regulate where the light falls. Other devices such as diffusers and barn doors are also used, but this is not a tutorial on photographic lighting for a photographer. Next the fill light is set up. Usually it is used to remove harsh shadows. Lastly, a hair light is used to accent and add life to the hair.

Knowing this, I still had trouble with Poser because I could not understand their Light Controls represented by the globe and the lights. This was especially true because one light could appear to be in the same position in reference to the globe but actually light different parts of a body. Unless one learns how to position the actual lights, using the globe simulation can be confusing. Look at the images below. Both are front views. While the lights in the Light Controls are very similar, they are actually positioned very differently.

Even though the first image is of basic photographic lighting, you cannot use it in the same manner in Poser 5. Try as I might I could not get a hair light to light up the hair and not spill over onto the forehead in a horrible highlight.

When you are lighting a figure, for example, and I am lighting one figure, (see the illustrations below) its magnification must be very small initially to see the lights for they first appear on the edge of the screen. Also notice that the lights appear in the Light Controls to be in a similar position, as also in the above examples, but they are dark which means they will not light the figure. The lights need to be pulled from the edge of the screen and arranged around the figure in the front or on the sides of it but not from the back unless you are trying to backlight it.

Regular Figure Decreased Magnification

The first example will comprise lighting a full body. Normally, for me, this body would be nude. For this example, I am using 4 spot lights. I will admit I am not totally happy with the lighting and within the context of a scene or upon post processing, I would adjust it a little. The tools I will use are the standard manipulating tools used in Poser 5.

left to right - rotate, twist, translate/pull, translate/in-out

There are three ways to adjust lights: use tools, dials , or a combination. I use a combination. Initially, I bring the lights into position using the translatel/pull tool. I use this tool the most. To pull the light in front of the figure so it faces the figure, I use the translate/ in-out tool. It is pictured below as if it is pulling the light away from the figure and making the light appear larger.

The layout for the lights for this full length figure was set up accordingly: We will call her Clara 1. Her light setup consists of 4 spot lights, as stated.

Light 1
Light 2
Light 3
Light 4
Clara 1

The next lighting I did was a mix of infinites and spots. We will call her Clara 2. I set the infinites first. I always set up the lights one by one and render the figure to make sure when I combine them I will not have too much light. That is especially important if you are dealing with light hair that can be easily washed out.

Clara 2

The first lights I set were the infinite lights. I found that if the light was almost bright enough, then it would be all right. I, then, set the brightness of that light to zero and put on the second one, and then the third. Then I lit all three. What I was looking for was an ambient light. In this instance, everything was well lit but the face and the lower body. The hair was almost bright enough and I had to be careful with how I placed my spots to light the face so as not to lighten the hair too much. The spot on the face was the first spot I added and I used the translate/pull tool to center it on her face and the translate/pull tool to pull it out in front After doing all of the above, I found that the lower limbs needed some light, so I placed another spot.

The following were the settings that I used:

Infinite Light 1 Infinite Light 2 Infinite Light 3

Spot Light 4

Spot Light 5 Clara 2

Once again, I used a combination of the translate, rotating, and twist tools along with the dials. I used the translate/pull and the rotate tool probably the most.

Everything looks like it makes sense. Wait!!!!!!!!! While what I am going to do works, what happens does not make sense to me. But perhaps it will to a someone else.

I decided to save my lights as Light Sets so I could use them with similar figures. I named the one made up of 4 spot lights Clara 1 (after the figure with the 4 spot lights) and the one made up of 3 infinite lights plus 2 spot lights Clara 2. What I actually did is take my Clara 1 figure who had only the spot lights and remove the lights.

Light Sets Clara 1 with 4 Spot Lights Clara 1 with Lights Removed
I, then, used the light preset I named Clara 2 (the 3 infinite lights plus the 2 spots). When the Clara 2 preset was used, the screen capture looked like the configuration on the below left. For comparrison sake, the below right image is of the the original Clara 2 figure with the original light setup.But notice, the Light Controls look alike, and the two spots are in different places. The numbers however, for spot 5 and 4 are exactly the same in the original set up and in the new set up. The three infinite lights that are not shown in the left screen capture were basically in the same spots as in the original.


Clara with 1 with Clara 2 Light Preset Used Original 5 Light Setup with Clara 2

Here is the strange part. If you remember, in the beginning of this tutorial, I demonstrated how two Light Controls could look the same and yet the lights be set up totally differently. Well, I, also, discovered the reverse.


Notice while the Light Controls look the same, light 2 is in a different place, and the position IS numerically different. In this case the lights on the right were physically dragged on the screen and the Light Control did not move while doing it. Even after I saved the file, closed it, and reopened it, the Light Controls stayed in the same place. I never expected this confusion; however, it doesn't change the fact that the lights can be manipulated well and good results achieved. What is important is knowing what to look for and expect.

To sum up my findings: Use the numerical controls and the tools to move the lights. If you save a Light Preset and use it on another image that is in the same postion as the original, check with the numerical controls to make sure they are the same. Do a test render to see if the lighting looks OK, and then make any necessary changes. The two light sets I created can be downloaded and used, but you need to make sure that the dials are the same as in the tutorial when you are fnished. The Light Sets, along with a portrait set, are in a file called Lights.zip. It consists of three light sets: Clara 1, Clara 2, and Clara 1 Portrait.

© Paula Sanders 2004