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Basic Lighting in Maya Part 1: Three-Point Lighting

This is the first blog post in the Basic Lighting in Maya series. I will explain why a 3D modeler should learn the basics of lighting and what is three-point lighting.

Why should you learn the basics of lighting as a 3D modeler?

Unless you want to be a generalist you probably only want to focus on just 3D modeling if you are working to develop as a 3D modeler and that makes sense. You want to become extremely skilled in one area and don't want to waste time on another skill you are not interested in. Besides, when you are in an animation pipeline there are lighters to do the, obviously, lighting while you just make the 3D models so why should you learn lighting in any way? Here are the two main reasons you should learn at least basic lighting as a 3D modeler.

1) To improve your reels.

When you are just starting out and you want to start applying for your first job as a 3D modeler you are going to need a reel. A reel is a short video that shows your skills and the work you produced for animation, in your case it will be the 3D models you have made so far. You will have a turnaround for each of your model and you want each of your model to, well, be shown in the best light possible, which is why you should learn some lighting. You will be able to light your 3D models which will help them to stand out in your reel.

2) To make your images of your 3D models on your website and social media more appealing.

We are living in a world where the internet has become an important part in presenting our work to the world. When filling out applications for 3D modeling jobs you will be asked many times for a link to your website and social media where your 3D models are posted. By knowing how to light your models you will have well done images showcasing them for your website and social media.

How to light a model in Maya

There are different techniques to lighting in Maya. This blog will focus on three-point lighting. Three-point lighting is the most basic form of lighting used by filmmakers and photographers that involves using three different lights; the key light, the fill light, and the backlight.

The three-point lighting is used to highlight the subject, in your case it will be your 3D model. In this blog we will look at an image of a pitcher and a bowl of fruit in a photo as an example of how three-point lighting works.

To highlight the pitcher and bowl of fruit with three different lights the key light would be facing them, the fill light would be facing the side of them and the backlight would be placed behind them. Here is a diagram of the pitcher and bowl of fruit at bird's eye view to show the placement of the lights.

The key light

The key light is the main light that shines in front of the subject to show off its colors and details.

The fill light

The fill light shines on the subject from the side and is used to soften the contrast of lights and shadows of the subject.

The backlight

The backlight shines behind the subject and is used to separate the subject from the background.

So how do you set up three-point lighting in Maya? This YouTube video from the school's channel will show you how:

After watching the video choose one of your 3D models and practice using three-point lighting in Maya to light it.

Also become a subscriber to the school's YouTube channel to learn more lighting techniques.

Keep in mind that lighting is a skill and you will need practice to get a good understanding of it.

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