my picture


How can i make my picture look more like the bottom one? it doesnt have to be perfect but i feel like i got the models down i just need to have a better lighting. I have a hdr in there i dont know hwy the mountains are so dark. I dont know what else to do with it

  • $\begingroup$ Could you either provide your blend file or show us where your lights actually are? $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Aug 22, 2022 at 0:09
  • $\begingroup$ heres the blend file dropbox.com/s/00wid0fl8mn1c4i/mustafar%20copy.blend?dl=0 $\endgroup$ Aug 22, 2022 at 0:27
  • $\begingroup$ I believe blend-exchange.com is the preferred method of uploading blend files here, and be sure to edit it into your question as comments aren’t permanent $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Aug 22, 2022 at 0:35
  • $\begingroup$ The biggest difference is almost always the type of light. Here you have a (weak) ambient light on the one hand and on the other hand the lava also emits light. You've only used volumetrics tentatively so far, and that in combination with the light from the lava creates the character of this image. $\endgroup$
    – quellenform
    Aug 22, 2022 at 9:26

2 Answers 2


It's not just a matter of lighting, it's also the materials. They both work together. And also how you built your scene.


Your tower's material is a pure plain black base color with a bit of specular reflections. Your rocks also use a lot of black. Unless you blow up your scene with lights everywhere, that will be hard to make it not look so dark.
There is an informal rule in image making: avoid pure black/white. It's highly unnatural to begin with, and in CGI it's a pain to make it look right.

So start by giving these shaders a bit more clarity, and particularly your tower needs textures to make it less CGI. Your reference picture itself shows a greyish tower with some variations and rougher reflections, why not try to do that?

materials revamp

Additionally, your lava should cast a lot more light. It's literally burning hot molten rocks and metal.

Then we can think about lighting.


You mentioned you used an HDRI, but do you think the picture you picked matches what you need in any way?

hdri check

What you have here is an HDRI casting bright lightblue spots, and then some yellow and greys blue reflections. That's quite out of the subject, isn't it?

AMHA, HDRIs are good only to complement the scene's lighting, especially to provide nicer reflections. But you often can't rely just on that for lighting your scene.

A good thing for exterior is sometimes to have one big softbox-like light above the scene that casts a soft top-to-bottom light everywhere. If you think about it, it's basically what happens in real life, most of the light comes from the sky.


You are using a backplate that is quite clearly not shot with a similar camera angle, which make it instantly look like a background wallpaper instead of the actual scene's background.

You can sort of cheat it by rotating or distorting the plate to fix the depth perception and angles:

plate fixing

It kind of works, but this plate have birds on it. The issue is, whoever took this photo, had the birds closer than the sky behind. Here you put the plate behind, so the birds that should be close to the camera are displayed behind the entire scene. Making it look fake, and especially small.

But at this point we are fighting against assets because they are not made to be used like you want to.

In your reference, the sky is mostly dark clouds with a pink/orange horizon.

How about we try to do this ourselves?

For the clouds, you can find world shaders online that simulate clouds (like this one, but you can also make volumetric clouds or even get VDB files (I.E. this free pack).

If you go for the sky shader approach, it really depends the shader so I won't detail here. But here is what I get by using just one big VDB cloud, a slightly blue dark grey sky to tint the clouds, and a big plane light bellow the cloud to make the red horizon:

demo scene


If we look at your reference, one of the things that's striking is the feeling of gigantism and landmasses spreading far beyond what we can see. We certainly got some of it back in the scene by removing the birds, but we are still with a scene where things looks small and limited to what the camera sees.

Here's an attempt of trying to give the scene more scale by changing the camera a bit, and moving/duplicating stuff around:

layout fix


Adding some smoke around doesn't help just with the global mood and ambience, it also helps selling the scale and believability of the scene.

You can add more smoke plates as you already started, or use shader based smoke-fakes like this one, you can also add an actual volume in the scene, or even make smoke simulations.

smoke billboards

Final touches

Add some Depth of field to the camera:

camera DOF

And some atmospheric perspective using some render passes and compositing, and some more effects to polish a bit:

final render

  • $\begingroup$ can you send me that project file? its looks way better. Wow thank you! $\endgroup$ Aug 22, 2022 at 15:26
  • $\begingroup$ it's deleted already X) but there's pretty much all there $\endgroup$
    – L0Lock
    Aug 22, 2022 at 17:13

You should look into the volumetrics to create the smoke effect, your mountains will appear a bit brighter, and also it will give a kind of depth to your scene. Plug a Principled Volume node into the Volume input of the Material Output, plug a Noise Texture into the Density of the Principled Volume to give it texture. You can even give it a bit of Emission Strength to make it emit light:

enter image description here

If you want a gradient on Z, mix your Noise with a Separate XYZ in a MixRGB:

enter image description here


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .