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I am using the Cycles render engine. I love the ability to use my GPU for rendering, and I have achieved some nice results texture-wise, but I am having a hard time with lighting.

One problem in particular I've noticed is Hemi and Spot lights don't seem to work.

I also don't know what is the most professional way to setup lighting in Blender. I have heard some people say to use planes with an emitter texture for lighting. Does that work better than lamps?

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  • $\begingroup$ As of 2.70, the hemi lamp is not yet supported in cycles, it will just act as a sun lamp. The spot lamp should work, what version of blender are you using? $\endgroup$ – gandalf3 Apr 17 '14 at 1:45
  • $\begingroup$ @gandalf3 version 2.69 $\endgroup$ – EmptyStuff Apr 17 '14 at 1:47
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Lamp Strength

One thing that might be confusing in the beginning when learning lighting is how the Strength value effects different light sources. For example, when you add a new spot lamp, the default Strength is 1.0. However, this is so weak of a Strength that when rendered, it will produce almost no noticeable result, which might make you think the light is "not working":

enter image description here

In order to get a noticeable result in your render, you might need to set the Strength to a value in the hundreds, or perhaps even in the thousands (if your light source is very far away from the desired target):

enter image description here

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However, the Size of the lamp can also greatly effect how it lights your scene. Notice the difference between a Spot lamp different sizes:

Size of 0.100 & Strength of 1000
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Size of 10.0 & Strength of 1000
enter image description here

Increasing the size makes it darker because it simulates increasing the area the light is coming from i.e. Same power over larger area spreads light thinner.

Also, if you are using a plane with an Emission Shader, depending on the size of the plane, you might need to use different strength settings:

enter image description here

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Here, notice how if the emission plane is much smaller, a strength of 300 produces much less light in the scene:

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So, experiment with the size and strength settings of your lights to achieve the desired result.

Visibility of Lamps vs. Emission Shader Objects

One of the biggest differences between lighting you scene with a lamp and a mesh with an Emission Shader is that a lamp will provide light in you scene, but the light source itself (the lamp) will NOT be visible in your render. For example, in the scene below, you can see the spotlight lamp in the 3D Viewport, but on the right, when the scene is rendered, you can see the lamp's light in the scene, but the lamp itself is not visible at all:

enter image description here

However, if if you use an object (such as a plane) with an Emission Shader added to it as your light source, both the light emitted by the object AND the object will be visible in your render:

enter image description here

Professional or Not?

There really is no one correct answer for "what is the most professional way of lighting". If you are actually using Blender professionally to produce a finished product for an employer or a client, then the best way to light a scene is the way that pleases them. If you are trying to produce something for yourself only, then the best lighting arrangement is the one you find most pleasing.

For example, if the goal is to create an anime-style scene with Blender, then you will need a lighting arrangement that achieves this goal:

enter image description here

If you want to create a more realistic looking, yet still somewhat cartoon-looking image, you will need a different lighting style:

enter image description here

If you want to create a photo-realistic result, you will need a photo-realistic lighting arrangement:

enter image description here

Lighting Tutorials

Study and practice will help you learn which style of lighting is best for achieving your goals. In this regard, searching Google for tutorials on lighting can help you find information on lighting in all different kinds of formats -- books, websites, videos, etc.

However, since Blender changes so rapidly from version to version, books tend to get outdated quickly. Therefore, YouTube video tutorials are one very good source of up-to-date information. If you search YouTube for "Blender tutorials lighting", you will find many useful tutorials. In fact, you can search for "Blender tutorials" and find excellent information on all aspects of Blender and you can learn quite a lot from them.

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    $\begingroup$ I joined so I could +1 you. It is amazing how unintuitive blender is. Some really basic things are just so hard to figure out. (Like how to get mp4/h264 as an encoding option in my output tab's "Movie" section, even though ffmpeg is installed.) $\endgroup$ – insaner Feb 16 '16 at 23:48
  • $\begingroup$ Lights get dimmer as they get larger because the same amount of light is spread over a larger surface. $\endgroup$ – MasterHolbytla May 20 '16 at 16:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Thom thanks for giving a brief explanation.can u give me link for cartoon look image and photo realistic particular lighting video tutorial $\endgroup$ – atek Jan 1 '17 at 4:54
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    $\begingroup$ @atek The name for the cartoon rendering part of Blender is called Freestyle. Hope that helps. $\endgroup$ – Thom Blair III Jan 1 '17 at 5:10
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    $\begingroup$ I would add that since cycles is quite accurate (physically) you could search for lighting tutorials in general (photography, cinema) and use that basic knowledge to up your imaging abilities regardless of the software package. $\endgroup$ – qwazix Feb 13 '17 at 12:43

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