The making of a commercial still part 6

Welcome to part 6 already of “How to make a commercial still”.

I’d like to think that I’m almost there, but I’m not sure.

Last week, my splash experiment was a bit of a dissapointment. It was impossible to make a realistic water splash with the build-in fluid simulator in Blender. Of course, I could sculpt the water splash so that it looked like the real deal. But to be honest I’m not that good in sculpting and I haven’t got the patience for it. So it was time to go another route completely.

Instead of trying to create a ‘studio look’, I’m now taking it outdoors,  into nature, so to speak.  Not being able to let go of the ‘water theme’, I’ve placed the bottle on in the middle of the ocean, while you are staring into the sunset. And yes it doesn’t make any sense, but it’s not supposed to…;-)

The ocean is made with the so called ocean simulator. As for the sky, well I’ve cheated (again)…It’s actually a holiday photograph that I took, while I was standing in the Namib dessert in Africa. I don’t think there’s an easy way to create photorealistic skies in Blender (like I did with the ocean), so I took a photograph out of my own library and set this up to act as a gigantic lightsource in Blender. Doing so, the background gives these nice reflections on the water and  into the glass of the bottle. A nice purple orange kind of glow.
















I think I like the image as it is. But I’m not sure what to make of the “Devine” floating property of the bottle? I tried to place the bottle on top of a rock, but that looked silly. Shall I leave the image as it is, or shall I try to make it look like the image obeys the laws of nature?

Apart from that, there are still some things to do, that can change the look of the image considerably. Change the color of the sky for example:
















Small changes, big differences. So

This is it for now, I’ll experiment a bit more and next blog l hope I will finish it.




The making of a commercial still part 5

Hello and welcome to part five of “the making of a commercial still”.

Last time I was really excited because I discovered a feature in Blender called “the fluid simulator”. I had seen a couple of demos and it looked really promising. I  envisioned the perfume bottle surrounded by all sorts of water splashes, giving it that really slick look.

So last week I fiddled with the settings and generated dozens of splashes. Big ones, small ones, a lot of drops, few drops etc. I’ve dropped all sorts of objects in virtual water, just to see what kind of effect it had. Actually what you do is, you make a small little animation (about one second) of an object hitting the water. The program calculates each frame, one by one. At the end you can select which frame you are going to use for the image still. This is a really time consuming process. To generate a high resolution splash, you have to let the computer render overnight.

And the results were… be really honest…..a little disappointing!

Although it generates all sorts of splashes, it doesn’t look realistic enough, to my taste.

I’ve included two photo’s so you can see for yourselves:







































I have set the fluid to act like water (oil is a possibility too), but it doesn’t look like water to me. It has a plastic, or glue-ish kinda feel to it. I don’t know what it is? Not only that, but it generates all sorts of weird artefacts. You can see in the upper picture that the small droplets have these black ‘things’ around them. Like there is some bug in the program.

Anyway, I don’t consider this to usable for realistic and commercial use.

So it’s back to the drawing board. First I have to think about how pimp this image in another way.

Next time you will see the results.

The making of a commercial still part 4

Welcome, this is part 4 in my so called experiment: “how to take a photograph without using a camera”.

I’m trying to find out if I am able to create a photorealistic commercial lifestyle still, only using an open source computer program called “Blender” that is freely available on the internet.

Last time I created the bottle and backdrop, placed the lights and did a test render. The results were so-so. I noticed that I had to recreate the model of the bottle, because it wasn’t accurate enough. I took a picture of the front and side of the bottle and loaded it into Blender as a backdrop. This way you can draw over the picture, almost like tracing paper, but in 3D, instead on a flat surface. So now I have the correct dimensions of the bottle, including the curvature and stuf. I know what you are thinking, “but you used a camera…”. Yeah but not take a picture. It was  more as an aid to help me ‘draw’ the bottle, almost like a modern Camera Obscura. Right? Okay okay, so I cheated a little. Don’t tell anyone;-)

You can see the results of the new model in the following wireframe:


















And here’s the low-res image:


As you can see, I’ve placed the bottle on a wavy reflective surface. It gives more of that ‘sheen’ you see a lot of in commercial photography. Furthermore, the backdrop consist of a blue-ish diffuse reflective material. I think this will give a nice contrast with the pink/ orange letters on the bottle (that I haven’t placed  there yet). But we’ll have to see if this works out, once I’ve put the fonts in place.

I‘ve also set up the lights so that it outlines the black ‘fluid’ inside of the bottle and it gives the whole a sort of a glow. I have to tweak the lights a bit so that the ‘glow’ is nice and uniform accros the image. The cap on the bottle is a bit of a challenge for me, though, because it’s just a black cube. There’s nothing in it. It’s got no depth. There are no  curves and it is pure black, so you get uninteresting…uh..well blackness. Even if you reflect a softbox in it, you’d still get a grey dull rectangular thing. I have to figure out how to make it somewhat more interesting. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

On the whole the image is getting where I want it to be. You can see where it is going, but still, there is something missing…… Perhaps the image needs a little bit more of a spectacle, but what? Oh by the way…did I tell you that Blender has got a fluid simulator? Yes a fluid simulator! Usually these things have to be purchased seperetaly for thousands of dollars, but not in Blender. You can create Tsunamis with these simulators, just like in Hollywood disaster movies

You see where I’m going with this? Next time, I’ll try give the fluid simulator a bit of a workout and see if I can use this in my image.


See you next time

The making of a commercial still part 3

This is the third part in my series “The making of a commercial still”.

Last week I created the model of the perfume bottle and this week I’m going to provide the model with materials and set up some basic lighting to see if it makes any sense.

In order to test the materials and lighting I have to render the scene. Now Blender uses two sort of rendering engines. The classic “Blender Internal” engine and the new and more sexy “Cycles”. The latter is supposed to give photo realistic results, because it emulates the way lights travels through different mediums, like glass, air, water etc. It also emulates how light reflects of off surfaces and does cool stuff like color bleeding. That’s something we photographers take for granted in real life ;-). So I choose the more sexy ‘Cycles’.

For testing purpose, I have set up a white curved backdrop and placed three virtual softboxes more or less randomly, just to provide the scene with some basic lighting.

For the materials, I used the standard Blender stuff. Nothing fancy.  So for the glass bottle I used “Glass BSDF”, for the plastic cap I used “Glossy BSDF”. And for the black ‘liquid’ I also used “Glossy BSDF”.  You can do all sorts of fancy stuff with these materials, but for now I use the “plain right out of the box” options, without tweaking any parameters.

And here is the first test result:

It’s sort of okay-ish. It looks like a photo, but to me it still isn’t realistic enough. It still has that ‘CGI sheen’. You don’t know what it is, but you can tell that something’s wrong.

I’ve also noticed that I didn’t properly modelled the bottle. The corners are too round and the glass is still to ‘perfect’, so I have to dirty it up a little. I have to start tweaking the parameters now and pay a lot more attention to lighting the bottle. And last but not least, I will try out some different rendering engines (outside of Blender) to see if they come up with different or better results.

Stay tuned for the next instalment of this experiment….

The making of a commercial still part 2

Welcome to part 2 of my experiment. Or how to create a ‘ photograph’ , without actually making a photograph of a perfume bottle. The aim is to make a luxurious looking image, that could be printed in a lifestyle magazine or perhaps shown on a billboard or something.

Last week we saw that the process of making a 3D image consist roughly out of four steps:

1. ‘Drawing’ the perfume bottle also know as creating a wireframe;

2. Placing the virtual lights  in 3D space;

3. Create the materials that the objects are made of;

4. Bringing it all together and make a final ‘photograph’ or so called  ‘rendering’.


Today I’m going to show the results of step 1. And here it is:

wireframe and clay model of the perfume bottle

Can you imagine that this is (hopefully) going to look like a real photograph? Although the shape of the bottle is ‘ squarish’ , I had a difficult time to make it look like the original bottle. You see, a computer program is really good at creating perfect squares, or primitive objects like circles, globes, pyramids etc. But in real life nothing is really perfectly shaped like that. If you look closer, you can see that the top of the bottle has rounded edges but the bottom is sharp. There has to be a transition from a round shape to sharp edges. I had a difficult time achieving this.  And then there’s the glass the bottle is made of. The real bottle has dents and uneven spots. So if I want to make it realistic, I have to apply these dents as well.

Stay tuned… time I’m am going to light this bottle with fake studio lights and create a backdrop.


You’re a fake….part 2

Here are the results from last weeks’ Blog.

The question was if you could tell which images were photographed and which images were ‘ fake’ or computer generated images (CGI).

Well I’ve been cheating a little bit. Actually all images were generated by the computer and none of them were photographed! I’ve included some images that had an overtly processed look and included some that looked realistic (to me at least).

If you could tell that all the images were fake, you have to tell me how you did it….Some of those images are so convincing to me, that it opens op some philosophical discussions about the nature of reality.

There’s a saying: “the camera never lies”. The use of Photoshop has changed this perspective on how we look at photographs and the manipulation of photographs. But what if the photograph isn’t manipulated at all, but wasn’t taken in the first place? What does that say? I’ll save this discussion for another time.

But for now, I promised to tell you who made the computer generated images. And here’s the list:


Image 1:

Artist: “Abner”

Software: Blender/ Yafaray

Image 2:

Artist: Andrew Price

Software: Blender


Image 3:

artist: Hervé Steff

Software: Maxwell Render

Image 4:

Artist: “Sadaj72”

Software: Blender/ Luxrender

Image 5:

Artist: Dan Abrams

Software: Maxwell Render


Image 6:


Artist: Linus Schneider

Software: Maxwell Render


You’re a fake….

Lately I’ve been experimenting with 3D rendering and how to combine this with photography.

I use an open source program for my 3D experiments called  ‘Blender’. I have to say this is a really wonderful program. Although I cannot compare it to other professional 3D packages out there, because I haven’t used them, it’s a really powerful tool that can produce photo realistic images.

Photo realism you say? Well yes……if you are really good 3D rendering that is. This raises some philosophical questions, that I will discuss another other time, but for now I’d like to present you with a quiz. Can you determine which of these next five images are real photographs or are 3D renders? Which images are the fake photographs?  I will give you the answer next time, but for now:


Image 1:


Image 2:


Image 3:


Image 4:


Image 5:


Image 6:


If you know which images are real, post the answer in a comment below. Next week I’ll give you the answers and the people who made these images.