Most 3-D packages allow you to create a wide variety of lighting effects in your scene. No matter what package you use, adopting the following practices can enhance the appearance of your scenes:
If you have a background in photography, video,or theatrical productions, you will find, for the most part, that many of the principles you are familiar with readily translate to the 3-D environment.
Observe, Observe, Observe. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, become aware of how your surroundings or what you are viewing are lit and what kind of feeling or mood that lighting may create.
Factor Lighting Into Your Planning. While you don't necessarily have to make a detailed design, it is a very good idea to think through how you are going to use lighting to get your ideas across. Ask yourself these and similar questions:
Is it an interior or exterior scene?
Is the time of day/night important to your scene?
Is there a particular mood or atmosphere you are trying to portray?
What objects do you want to draw the audience's attention to and in what order?
What type of shadowing do you want to use in your scene and how are you going to accomplish it?
Keep it simple. It is very tempting to load up a scene with more lights than the stage at the Metropolitan opera. You can do that, but remember, your render time goes up with each light you add - especially if the vast array of lights you've created each have raytracing is turned on. Use just enough lighting to get your idea across.
Lights Can Be Animated. The right changes to lighting can make an animation more interesting to the audience. Keep in mind that not only can you move lights about (and their interests in the case of spotlights), but you can animate their color, intensity, dropoff and other properties.
Become Familiar With the Lighting Types Available in Your 3-D Package.
Become Familiar With Atmospheric Effects. These effects can add a significant illusion of depth and mood to a scene. Effects like depth-fading, ambience, and ground fog.
Creating Mood and Atmosphere With Lighting
Sunlight has a slightly yellowish caste to it at midday, at sunset the light tends toward orange.
Reddish or yellowish light adds warmth to a scene.
Bluish light creates a cool feeling to the scene.
Sharp, dark shadow settings can be used to emphasize the contour and texture of an object.
When looking up at an object, consider using a fill light from below the camera.
When using backlighting, set the light above and behind the object.
Illuminating the background can provide enough contrast to make a foreground object easier to see.
Backlighting a transparent object can be used to define its outline without creating a distracting array of specular highlights.
Highlights on a solid or transparent object can be created without special lighting using a 2D texture.
A 2D texture map and a bump map with a slight amount of roughness can really make a reflective object really look good.
Associate one or more lights to illuminate moving or emphasized objects in a scene and associate others, to illuminate those that are stationary or are otherwise secondary in importance.
An object with a really "hot" material, that is, its red, green and blue values for ambient, diffuse, and specular set at well above (n), can serve as light glowing in the distance.