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MelodicRain

How do I take high contrast, realistic photos like these?

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Posted (edited)

Going to use https://www.flickr.com/photos/54472912xxxn09/49806126441 as an example because I have this exact same skybox, and it looks nowhere near as good as that, at least with my windlight settings.

My graphics are always at max, at least the max allowed on Firestorm viewer. A few things I'm wondering about:

  • My contrast is nowhere near as high as the one in the photo. Is this some windlight setting or purely photoshop?
  • Edges look really smooth with little to no jaggedness, and image overall just looks sharp. Again is this just photoshop or some setting? My graphics are on absolute max yet still look very blurry/jaggy compared to this
  • How did they get the floor reflections? This skybox does not come with it
Edited by MelodicRain

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If those shadows are not with the textures of the skybox, it's likely they were created with the use of different windlights.  In Firestorm look for your quick preferences and the WL Sky; there's a drop down box to make selections from there.  Try using those with your graphics preferences set to Advanced.  There's many to choose from depending on the look or effect you're after.  Good luck.

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Posted (edited)

I can almost guaranteed that what you're seeing are renders from the same 3D modeling software the skybox was created in. It's not a representation of what it even can look like in SL. In fact, the overall grainy-fuzziness (especially on all the white surfaces and in the top-center, behind the window and in the staircase) that covers the screenshot looks awfully familiar to results you get from Blender...

But as far as "jagginess goes," that can be fixed with anti-aliasing. The best kind is to take a screenshot with a much greater resolution, for example in 5K, then scaling down the image to the intended viewing resolution.

Saturation and overall lighting can be tweaked with windlights, especially by creating your own (edit a preset), and using Firestorm's Phototools (Alt-P).

Reflections are tricky, considering how real-time reflections are costly to render, but Black Dragon for example does have Screen Space Reflections.

Edited by Wulfie Reanimator
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I am with Wulfie on this: there is no way that shot is taken in Second Life.

Your best bet is definitely Black Dragon, with (if your computer can handle it) the graphic settings cranked way up. BD renders colours and, mostly, lighting better than Firestorm does.

Jagginess can also be made a little better by taking a very high resolution pic (at least 6144px wide); when you reduce the size, much of the jags will get smoothed out.

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1 hour ago, Scylla Rhiadra said:

I am with Wulfie on this: there is no way that shot is taken in Second Life.

If someone owns that skybox, and it doesn't look that good, probably. It's a very simple model, though - all straight lines and flat surfaces. If you baked all the lighting and shadows in Blender or Maya and imported the textures into Second Life, you could get that look. It wouldn't change with sun angle, of course. In a skybox, you're probably running fixed sun position, so that might not matter.

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1 hour ago, animats said:

If someone owns that skybox, and it doesn't look that good, probably. It's a very simple model, though - all straight lines and flat surfaces. If you baked all the lighting and shadows in Blender or Maya and imported the textures into Second Life, you could get that look. It wouldn't change with sun angle, of course. In a skybox, you're probably running fixed sun position, so that might not matter.

I'm pretty sure that some of the shadow in these pics is baked into the textures. Look at the corners between the walls and ceilings for instance. One of the things that makes this picture so effective is the subtle shadows and variations on light, of the sort that you don't tend to capture using ALM and AO in the viewer; those you would need to add.

I've never used Blender or Maya, so I don't know how simply it would be to bake the other shadows here in to the textures, but it would probably be easier to do, if one really wanted to do it, in post-processing . . . in Photoshop.

I actually live in an Onsu house. I'll have to take a closer look at the texturing when I'm there next.

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8 hours ago, MelodicRain said:

Going to use https://www.flickr.com/photos/54472912xxxn09/49806126441 as an example because I have this exact same skybox, and it looks nowhere near as good as that, at least with my windlight settings.

My graphics are always at max, at least the max allowed on Firestorm viewer. A few things I'm wondering about:

  • My contrast is nowhere near as high as the one in the photo. Is this some windlight setting or purely photoshop?
  • Edges look really smooth with little to no jaggedness, and image overall just looks sharp. Again is this just photoshop or some setting? My graphics are on absolute max yet still look very blurry/jaggy compared to this
  • How did they get the floor reflections? This skybox does not come with it

I agree that looks like a 3D render rather than a screenshot :D.    So that is the most part. 

 

BUT.  You can get that high contrast with Windlight. I have lots of high contrast Windlight settings that I have made.  You could get a very similar look. Lighting is a huge part of taking photos for sure.   You could also up your contrast (in my software you need to brighten at the same time or the photo gets too dark but that may be just that software) in your graphics program. Very doable. 

 

The larger the screenshot the less jagged. There is also an antialiased setting in the viewer but some graphics cards do that FOR you. I think my antialias setting is the minimum (yes, I just checked and it is at 2s) and I don't have a lot of jagged edges at 5000 wide.  If you are shooting large already it could just be the quality of your video card.  

 

 

 

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14 hours ago, MelodicRain said:

Going to use https://www.flickr.com/photos/54472912xxxn09/49806126441 as an example because I have this exact same skybox, and it looks nowhere near as good as that, at least with my windlight settings.

My graphics are always at max, at least the max allowed on Firestorm viewer. A few things I'm wondering about:

  • My contrast is nowhere near as high as the one in the photo. Is this some windlight setting or purely photoshop?
  • Edges look really smooth with little to no jaggedness, and image overall just looks sharp. Again is this just photoshop or some setting? My graphics are on absolute max yet still look very blurry/jaggy compared to this
  • How did they get the floor reflections? This skybox does not come with it

The Flickr link has a discussion on how the photo was made.

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Posted (edited)

Looking at the picture i can immediately tell you that this shot was made with Black Dragon. This is not a rendered image.

The screen space reflections are a dead giveaway.

The jaggy shadows are because the picture was most likely taken at higher resolution (probably around 6k) and then sampled down, the photographer did not raise the shadow blur while taking the high res snapshot. The graininess is SSAO which is so grainy simply because once again the shadow blur wasn't raised (possibly even lowered) which would result in SSAO becoming more grainy. Said person also cranked the SSAO settings to absolute maximum , probably way above what the slider allows to achieve this wide of a SSAO radius.

The contrast is pretty simple and just a lot of fiddling, most likely done with Tone Mapping and Color Correction tweaks, a lot of them. This is assuming that the colors are not photoshopped to some degree but its entirely possible with BD to have this high of a contrast in colors.

Since this is an awfully strange resolution (exactly 2048x2048) which means it was downsampled from a higher resolution, it rules out the possibility of reshade being used for the ambient glow, which means it was either photoshopped or i'm actually seeing the very first person ever (aside from me) using a very wide and soft ambient glow on those windows. It looks kinda like what Reshade would do with ambient bloom but again Reshade can be safely ruled out as Reshade wouldn't allow for higher-than-desktop-resolution snapshots.

Note that this is without reading what the creator wrote on how he made this picture, this is just me looking at the pictures and taking it apart and without looking how he did it i can safely tell you it was shot inside SL and with my Viewer.

I kinda wish he had turned up the shadow blur though, would have made this picture a lot better, not only would SSAO be a lot less grainy, shadows would have been soft and not jaggy, aside from looking a lot more realistic too. Overall a really good snapshot though given that its a very simplistic environment.

16 hours ago, MelodicRain said:

Going to use https://www.flickr.com/photos/54472912xxxn09/49806126441 as an example because I have this exact same skybox, and it looks nowhere near as good as that, at least with my windlight settings.

My graphics are always at max, at least the max allowed on Firestorm viewer. A few things I'm wondering about:

  • My contrast is nowhere near as high as the one in the photo. Is this some windlight setting or purely photoshop?
  • Edges look really smooth with little to no jaggedness, and image overall just looks sharp. Again is this just photoshop or some setting? My graphics are on absolute max yet still look very blurry/jaggy compared to this
  • How did they get the floor reflections? This skybox does not come with it

To your questions.

  • The contrast as explained above can be massively tweaked with Tone Mapping and Color Correction, in addition to the whole Windlight rendering. I do not recommend this kind of contrast as default setting however unless you want to be blind anywhere outside and basically any place inside that is not lit and in shadow while it isn't bright daylight. Anything that goes close to dark grey/black will also be indistinguishably dark.
  • You can turn on Antialiasing which usually is just FXAA, while FXAA will not clear out all jaggies like it does on the picture, it will make the whole image acceptable especially at almost no performance impact. If you however want Antialiasing like in this picture you're out of luck, this kind of Antialiasing is impossible and the creator achieved it simply by taking the snapshot at many-times-higher resolution than his actual window resolution and sampled it down, which produces the best achievable Antialiasing while preserving a lot of details.
  • The floor reflections are called Screen Space Reflections and are one of several extra rendering features in Black Dragon.

Here's one of my years-old snapshots that features a stark contrast, SSR, volumetric lighting and the ambient glow i'm talking about.

41151285074_91f264cbdd_k.jpg

Edited by NiranV Dean
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Posted (edited)

I've taken the snapshot and quickly edited over some colored overlays to show which part of the image uses what.

Blue = Realtime shadows / Screen Space Reflections

Yellow = What i believe to be faked/baked lighting

Green = Ambient Glow

Red = SSAO

Additional note: While editing i noticed a distinctive chromatic aberration around the edges of some objects, i'm unsure whether it was used but chances are good the creator also had Chromatic Aberration enabled (and cranked to eleven to get it this noticable on a downsampled image)

Additional note #2: I can only speculate why the bottom center image uses baked lighting on the left windows, possibly because they all do but the highly visible shadows kinda hide it, it might also just that the entire building was prebaked to receive lighting from the that side, which would explain the lack of baked lighting everywhere else. What gives it away as baked lighting is the fact that its a very soft diagonal shadows which is the opposite of what can be observed on the ground across the entire room, sharp shadows, apart from the obvious impossible angle that said baked lighting is casting a shadow from compared to the realtime shadowing in the room which is coming from the front-left whereas the baked lighting is either coming from the left or from left-behind otherwise the bottom 3/4 wouldn't be lit.

49806126441_d4e500535f_k_edit.thumb.jpg.67e3cabb351f59f1dc9fdb060cb52133.jpg

 

Edited by NiranV Dean
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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Love Zhaoying said:

The Flickr link has a discussion on how the photo was made.

I followed both those links in on the photo page and found lots of info on the skybox but nothing on the photo. Can you expand on what it said or screenshot the "photo taken" part?  

I am not going to argue against Black Dragon being able to "make" that photo, but I will say that it also could have been made in many 3D programs -- with the RENDERING part of 3D being one of the most widely used (just not by us in SL).   Either way, this is a good lesson WHY people should look at items to purchase themselves rather than going by a vendor photo OR a blogger photo.   

 

In case folks missed it, the dramatic photo was for a group gift and a lovely one.  There ARE however cases where creators use "renders" rather than screenshots to show their products.  Again, demo, demo, demo.    

 

Here is the OTHER vendor photo by the same photographer -- this being the one that says it is for PURCHASE "now":  

 

Note, leaving photo here but as noted BELOW this was of another version of the same skybox.  Confusing (to me anyway).    You can see some baked in lighting in this version below even though there are no reflections etc.  

Onsu ~ New Release ~ "Downtown" Skybox

At least that is what I gathered from the text that accompanied the pages.   

 

 

 

Edited by Chic Aeon
adding info

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14 minutes ago, Chic Aeon said:

Can you expand on what it said or screenshot the "photo taken" part?  

Sorry, all I had was the "Windlight" reference. @NiranV Dean sure gave a great dissection on how it could have been done!

 

8D29D10C-912F-4348-AEA2-E046C1CDD25E.jpeg

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1 minute ago, Love Zhaoying said:

Sorry, all I had was the "Windlight" reference. @NiranV Dean sure gave a great dissection on how it could have been done!

 

8D29D10C-912F-4348-AEA2-E046C1CDD25E.jpeg

Thanks. So the photos are TWO different versions of the same skybox.  That was all very confusing. Will note that in my post above. Thanks.

 

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11 minutes ago, Chic Aeon said:

So the photos are TWO different versions of the same skybox. 

Or two different wood colors. Or two photo sets rendered (plus WL) in blog vs. "standard" photos in ad..it's all so confusing! 

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I went to ONSU and looked to see how they were building their products. In the ones I looked at the lighting and shadows are mostly baked in.

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