A small house key doesn’t photograph well! Especially if it needs to be displayed at 30 inches in length on a Walmart store display; every nick and flaw would be magnified 15 times. To eliminate this problem, I carefully created a 3D model of a key from photo reference, developed a virtual studio lighting scheme, and rendered a super-realistic image of the key at a width of 10,000 pixels.
Detail of the key without beveling (left) and with beveling (right).
The enemies of an elegant and realistic rendering are perfectly geometric edges and surfaces. In the real world, even a knife has a small amount of blunting or beveling on its sharp edge. This will be visible as a highlight when light hits it at a certain angle.
Detail of the key without bulging (left) and with bulging (right).
The same lack of perfection occurs on the flat surface of the knife. A slight bulging of the flat surface of the blade will result in a subtle gradient of value across its surface rather than a single flat value.
A representation of the light source shapes that light the front of the key (Left). The rear light source shape that creates edge highlights (Right).
Blunted edges and bulged surfaces would be worthless if the lighting of the model was not mastered. I developed a method of lighting in my 3D program similar to how a photographer places a light behind a large white diffusion panel in his studio, but my method has even more control. I can infinitely alter the size, shape, position, color, and brightness of the light source, including the softness of the gradient that is reflected into the product. Also, I do not have to be concerned with a reflection of the camera showing up in the product!
Unlike the promise of digital cameras, a 3D rendering can deliver on the promise of no image noise. Renderings are as smooth as silk. The final rendering of the key was output directly from the 3D program; no retouching or contrast adjustment was necessary in Photoshop. Clipping paths and alpha channels were also output directly from the 3D program for client use.
If you have questions about this project, I encourage you to leave a comment. If I can help you on one of your own projects, phone me at (602) 494-2777 or email me.
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