Are You Overlooking This Way to Make Amazingly Complex Lighting?

lighting tutorial glass

Dazzling complexity of the lighting. You stop. And the whole fucking world stops.

If you haven’t experienced it, here is a short demo.

Your head hurts. Looking at these bottles (a little party never killed nobody) you wonder how can human being drink so much beer. You start recollecting memories and then…


You notice the lighting.

The lighting is amazingly complex. In fact, so complex and interesting that you forget about your headache.

lighting tutorial glass blender

You notice that every (!) glass bottle treat the light in different way. Some bottles are filled up with cigarette butts and they absorb the light. The Heineken is sleek and shiny and the Jack Daniel’s is covered with dust, because it stands on this table for ages.

Some bottles are red, some are blue.

In that complexity, lighting appears to you in a flash of aesthetic experience.

Like a symphony.

1 simple light source + 32 different bottles = amazingly complex lighting

Wouldn’t it be cool if you can recreate this kind of symphonic lighting in your images? Take a leap of faith and let the light do its job?

After following these 3 simple steps, you will be inspired to try it. I guarantee.

glass bottles lighting tutorial

Step 1. Build a Complex Stack of Crap

Build a film set. It will come alive when you add a light source.

I don’t care, what setting will you choose. But make sure it is… well… complex enough. For example, my alcohol-driven setting has a lot of content. Dozens of different bottles and other crap.

All I had to do is to add a light and (bam!) everything clicks.

Get it?

You may want to photo scan a gnarly tree and then add a thick canopy. Or you may find yourself under a bridge, watching how the light is bouncing between the concrete supports.

gleb alexandrov lighting

Step 2. Throw in the Light

Surprisingly, what you need is just one light.

One window is enough to create very complex lighting in this whole scene.

See? When you created a complex scene, you also created a complex structure for the light transport.

Remember? Some bottles are red, some are blue. Some are filled up with cigarette butts and it soak up the light. Some still have a liquid inside.

Here is the equation:

1 simple light source + 32 different bottles = amazingly complex lighting

glass lighting tutorial

Step 3. Take a Virtual Camera and Search for the Best Shot

The next step is to pretend that you are a photographer on stage.

Surprisingly, you are longer in control over the lighting. The path-tracing algorithm is doing its calculations. And you can’t command path tracer to throw rays here or there.

bokeh glass lighting tutorial

The only thing that you control is your camera. And maybe a depth of field (check out this Bokeh tutorial!).

bokeh lighting tutorial glass

So take your camera and start searching for the best shot. And if you see something cool, stop. Just like I stopped when the lighting on the bottles interrupted my everyday flow.

“Aesthetic experience is an unexpected interruption in the flow of the everyday” 

Gumbrecht H.-U. Aesthetic Experience in Everyday Worlds

After you find that image, just listen to the symphony.

lighting tutorial glass

Over to You

How often we try to control EVERYTHING and we fail miserably.

Lose control and let the light do its magic… Isn’t it exciting?

Now create your own lighting symphony. Build up some complex matter, throw in the light and search for the beautiful.

I’m 100% sure you will be amazed, how many cool shots you can get.

And make sure to share your creations with the world!

The Lighting Project

It will mean a lot to me if you support the Lighting Project by spreading the word.

Tell your friends on Twitter about the book. The success of this project depends on how popular we can make it on social media. Yeah, I rely on a viral promotion.

Thank you so much!