The Most Important Thing About Lighting And Visual Overstimulation

lighting tutorial

Interpreting the lighting in a crowded city is like interpreting Kentucky Derby (by making notes in your notebook). You know, decadent and depraved things demand some caffeine at least.

Sometimes you need to stop interpretation.

How are you going to analyze the lighting in a shopping mall? The shitload of advertisements on Beijing street? The mass production of visual media in New York?


lighting tutorial

Created in Blender, under heavy influence of coffee

The world of hyper consumption exploded with shining, strobing and flashing stuff. And you are still holding your manual with lighting schemes: Rembrandt, loop, butterfly.

You get lost in things that don’t really matter.

To create an image like that you need to think differently.


You can’t interpret this Blade Runner-esque scene in terms of lighting schemes. No lighting technique from photography book is able to describe this weird aesthetic experience.

So what can you do?

As Susan Sontag noted: “In place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art.”

It’s time to recover your senses. I would even say that it’s time to overstimulate your senses!

To create a really immersive urban experience you need to feel something about it. You need to really see it. You need to immerse yourself into that experience.

Lighting Tutorial: Quick guide to Visual Overstimulation

In this lighting tutorial we’re going to create a crowded city illumination.  Follow through these 3 steps and you will end up with having a cool lighting in your artwork.

By the way, if you want to create a nature render instead, check Pro-Lighting: Skies HDRi pack by Blenderguru.

gleb alexandrov coffee

Step 1. Start by Drinking a Double Espresso

Start by going for a walk and ordering a double espresso in the nearest Starbucks or whatever.

Double espresso provides just enough stimulation to feel the vibe of a big city.

Your growth as an artist is a growth towards drinking more coffee.

But be careful, because “Ongoing sensory overload can lead to depression, fatique, hopelessness, and, in some cases, suicidal ideation.”

lighting tutorial

Step 2. Ask Yourself What Do You Really See, When You Look at New York?

Browse through the references of crowded urban environments on Flickr or Pixabay.

Ask yourself, what do you really see?

And when I’m asking his question, I don’t necessarily mean the content of the picture. Look at form, look at lighting.

Erotics, not hermeneutics.

Here is my list of things:

lighting tutorial

Andreas Gursky, 99 Cents Diptychon

• LSD trip of visiting a huge mall

Once I stumbled across the article on Mental health talk website, where Trish described her overstimulation while visiting a mall. She said it was like taking LSD.

“Then my visual perception would shift and it was like everything within my visual range was reaching toward me.”

Indeed, all that advertising in a big city reaches to you, speaks to you directly. Can you see it?

lighting tutorial

• Overstimulation

Look at the crazy amount of light sources in the image.

It renders obsolete such things as the angle and the softness of the light. Who cares about the angle, when the light spills from all angles?

It’s a sheer overstimulation.

It’s a total eyef#ck.

lighting tutorial bokeh

Step 3. Now Overstimulate Our Eyes

Maybe you experienced that anxiety of sensory overload, like Trish did. Maybe you experienced your own thing (Duke Nukem first level, anybody?). Or maybe you found such a great reference, that it made you want to watch Blade Runner for the second time.

Stick to that aesthetic experience. Stick to that thing that appeared to you.

Now when you have seen something, you can start creating.

Time to rock! Turn on the Wasteland 2 soundtrack and start creating the lighting in your scene.

Add that big city lights everywhere.

Make me feel like an Englishman in New York.

Continue adding lights till you irritate everybody, including yourself. But no matter what you do, stick to that initial feeling.

Spread the Word About the Open Lighting Project

If you enjoyed this article, please share it by clicking the share buttons above (and below!). It helps me tremendously to promote the Open Lighting Project.

I appreciate every share and comment and together we’ll create a really outstanding book, I promise. You are amazing.