A few years back I came across a website with a handy tool called Virtual Lighting Studio. I didn’t really have much use for it at the time, but I have since found it very fun to play around with.
As the name suggests, Virtual Lighting Studio is just that. It’s a web browser application in which you can use a few different types of studio lights and modifiers to test on a 3D computer generated head.
On top of this, after creating a portrait using at least one light, you can switch from the head to a lighting diagram that changes as you change position of your lights. Just click the square above the four available 3D model heads and you can see your lighting setup from a bird’s eye view.
In this application you can have up to six studio lights available to you at all times with four possible modifiers.
Each light can be placed between 1/2 a meter and 2-3 meters away from the subject and the 3D model updates with each mouse click. Lights can be moved around and colored with gels making things very realistic although not perfect. Lights can only be used on the model, not the background, which will stay a solid black or white depending on the use of the Ambient exposure buttons.
What I think is most helpful with this application is the ability to save out the model and diagram. Just click on one of the aperture symbols on the right-hand side of the page to capture your setup and right click to save.
Save the image wherever you like and you’ll be able to come back to one of your setups whenever you like. here’s this setup saved into a file on my desktop. The model and diagram are not cropped together, this is straight off the “save as” command on the website.
While there are a few drawbacks to this gadget, like having only a handful of 3D model heads to light facing front, and not being able to control or light the background, overall it seems pretty slick for just quickly roughing out a lighting setup. With this you can at least get a basic handle on portrait lighting and go to the studio with a rough idea in mind. So often it’s easy to become sidetracked or not stick to an original idea and having something tangible like this to bring with you smooths things out a bit.
New images in the works
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