By the Author of Volition.
Skill Level: Early Beginner

Poser employs a highly sophisticated lighting system. This tutorial is aimed at helping you understand its inner workings. Think of this article as a guide to "Best Practices." The instructions given, will lay the groundwork for future tutorials. In my early days, my first mistake when working with lighting in Poser was not knowing these commands.

But you are starting out with an advantage. You have something that I never hadthese instructions. There are some things you can learn to do in Poser through experimentation, or trial-and-error, but lighting is not one of them.

FIG0 Widget (31306)

When I first started working with Poser, I stumbled about in the program, reading parts of the Reference Manual (for help) that seemed applicable, but not comprehending it, still clueless and aimless afterward. After over a year of painstaking effort, I have learned a few important concepts, that I would like to share with you.

Lighting in Poser is more scientific that it is artistic, and you would be wise to master these commands before proceeding any further or even attempting to create a custom lighting arrangement. Study the images attached and familiarize yourself with the menus and their functions, until they become second nature to you.

Although, setting up a few lights in Poser "on the fly" is relatively easy, when you start working with sets that contain five or ten lights, managing them efficiently becomes critical to a successful layout. However, using a half-hazard, unplanned approach when setting up advanced lighting configurations in Poser, will not serve you well. Taking shortcuts or skipping steps will likely lead to unacceptable results and/or needless frustration.

Tips for Working with Dials

The Poser dials can be rather confusing for new users. They can be frustrating, and time-consuming until you get the gist of using them. Forget about spinning the dials, just double click on them with the left mouse button and type in the exact digits you wish. This is invaluable when you need accurate numeric values, like 91.5 degrees for example. Refer to Figure 1 for a screen image.

How to Secure Lights

Refer to Figure 2 for a visual depiction. On the Right side panel of the screen, select the light you want to secure, or you can also click on it in the lighting widget. From the "Object" menu, left-click on "Lock Actor." This action places a checkmark next to the "Lock Actor" command. To unlock the light, simply remove the checkmark.

FIG5 Menu (31311)

Think of a locked light as being in "Fixed Mode" and an unlocked light as being in "Edit Mode." When the light is locked, its position is frozen, and its settings are fixed. This option exists, to prevent accidental changes from being made to the light. When the light is in its normal state, or "Edit Mode" it can be moved on the lighting widget via dragging the computer mouse. Also, the settings can be adjusted as desired.

Adding and Removing Lights

On your journey to becoming a Poser groupie, you will need to create new lights and remove existing ones. The first image in the series (FIG0) shows a Poser lighting widget. Below the sun-star icon, you will see what looks to be a miniature trash-can (and it is). Simply click on the light you want to remove, and then on the trash-can icon to delete it. Also, you can select any item in the scene, then from the "Object" drop-down menu, use the "Delete Object" command. If you made a mistake, you can go back via "Edit" on the main-menu and "Undo" options.

Refer to Figure 2 once more and you will see the "Object" menu. Go to "Create Light" submenu, and you will see more options. Here you have the ability to add different types of lights including Spot, Point, Infinite, and Diffuse IBL. You can also add lights via the Poser lighting widget, but you cannot control the type of light it creates, rendering it practically useless. Personally, I think this feature should be removed to eliminate confusion. It creates a conflict within the menus, distracting you like red-herring from the main task.

However, it does exist for a reason, albeit a very bad one. It was made with the idea, that one could modify the light type after creating it. For this, please refer to Figure 3, and you will see radio buttons next to each type of light. To access this menu, select the light by name from the drop-box, and go to "Properties" tab. This proves my verdict: Poser has a flexible but convoluted navigational structure. It's no surprise, therefore, that beginners are often lost in it. I subscribe to the philosophy of "keeping it simple" and manipulate the lights or settings only as needed. Hence, I prefer to use the menus in creating lights as outlined in Figure 2. Anyway, moving onto the next topic.

Turning Shadows On/Off

Shadows can be enabled or disabled via the light properties menu as shown (FIG3). Shadows are set separately for each light, allowing you to mix and match, in any combination as desired. By enabling shadows on some lights, and disabling others, you can control which parts of your model are shaded. The "Point At" feature is useful when you need to fill in shadows in specific areas called "light traps" such as the neck.

FIG6 PointAt (31312)The "Point At" Command

This feature in Poser is very useful because it allows you to direct light to specific areas, giving greater control. There is a weak parallel for it in real life. The Poser software allows you to create scenes which not only defy gravity but are simply fictional, i.e. impossible to replicate in reality. For example: In Poser you can place a spotlight directly under the figure's foot, and the light will "shine through" the obstacle as if it did not exist at all. We all know, that in reality the model's feet would be standing on the spotlight, blocking the light.

Furthermore, in real life, you cannot place objects below ground level but in Poser you can. That is why working with lights in Poser is more surreal, than it is real. The "Point At" command allows you to create fake lighting effects, which, under normal circumstances, could not exist in reality or they would have to be accomplished using entirely different principles.

Begin by selecting your light, as shown in Figure 4. Next, from the "Object" menu, click on "Point At." A pop-up window will appear (FIG6) with the message: Choose point-at target for 'Light 3.' You will see all of the model's body parts listed. In this case, we will choose the head. Then click OK and the light beam will adjust to suit.

Please see my profile (click the face image) for more articles and tutorials.
* Poser is a registered trademark of Smith Micro Software.
Copyright Liza Shipovskiy November 2010.