15 Tips for 3D Photorealism

This is a great article I found on 3DArtists.com. I just wanted to post it here to share it with others and also to help myself when trying to render photorealistic images.
15 tips for 3D photorealism

Model from References

“The best criteria [when sourcing references] is the resolution of photos. It is very important to see the details of an object in the photo…that way you don’t waste your time trying to understand it.”
Denis Lebedev
“I like to have at least one side view and a three-quarter view. Even better would be if you had access to the real objects themselves, to either take pictures of or have next to you while modelling.”
Emre Salihov

15 tips for 3D photorealism

Textures and Materials

“Textures and materials are a very important stage in creating realism in work, [and] probably the longest one…Good textures and materials make the model more expressive, bad one destroy even the most gorgeous geometry.”
Dmitry Glazyrin
“Creating a simple light setup before you start texturing is a very good idea…I always have one key light where my light source is and then, depending on the model, one of two rim lights and also one fill light that doesn’t cast any specular.”
Emre Salihov
“For [texturing] hard-surface objects, I use 3ds Max and Photoshop and for organic, ZBrush and Photoshop. In any case, Photoshop is an indispensable tool for creating textures, both at the stage of texturing and [post work].”
Dmitriy Glazyrin

15 tips for 3D photorealism

Produce Expert Lighting

“Studio lighting and lighting environments is very different. To simplify the environment modelling we can make low-poly objects, or simplify the plane to stretch the texture of the mask. Creating the environment in layers means the lighting will work properly with different angles and camera lenses.”
Dmitry Glazyrin 
“It’s important to build shaders and lighting in an organised way. Make sure the same group of lights will be instanced so you can easily adjust all of the lights at once. Shaders should be built with a colour-correction plug-in used for textures. In most cases this will enable you to adjust the shaders without 2D texture editing.”
Pawel Podwojewski
“CGSkies and Peter Guthrie’s HDRI lighting setups have made the 3D community very happy lately, and each day more and more artists are using it in their normal workflow.”
Jacinto Monteiro

15 tips for 3D photorealism

Know your Render Passes

“I find that using a node-based compositing program such as NUKE [makes bringing render layers together] much easier. I don’t do any fancy blending, I just use overs and plusses. Occlusion is a good example.”
Emre Salihov
“You need to rely on your experience to know if a result is right or wrong. Very common mistakes appear while using Z-Depth passes. It is a very handy technique that can save a lot of rendering time and such effects may enhance your image, but when applied in the wrong way can also kill the scene.”
Pawel Podwojewski
“It is necessary to establish the real behaviour of the camera as precisely as possible. Set the depth of field, anti-aliasing and choose interesting lens parameters. If you take any picture from the internet it’s often possible to get the information about the lens and the parameters, so use this when placing the camera in the scene.”
Dmitry Glazyrin

15 tips for 3D photorealism

The Art of Compositing

“Objects that [are] lit in a way that don’t match the scene will obviously look fake [so] we [need to] enhance the lighting using different blending modes and paintovers. It is crucial [at this stage] to use colours we find in the final scene for better integration.”
Pawel Podwojewski
“When I create an environment [for compositing] I usually like to matte-paint it [in Photoshop] using a mixture of photographs and retouching. I must have in mind what everything should look like so I create it based on the [render’s] lighting.”
Massimo Righi

15 tips for 3D photorealism

Perfect Postproduction

“The most important thing is colour correction in Photoshop. I use it on the whole image and separate objects using masks. I always work with a copy of the layer and use Levels, Curves, Selective Color and Color Balance adjustments. Before each touch I create a snapshot in the History palette, and then after [I do the same] to compare the result.”
Denis Lebedev
“Very soft lens distortions may be a good idea to increase the realism. You may think most viewers will not notice this but, believe me, our brains do. It is a perfect situation when you feel something is natural without knowing why!”
Pawel Podwojewski
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