The following tips are just little extras I picked up in a recent lecture regarding lighting your scenes. These all apply to rendering in 3DS Max.
(Authors Note- Move these into the original post on lighting from a few years back?)
Shadow Maps– estimate rather than calculate shadows, therefore no good for animation.
Ray traced shadows – Mathematically generated shadows, very hard edged and solid.
Near Attenuation: Click Use and Show. Start: Where light starts; End: Where light reaches 100%
Far Attenuation: Click Use and Show. Start: Where light drops from 100%. End: Where Light stops completely.
Spotlight Parameters> Overshoot. Cone of light is no longer restricted to cone! Light doesnt stop in a sudden sharp circle. More natural.
Atmospheric shadows: Adds the effect of shadows on photons- makes the shadow look solid.
Colour: White light only occurs outdoors so you should aim to use slightly orange etc. or slightly blue lights when creating indoor scenes.
Shadow Parameters: Shadows are rarely black, so add a slight touch of blue and turn the density down. This gives less shadow, whilst still maintaining highlights. Shadow colour doesnt change the colour of the light, only the shadow, so too strong colour will look out of place. However, bright colours can be used in draft renders to identify shadows from light sources.
– Lights can have different purposes – for shadows, for illumination and for atmosphere. Turn off unnecessary lighting elements to speed up render times.
– Mental Ray renderer will automatically add bounce lights, adding a bit of subtlety that the default scanline renderer wont.
– Position is irrelevant.
– Adding a skylight can create a little ambient occlusion.
– Skylights take ages to render so add them last.
Photometric Lights > mr_Sky-Portal. Drag it as big as it needs to be- i.e. for covering doors and windows etc.
Standard > Target Direct Light: Acts a bit like a helicopter spotlight. In rendering > Environment you can choose to add atmospheric lights. Use this as the source light to get the ‘beam’ effect of light passing through dust etc.