Lighting your 3D Scene in Poser.

  • Okay, let me be clear here. I'm posting this article I was writing for my Directory's blog here in the forum, because I wanted feedback Did I get something wrong? Did I leave something out? Is there something you think needs clarification?

    I should probably also add that I'm drawing a lot of my knowledge here from a college course i took on theatrical lighting. It's been awhile, so yeah, I'm old now and my memory isn't the greatest. :)

    What you should know about Lighting in Poser.

    1. Default lighting sucks. Not just Poser's, but Blender's, Studio's, etc. Why?

    Because default lighting is just there for you to see what you're doing. Delete all the lights in a scene and you'd be in the dark. So you never want your final render to be done with the lighting you have when you first create your scene.

    1. What most users either don't know or understand is lighting in a scene depends on what the scene is supposed to convey. So let's define just what a scene consists of. A scene, 3D, video or real world, is made up of a location and a subject, and some type of action or setting. It is usually, but not always part of some larger story which the artist is trying to tell.

    Location is defined by where the scene and subject is, and where the action is taking place.

    The scene is defined by who, or what is present, i.e. the subject, and the location.

    The action taking place is determined primarily by the subject, and the location.

    So what lighting you will use is determined by it's environment, or the scene.

    There are three types of scenes that will determine what type of lighting you will have. Indoors scenes, Outdoor scenes and interior scenes. Indoor scenes and Interior scenes are similar, but not necessarily the same thing. I'll explain, and again, we're talking distinctions here for clarification. And Indoor area could be anywhere inside the confines of a structure, be it a space ship, a house, a cave, a football stadium, an aircraft hangar or an office building. An Interior scene, usually narrows the area down to a specific confined area. A hallway, a bedroom, an office, a kitchen, a closet, a small cave, or a basement. Why is this important, you ask? Because, the size of an area determines how much light can or should be used in that area.

    Outdoors and indoors are basically self explanatory, but generally speaking,

    Outdoor lighting will usually consist of natural and and some man-made lighting like the sun, the moon, the stars, street lights, car lights, stop lights, signs on businesses, christmas lights, flashlights, you get the picture.

    Next, we will discuss the specific types of Light used in Poser, and when and how they should be used.

  • Maybe worth to make it clear that location could be represented in the scene with the lighting only. So, we have "as-if" lighting, i.e. studio and scenic lighting. When we do not put a figure on a landscape to create a sunny day or a flaming sunset or a tiny dark cell, but only light figure as if it was true.

  • So, now that we understand the basics of lighting, let's focus on the different types of lighting found in Poser.

    Poser allows you to create five types of lights: infinite, point, spot, image based and area lights.

    Infinite Lights

    Infinite lights are Poser's idea of the sun or moon shining down on the Earth. The rays from these lights shine parallel to your Poser scene. Unlike Point lights, area lights or spotlights, infinite lights have no start or falloff zone. If you place two figures at opposite ends of your Poser workspace, infinite lights would shine equally on both figures. An infinite light’s indicator appears as a ring with three arrows protruding inward, surrounding the currently selected figure or prop.

    Point Lights

    Point lights are Poser's equivalence to a light bulb or candle flame, in that they radiate light from a single source point outward equally in all directions. For performance reasons depth mapped shadows are not supported for point lights; point light shadows are calculated using raytracing. A point light’s indicator appears as a small, usually floating, outlined circle, depicting the light’s position in 3D space.


    Spotlights cast light in a uni-directional cone-shaped path to create a classic stage spot effect. These lights are useful for illuminating specific objects or for creating lighting effects. Spotlights can increase rendering times. A spotlight’s indicator appears as the outline of a spotlight in your Poser scene depicting both the light’s position in 3D space and the direction the light is pointing, as shown in this image.

    Diffuse Image Based Lights (IBL)
    Diffuse Image Based Lighting (Diffuse IBL) takes a light probe, which is ideally a 360 degree light distribution map captured in a single map, and illuminates the scene using that map. In Poser, only the diffuse component of the light is defined by the light probe. As this technique is based on complete light data for a given space, the lighting results are very realistic. In order to get realistic shadows when using an image based light, Poser recommends using Ambient Occlusion. You must activate raytracing in the Render Settings dialog in order to render Ambient Occlusion effects. To attach a light probe to the image based light, press the Advanced Material Properties button on the Properties palette. Once in the Material room, you have the option of attaching simply a light probe image map, or a shader tree of any complexity, to the color channel of your Diffuse IBL.

    Area Lights

    Area lights simulate real lights more accurately. They work a lot like a photographer’s “soft box” light. You can adjust the size to control the amount of light that is emitted. An area light’s indicator is represented by a square outline that depicts the light position in 3D space. A dotted line protruding from the light shows the direction that the light is pointing.

    Light Indicators

    When you select a light, Poser displays a light indicator describing your selected light’s position in the Document window. Clicking and dragging a light’s indicator moves the light around the scene.
    You may want to use orthographic views (Left, Right, Top, Bottom, Front, or Back) to move Spotlight indicators, since doing so constrains the spotlight’s motion to two dimensions (YZ if using the Left or Right views, XZ if using the Top or Bottom views, and XY if using the Front or Back views). Using perspective views can move your spotlight in oblique directions, causing unexpected lighting effects.

    In some cases, viewing the indicator from a different angle can help you visualize your light’s position. You can switch Camera views and/or zoom to view light indicators from different angles. Additionally, you can adjust a light’s position by clicking and dragging the light indicator in the actual scene. The Light controls will reflect any changes you make to the light indicator’s position. Note that image based lights have no light indicators, as they surround your entire scene.

    Poser currently has two other types of lights. High Dynamic Range. Or HDRI lights, which are similar to, but slightly different from, Diffuse Image Based lights. HDRI is a type of Image Based lighting, and contains a broader range of digital information. An HDR image has very dark darks and very bright brights. The whites are brighter than what your 8-bit display monitor can actually display. The way Poser implements the two are somewhat different too. Poser’s Diffuse Image Based Lights use a “Light probe” which is basically a spherical HDR map. Imagine a highly polished chrome ball and that’s basically an IBL light probe. Poser also uses an “Equirectangular” image file which has six 90-degree views of a scene or panorama.


    Emission Lights.

    Poser allows you to control the colour and intensity of light emitted from the surface of an object. This is called “Mesh lighting”, when an emissive material is used in your scene, it appears to be a visible source of light itself. The object will appear “self illuminated”. ... Even though they are in a dark scene, they appear to be lit from an internal light source. Cases where you might use this method of lighting are neon signs, lightsabers, computer and tv screens, spaceship lights, Christmas tree lights, porch lights, candle flames , glowing rope lights and light panels just to name a few. Mesh lighting can actually allow you to get rather creative in situations that do not favor conventional light types.

  • Up next how to create a light in Poser and when.

  • Light Controls in Poser


    The light controls in Poser allow you to create, delete, position, or change the properties of almost any light in your Poser scene, with a few exceptions like mesh, emission and HDRI lights. We will discuss those later in further detail.

  • Poser Ambassadors

    In the manual from page 311 onwards.

  • Quick and dirty dummies version:

    1. Use 1 or 2 area lights for half-body portraitures
    2. Use HDRI inserted into Background node ( go look for the basic node set-up by bopperthijs, and use your own HDRi image and/or tweak the settings ), after setting up scene, switch off all lights, hit Superfly render button - use at least Medium quality.
    3. Stick the shaders for Ground material and Background material of The Construct into the Ambient node, set up your scene, switch off all lights, hit Superfly render button.

    Use SSS judiciously. Red light passes through lighter skin more so than darker skin, so adjust material settings in scene to allow for that.

  • @eclark1849 @vilters @ibr_remote why don't you guys post up some renders and explain with screen shots and such how you achieved the result and state what the goal of the lighting set was about and folks here can critique and lend advice of how to improve the lighting in your scenes?

  • @ghostship Honestly? It was my intention to use this thread as an article and tutorial which was why I was going the way I was. I wanted to give newer Poser users a better idea of how to use the lighting systems in Poser and doing it over time this way, I felt was giving them a chance to follow along. I'm from the school of "show, don't tell". I'm fine with people reading the manual, in fact I encourage it. But the REFERENCE manual doesn't tell you HOW, it tells you WHAT. Apparently, my style is too slow for some people, though. So, I'll just finish up the tutorial on my blog.

  • Some questions:
    IBL lights are not influenced by the light direction controls, but the image stays in a fixed projection?
    IBL lights are not reflected in reflections?
    IBL lights are always on in Superfly even when they are switched off in the properties?

  • Poser Ambassadors

    One does not have to repeat "known" information or info that is clearly in the manual; Simply refer to the correct pages in the manual, and "add" clarification where required.

    Forums, blogs, and tutorials are to explain tips and tricks that are NOT in the manual. Just my humble opinion.

  • Poser Ambassadors


    IBL lights should have been removed from Poser when IDL came along.

    Why continue "faking" when you have the "real thing"?

  • IBL does not work in Superfly IIRC.

  • @ghostship Yes, I add one to a scene with no shadows just so I can see everything if I'm only using a HDRI dome for my lighting, kept switching it off before render then realised I didn't need to!

  • Poser Ambassadors


    in the past, we had to "fake" a lot of things.
    IBL, and AO (Ambient Occlusion) being two very well known examples.

    Modern render engines calculate true values and try to reproduce true light effects inside the render engines thereby not requiring the "old style faking setups.".

    A while ago, I did a study of the new PhysicalSurface Root in the material room, and that's the only Root node I continue to use.

    • Poser Preview
    • Poser Raytracing => Available through a checkbox inside the FireFly render engine, => Quality controllable via the number of Pixel Samples, and VERY FAST !
    • Poser FireFly
    • Poser SuperFly on CPU
    • Poser SuperFly on GPU

    (The above are the 5 render engines available inside Poser BTW)

    All materials can be build and rendered in all of the above render engines using the PhysicalSurface root node. => Metal is a special case, but it's in the webinar.
    See this video for more clarity

    Best regards and have fun using the Poser tools.

  • @vilters
    I wouldn't have asked if that info was in the manual and quickly to find.
    The manual for Poser is one of the most verbose yet worst I've encountered, cause it lacks a lot of info regardless of it's verbosity.

    And I dont think IBL "fake it", AO fakes it, but IBLs are "the real thing" that is. the real light, when based on HDRIs, aren't they?
    And like amethystpendant said, they are good for lighting the preview without needing a lot of aux lights that have to switched off and on all the time

    And I think, forums are also for repeating and rewording and reexplaining stuff that's actually in the manual, RTFM comments are the most useless thing on the internet. Especially when the manual is lacking, like here, and over 1000 pages, and the software crammed with legacy stuff.

  • @vilters said in Lighting your 3D Scene in Poser.:

    One does not have to repeat "known" information or info that is clearly in the manual; Simply refer to the correct pages in the manual, and "add" clarification where required.

    Forums, blogs, and tutorials are to explain tips and tricks that are NOT in the manual. Just my humble opinion.

    Your comment is rude.

    Totally not agree with you. What you promote is abolition of schools. Books won't never ever replace teachers and cours.

    Discouraging people that try to share their experience is simply low. (even if she starts with bases)

    If you don't feel interested in this thread just not post here.


    Don't take it bad i'm just frank as you are :)

  • I agree with Barnardino.

    If we could all just RTFM, then what is the point of forums like this? If asking questions or explaining things are bad, how on earth would people learn all the tricks?

    I am no good with manuals. Or rather .. they're a great read as such, but just that. I like to have things explained, not just HOW but WHY.

    For instance, I'm currently rendering an image. In Superfly. With an IBL as lightsource. And now I'm told IBLs doesn't work in Superfly? Hm. Where's my light coming from, then? Is everything really lit by my sole piddly Area Light? Doesn't look that way ...
    Er .. colour me confused.

    Had the manual said (and had I bothered to read it ...) "IBLs don't work in Superfly" ... I wouldn't have tried it. But since ignorance is bliss, I put one in anyway and .. it's lighting the scene.

    So what am I missing here?

  • @trekkiegrrrl they do something strange in my renders and don't look right (Superfly) so they don't get used. They Still work in Firefly so no issues using them there. The thing is I never used them anyway because If I want that kind of lighting I use a dome and then I have something to reflect as well. In Superfly/PBR EVERYTHING is reflective, even just a little bit so you need that anyway for things to look right.

  • @trekkiegrrrl said in Lighting your 3D Scene in Poser.:

    For instance, I'm currently rendering an image. In Superfly. With an IBL as lightsource. And now I'm told IBLs doesn't work in Superfly? Hm. Where's my light coming from, then? Is everything really lit by my sole piddly Area Light? Doesn't look that way ...
    Er .. colour me confused.

    Hi @trekkiegrrrl I thought show and tell would be usefull, I'm in the middle of a series so no comments on the content as it is definitely a WIP!

    Here is my scene in preview with an IBL at 60%


    Same preview with it turned off

    Quick SF render 36 samples with the light on

    And same with IBL off

    I certainly can't see that the IBL is providing any light to the scene when rendered with SF