Digital Photoshoot: Creating 3D Portraits

Hair in my Eyes by Indigo JansonOld Post Alert! Yes, I was still very much a beginner when I wrote this post, as I am sure you can tell from my results. I didn’t have much to work with back then either.

For a more recent look at 3d portraits, take a look at my 2014 How to Pose series.

If you are still curious enough to read it, the 2013 post continues below. Talk about a trip down memory lane! It has reminded me how much I liked my first custom characters. I must dig them out…


The past few days I’ve gathered the models in a bare studio to work on lighting and rendering. In many ways, this is little different from a real world photoshoot. In both scenarios, it’s a case of setting up, taking test shots (renders), adjusting, and so on until you finally get the result you want.

Just for fun, I’ll share what I started with. By the way, I add my signature to my work (regardless of quality) not out of vanity but to make things just a little less easy on the thieves out there who will scrape any blog post and claim it as their own.

So, below is what I had 5 days ago. The adorable girl in the intro pic is Eve, who is a modified version of the gorgeous Brianne character. I modified her not only to have something unique to me but because the original female characters are usually a little too beautiful. Eyes need to be made smaller and lips less pouty (plus their noses should probably be made bigger, but I haven’t messed with that yet) to make them look more realistic. A little asymmetry in their faces also helps reduce the ‘doll’ look.

Of course, perfection is put up for sale because that’s what a lot of customers demand. Personally, I’m not doing this as a virtual beauty contest so you won’t be seeing perfect people. While I’m working with a dance theme in mind, they will be slender and toned, as I don’t think a flabby, overweight dancer will make quite the right impression!

Portrait Starting Point by Indigo Janson

So, I began with 3 modified and dressed characters, bodies in the default pose, heads posed and given expressions. I’ve placed them more or less in the relationship I’m after, which is why we have the freaky effect of arms going through bodies. Valentina has some strong eye-shine, nice on a cat but a bit over-powering here. I sorted it along the way. I’m not crazy about either girl’s hair (although Eve’s renders more nicely than I expected) but I’m working with what I’ve got. I’ve tried Dan with other hairstyles but this one fits with who he is.

(Yes, I could treat the models as just pixels to be pulled about, but a good real-world photographer or artist respects her models and tries to bring out their personalities. I don’t see why 3D should be any different.)

Many, many hours and renders later, I ended up with this.

3d Studio Photoshoot by Indigo Janson

I used a very helpful video tutorial for the lighting. My final render looks a little too dark on my screen, but otherwise the tutorial was invaluable. I’ll try moving the key light closer next time.

I didn’t have a photography backdrop so learned to create one myself using GIMP and a primitive plane. It’s my first attempt and with time I’ll make ones I like better.

Posing was tricky but I like that Dan’s not doing the same thing with both arms.

The final step was to do postwork in GIMP. That sorted out the muddy look and made the image brighter and more vibrant.

Friends by Indigo Janson

A lot to learn still? Yes. Not to mention that Valentina’s eyes are not looking in the right direction and I’m itching to change her hair, it’s just too neat and styled. I can make this girl look more real.

But making progress, I think.

Want to try 3D art for yourself? Free Tools and Content for 3D Artists

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About Indigo

As a digital artist on a budget, I'm fascinated by what happens when art and technology meet, and love discovering affordable ways to make that happen.
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2 Responses to Digital Photoshoot: Creating 3D Portraits

  1. Sandra says:

    Yes, Indigo, you are making progress and have now made a new person! I like Eve’s face. She looks a bit shy and has a different personality to Valentina. It’s good that you can mould the features away from the ‘too-perfect’ into something more real and believable.
    I shall be interested to hear what you are going to do with them when you have finished working on them all to your liking!

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