Do you want to experiment with different lighting setups from the comfort of your own home? While looking for a photoshoot simulation software to keep me creative during the Covid-19 quarantine, I stumbled across the Set A Light 3D software by Elixxier.
I decided there was no harm in downloading the free trial. I have used similar software in the past, but what I found inside this software is truly revolutionary.
I have always thought of these different simulation programs as not nearly detailed enough for primetime. I often found that they had minimal features, lighting choices, and the models were not lifelike enough for serious use. This has seemingly all changed with this Set A Light 3d software!
The software is available for both Mac and PC and allows you to freely move lights, cameras, props, reflectors, and models around your virtual studio space.
I was cautious about getting my hopes up about the quality of light that the software produces. I found that the renders inside the Elixxier software are amazingly close to how the light would fall in real life. The best part is that everything renders in real-time so you can see how the light changes your scene right away.
There are surprisingly a lot of lighting options to choose from and probably way more than most people have available in their real studios. There are currently 52 lighting modifiers for monolights, 12 for speedlights, and 16 continuous lighting options.
There are also many props to choose from including couches, chairs, stools, desks, beds, shelves, bathtubs, plants, apple boxes (different sizes), and ladders. There are certain lights that I am super appreciative to be able to experiment with because I don’t get to use them too often in real life.
For instance, they have the Arri M40 continuous lighting fixture available which, because of its price I don’t use very often. While inside this software I can use the M40 as much as I desire.
Lighting: One Arri M40 with barndoors
You can have all of the lighting setups in the world but if you don’t have a subject to point the lights towards, it’s pointless. Set A Light currently has 8 models to choose from and there is a wide range of ages and ethnicities. You can tell they really spent a good amount of time to make sure you can see all of the lines and texture of the model’s body.
Lighting: Two Skypanel S120’s
You also have all of the usual camera settings available at your disposal with many different lens options. Aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and white balance are available to adjust at any time, and they all change the look of your image in realtime. For example, if you change your aperture from f/4 to f/1.4, your background will become more out of focus instantly.
I am sure they will be adding more features and gear as updates continue to come out but below are some things I wish were included inside the software.
For my full body portraits (in real life) I like to use multiple lights, shooting through a big layer of diffusion. This allows for a very soft key light source and allows the model to be more liberal with their movements. Currently Set A Light doesn’t have any lighting diffusion options beyond soft boxes, umbrellas, etc.
I am really impressed with the number of props they have available but there can always be more. More options equal more fun!
I would love to see some canvas and cloth backdrop options added. These could also consist of patterns or textured backdrops.
You can try to position the models correctly to make it look like they are sitting on a chair or leaning up against a table but it is not always easy to make it look natural.
I would love to see a way to “link” a model to a prop, making them interact with one another in a more fluid fashion. Right now, it takes a lot of manipulation and adjustments.
Lighting: One 47 inch Parabolic
This software can be pretty hard on your computer internals. The fans on my relatively new MacBook Pro seem to be running at full blast quite often during use.
This isn’t a huge problem since the actual computer doesn’t slow down but this may be different on other machines. This is something that will almost certainly get better with time.
I primarily am a headshot photographer, which means I spend a lot of time working with the details of the human face and micro-expression changes.
While the Elixxier software provides ways to manipulate body parts, it leaves less room to customize the facial expression of the model. I would love the ability to change the level of smile or manipulate the face in other ways.
I think this software can be a great addition to a working photographer’s arsenal. This is especially true for bigger jobs where you don’t necessarily have access to space, lighting, or gear you will be using before the shoot day.
I will definitely be purchasing this software in the near future, to plan future shoots, and to experiment with lighting. All from the comfort of my own home!
Matthew is a portrait photographer who specializes in headshots in Philadelphia Pennsylvania.
His work can be found here
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