This image above is simple to recreate but to get that out of my brain for the first time, it’s a long story.

Let’s start with one of the first tests at early stage



Nothing faster than an open scene ! I used an interior HDRi from Grant Warwick website, this one created perfectly an interior environment with white lights coming from windows. ( Click on image for the HDRi link )

If you created something like this in 3D and put your candles in to render, with all the indirect lightings and GI calculations, rendering time can be XX times slower.

And as I’m experimenting the scene and will change a lot of things, I lower the render ouput to 600-800px height so the interactive speed is per seconds !!


To use HDRi in Fstorm is really simple, just use Fstorm bitmap to load HDRi, use spherical mode, change U offset to rotate the HDRi, 0 means 0 degree, 0,5 means 180 degree and 1 means 360 degree clockwise. Tip here is to put that Fstorm bitmap into Fstorm Ouput and lower the gamma to crank up contrast of lighting which will make lights and shadows clearer.



  • Gamma : 0.75
  • Saturation : 0.5 ( I want to make the lighting neutral in term of colors )
  • Contrast : 0.7 ( just a little bit more contrast will make the lighting better )

After that, you need to put this into Environment texture inside Render Setup, make sure important sampling is ON and change the multiplier to get the brightness you want.

I leave the exposure at 1 as default, but if you change the exposure, remember to change GI clamp = 1/exposure along. That will help the rendering faster.


When you put some more objects into the scene, remember to do that with 2 intentions : creating Christmas vibes and hilighting our subject.

I then again, look at my pin board and keep in mind 3 colors that i chose : green pine leaves, white snow and candles, yellow/brown lights and pine cones..

First, I want some bokehs, yellow shining at background, so I grabbed this from 3dsky . It has many bright shiny dots which will easily become bokehs in a DOF shot.

I want a Christmas tree, its dark green color should be perfect background to hilight the white color of the candlestick

I grabbed it from Evermotion Archmodels vol 88

At first, I was trying to break some branches from this model to put in front of the candlestick but it was not good looking at close-range. So I choose something greeny from Bentanji

That was a really high quality model. And it’s FREE !

After you choose something you like, the most time-consuming task starts. It can really be a mess if you throw all the premade models into the scene without adjusting their positions, shapes, colors.. materials. Especially when you are trying to make something simply beautiful and elegant,  you have to choose which to keep and which to remove.

By doing all of this, you will realize how much i wish that Fstorm can interact with changes of geometry. Everytime I change or move the objects, I have to restart the RT.



Image from second stage, started to look like something.

The main idea is to create 3 depth layers : dark foreground, light midground – subject and dark background. This way will help to create visual depth for our rendering and hilight our candlestick as well. This can be done using a combination of camera direction, lighting direction, assets installation and by changing colors of each layer.

Detail explanation in this simple illustration


Last thing is to setup a good camera angle with strong composition. I used a slightly angle camera at a higher position look down to the sticks. This way i can have a really good angle showing the best shape of the subject.

Remember that :” The closer you come to the subject, the higher the focal length should be ” For examples, I lower the FOV in Fstorm Camera to 25 which equivalent to a focal length of 85mm.

I used a classic rule of thirds composition and put the subject at the cross of those 1/3 lines. Old fashion but it works.


At this stage, we have pretty much brought the idea to life. All the rest task is to reposition objects. try different color variations. Trial and error until they looks perfectly, shiny together. It took more time than it sounds. As you can see, finally I ended up with 2 branches of rosemaries, one in the glass pot, one lay on the table and direct to the candles, one brown shiny star, one metallic white ball and 3 pine cones. The rest are some glasses which really help to strengthen the idea of “simply but elegant” at the begining.

I made 3 variations of colors for the table fabrics. And they made me confusing.