Improving Your Blender 3D Renders: Tips and Tricks

Oct 19th 2023

A regular question in the Blender community is, "How can I improve my render?" This inspired me to spend some time and gather the tips and tricks I've found helpful in my own renders. 

Camera positioning and scene lighting are the most effective ways to improve your renders in Blender.  Proper camera settings and effective lighting can elevate your renders, emphasizing details and evoking emotion. Let's delve deeper into these aspects to enhance your work.

Working with your Camera in Blender

The overall look and feel of an image comes to life with the camera setup. With the point-and-shoot style of modern cameras, with features like auto-focus, it's easy for us to overlook the camera settings in Blender.

Without this understanding, we may have the expectation that the default settings will be good enough.

In this section, we'll explore position, composition, and Depth of Field as the primary factors that significantly enhance renders.

Positioning the Camera

Positioning the camera can have a dramatic effect in communicating the feeling and narrative of your render. Let's review the top three Blender camera angles to consider when framing your render.

  1. From Above - A high angle, looking down on a subject or object is used to imply vulnerability, weakness, or powerlessness. This angle is commonly used to give the viewer an assertive or a position of power viewpoint.
  2. From Below - A low angle, positioned below the level of the eye line, looking up at an object or subject, implies strength and power over the viewer. It is also used to increase the perceived height of an object
  3. Dutch Angle/Tilt - A more stylistic angle. Tilting the camera to one side for an unlevel view is used to create a dramatic effect. This angle can give a higher sense of distress and tension and can also create suspense and a sense of thrill.


Understanding Composition

Composition is the arrangement of objects within a scene, or more accurately within the camera frame, to create an aesthetically pleasing image and to be more attractive to the viewer.

In Blender, the composition guides are in the camera data properties under the viewport display. You could position objects in the scene and adjust the camera view to achieve one or more of the composition guides set out below.

  • Thirds - The Rule of Thirds is the most helpful composition technique, dividing the view into nine equal parts with equally spaced lines, two vertical and two horizontal. Use the rule of thirds to align a subject approximately with the guidelines and intersecting points.
  • Center - Adds guiding lines dividing the view in half vertically and horizontally. Although considered boring, the center composition can be used effectively with a single focus object with a shallow Depth of Field.
  • Diagonal Center - Adds lines connecting opposite corners; it can be used to give a sense of action or movement, as with Dutch Angle.


  • Golden Ratio - Often known as the Golden Spiral or Fibonacci Spiral, it is built from a series of squares based on the Fibonacci numbers. There are two ways to use the Golden Ratio, the Fibonacci Spiral or the Phi Grid. Blender uses the Phi Grid.

    The grid consists of a 1:0.618:1 ratio instead of 1:1:1 as in the third grid.

    It helps lead the viewer through the entire image, giving a more pleasing and balanced composition.
  • Golden Triangle - The frame is divided into four triangles, with a diagonal line from opposite corners and perpendicular bisectors from the other corners. The subject/area of interest falls on the two points of intersection, on the three lines, or inside the triangles.
  • Harmony Triangle - Same as the Golden Triangle, however, the bisectors are not perpendicular to the diagonal line, remaining parallel, but the angle from the diagonal will change depending on camera resolution.

🍪 The Fundamentals: Directing the Camera course by Wayne Dixon will provide the perfect angle to get a grip on understanding the Blender camera.


Depth of Field (DoF)

DoF defines the area in an image that looks clear and focused, and it's crucial for creating artistic visuals. The extent of this focused area can change based on several factors. The right use of DoF can greatly influence how an image is perceived and its overall effect.


  • Deep Depth of Field - Deep DoF images are usually sharp from front to back. Used for environments and landscapes where you want to show every detail of the scene.
  • Shallow Depth of Field - Shallow DoF images have a small zone of focus, the main subject of the image will be sharp, whilst the background will be rendered as a blur, preventing distractions and drawing attention to the subject.
Make sure to choose your focal point carefully. Decide what you want the viewer to focus on. 

There are three key factors that will affect the Depth of Field in your scene. 

  1. F-Stop - In a traditional camera, the aperture (F-Stop) is a hole in which light enters the camera, the larger the hole, the shallower the DoF. The smaller the F-Stop value the larger the aperture.

    A small F-Stop number results in a shallower DoF, smaller zone.
    A large F-Stop number results in a deeper DoF, larger zone.
  2. Distance - The distance from the camera to the center of the DoF zone. In Blender you can set a Focus Object to be sure the main subject of your image remains sharp.
  3. The Focal Length - The DoF will be shallower with a longer focal length, likewise, the DoF will be deeper with a shorter focal length.


Focal Length on your Camera

Focal length, central to quality renders, describes the lens rather than its actual size. In traditional cameras, it's the distance between the sensor and where light meets inside the lens.

It affects sharpness, field of view, and perspective. A shorter focal length offers a wider view and enhanced depth perception, while a longer one provides a narrower view with objects seeming closer and less depth.

🍪 Explore consumable Blender projects that help you practice working with cameras and scene setup with Kent Trammell's SESSIONS. 

Okay, let's talk about Lights in Blender

Lighting is just as important to achieving awesome renders as the camera setup. Highlighting details and bringing still images to life is achievable with little extra effort when you know how.


Let's take a peek into the light with the five roles of lighting and three common lighting setups.

The Five Roles of Lighting:

  1. Make Objects Read Clearly - The rendering of a 3d scene produces a 2d image. Lighting the scene well helps give objects depth and highlight details clearly.
  2. Make Things Believable - The human eye is so used to seeing light in a certain way, the lighting in your scene, even stylized scenes, needs to be believable for our eyes, and our brain to process the image and see it in a positive way.
  3. Maintain Continuity - If lights suddenly change from one shot to another in an animation, or a series of still render, it can completely change the context. The viewer needs to try and figure out what's going on.
  4. Directing the Eye - Creating areas of higher contrast surrounded by areas of lower contrast using light and shadows, we can draw the viewer's eye to the area of the image we want their focus.
  5. Enhance Emotional Impact - The quality and color of light can invoke certain feelings about an image. Sunny and bright can imply happiness, and the soft orange glow of a sunrise can feel peaceful.


Exploring lighting styles and setups

When approaching lighting, there are some standard tactics you can begin with that are tried and true. From here you can deploy some creative freedom to tell your story. 

  • Three-Point Lighting - The Key Light, Fill Light, and Rim Light are the three points of light in this setup. The Key light is the main source of light. The Fill light is used to brighten the dark shadows a little, created by the Key light. The Rim light makes the object stand out from the background with a slither of light around the edge of the object.

    The three-point lighting setup can be adjusted to create the desired effect and style of lighting.
  • High Key Lighting - The High Key lighting style is brightly lit with soft lighting, minimal shadows, and low contrast. High-key lighting style is used to portray a joyful, cheerful mood.
  • Low Key Lighting - The Low Key lighting style emphasizes shadows, is high contrast, and uses dark tones. Low-key lighting style is used to create a mysterious, dark, and dramatic mood.

🍪 Brighten your lighting knowledge with the Fundamentals of Digital Lighting course by Jonathan Lampel


In Conclusion

In the Blender community, improving renders remains a popular question. 

By understanding the power of camera positioning combined with effective scene lighting. These elements, when adjusted, can bring out details and set the desired mood of the render.

Modern cameras with their auto-focus features might lead users to neglect Blender's camera settings. However, by diving deep into the software, you can understand the importance of camera position, composition, and Depth of Field (DoF) to achieve the best renders.

Different camera angles, from high to low, can communicate a spectrum of emotions, from vulnerability to power

Additionally, the art of composition in Blender is about arranging objects aesthetically within the frame, using tools like the Rule of Thirds, Golden Ratio, and Harmony Triangle. Depth of Field, or DoF, determines the clarity zone in an image and is influenced by various factors.

If you're looking to dive deeper into ways to improve your renders, take the courses by experts like Wayne Dixon and Jonathan Lampel offer deeper insights into mastering these areas within Blender. 


Adrian Bellworthy
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