General tips about lighting in 3dsmax
1.There are a lot of ways to light a scene. If you create just one light to illuminate your scene, for example a spot light, in this case this Light is called a key light(See figure 1 below). If you add another light to brighten the shadow areas, created by the key light, and the areas that are not lit by the key light, this light is usually called a fill light(See figure 2 below). If you add a light to make your object in the scene stand more out from the environment, by creating a light behind the objects ,that Light is called a rim or backlight (The backlight can’t be used to illuminate the objects inside the scene, it is just used to separate your objects from the background environment ) (See figure 3 below).Also, if you have all these light above the object in your scene, you can create another light under your object. That light is called a bouncing light which is a way to fake radiosity. (See figure 4 below)
2.In most of the cases the key light represents the sun, which a hot color like red and orange and almost all the times the fill light represents the sky which has a cold color like blue. In this case the key light and the fill light have different colors. This is called a complementary (Opposite) way in coloring your lights in your scene, which is the most common way in CG lighting. (See figure 5 below)
3. Be careful with the intensity of the lights. The key light has the most intensity and the fill light has in almost all cases, half of the intensity of the key light and the bounce light also has a bit lower value in intensity than the key light, but the back light is two times (or more) higher in intensity than the key light, why? Because this light as I mentioned before is not used to illuminate the scene but is used to make the edges (borders) of your objects brighter and to separate them from the background.
4.There is another note which is specific for 3ds max users as a tip , never use sky light and Light tracer for interior lighting but instead use radiosity. But you can use both radiosity and sky light for exterior lighting.
5.As a reference, the book by Nicholas Boughen , 3ds max Lighting contains fine points about analyzing Lighting in CG and in the real world and a lot more material covered.
That is why I suggest, that if you want to get into lighting, purchase that book.
Another reference is Internet, as usual there are forums to ask and discuss and hundreds of articles and tutorials.
The last reference is the old manual, maybe not everyone likes the manual but it is also another good resource which contains detailed information about any specific toolset of the program.
I forgot to tell you the best way to do lighting is to use your eyes and go out to take a look at that beautiful nature. This is the best of the best among all the references.
In theses images below you can see the effect of these lights For each concept I only added a spot light. See how lights changes the mood of your scene and how the lights make your viewers focus on a precise point in your scene. Now look at the back light, notice how the model is separated from the background and in the final image I just changed the color of the key and the fill light, I gave a hot color to the key and a cold one to the fill.
I will be happy if there are questions and additional ideas because without lights, the whole thing would be pure black, so why don’t we talk about Lighting?