That sure looks like one very uncomfortable chair. It would seem to want to rock side to side judging by the gap between the stand and the floor and if you sat in it you'd probably be on your butt before you knew it.
I been using PhotoRender for about 5 years continously and the only thing I really change from rendering to rendering is the lighting, the lighting is the toughest part to doing a great rendering.
If I use the room I use a white jpeg for the 3 walls and pick something nice for the floor 'cause I think the part or assembly should be shown in its natural environment.
If I'm having trouble rendering and assy w/ perspective so that the assy doesn't look like it's sitting on the floor I use a simple block that has the top, front & right sides removed using the shell command, that block is now my room and I map the textures I want to use on the walls and floor.
One last note, if you use transparency with Self Shadows the transparency will come out foggy so it's not adviseable to use.
If anyone has any question maybe I could help just email me.
I have found that getting a decent rendering is a matter of trial and error. Sometimes you get it right quickly, other times it can take me a day to get anything worth showing. I have found the lighting setup much much easier in Wildfire than in 2001. It makes it easier as you can see where the light is and where it is pointing.
I generally use white walls and put something nice on the floor.
Does anyone have any kind of 'standard lighting' setup or any helpful tips on lighting?
Chad, can you email me you color map & textures . By the way, your renderings look cool!
I agree that using white walls is usually not the best idea. I tend to use NASA space pictures or pictures of swimming pool water for my walls & ceiling as they usually create interesting reflections in the part. I have also used a picture of jelly beans to reflect in a chrome part that turned out pretty nice. You just have to get creative, try using google's image search for some interesting ideas. It takes some experimenting as different parts need different lighting & different reflections. It generally takes around a day to create a good quality rendering for me unless I am forced to create new textures, that can eat up a day or so as well spent scanning materials, searching for pictures, creating alpha channels...etc. Hope all this helps!
I have not had much luck with PhotoRender either. I get tired of the Box. I typically export out STL files into my 3D Studio Max program. You can do a lot more with this program than PhotoRender. What's nice is that you can export an entire assembly out as an STL file, then import them individually into Max with out having to reassemble it.
I have found that decals are tricky, subject to your lighting. Are you using the .TX3 format? sometimes this helps.
As for lighting resources I can recommend www.3drender.com there are some tutorials for using 3 point lighting as well as adding color to lights. I usually use 3 point lighting, occasionally omitting the backlight. The book Digital Lighting & Rendering by Jeremy Birn is excellent.
Number one tip for rendering : Turn off all ambient (default) and directional lighting and add spotlights one-by-one for the desired effect