So I got a real low dollar commission to do covers for a series of retirement guide books..The idea is each puzzle piece corresponding to the various books in the series, i.e. prescription drugs, SS Benefits etc..Anyhoo..I was going for photo-real...Did this in SU and Kerk..
You guys see anything I could touch up or have suggestions to make it cooler..I mean there is only so much one can do with this topic...
If you really wanted to push it into photo realism, there's a lot you can do...
you could use a higher res floor texture, also if you want photorealism, build a plank model,then copy it and give it different parts of the texture to build a floor with more depth. alternatively or additionally make a displacement map and use that... at the moment its all too obvious that its a texture on a plane with some bump mapping. if you use separate planks, then round the edges a little and offset each individual plank, so a corner on one might be a tiny amount higher than another. small inconsistencies help sell the image, too perfect and it looks fake even if its something thats not immediately obvious. and the puzzle peices seem gigantic. the sides of the peices themselves should probably have some more grain on the sides - some more texture.
also as a texture choice for this image, they aren't the prettiest, most photogenic bits of wood to use as a texture, doesn't help that its all bit underlit, making infact the entire image look a bit dull.
As for the lighting itself aside from the intensity, it looks like single light source and no bounced illumination or other light sources other than some ambient light. never use ambient light without ambient occlusion, If you can't use a skylight or something similar, make a lightdome out of a bunch of point lights to help soften the image.
btw, are you using inverse square falloff on that spotlight? you should apply this to all point lights, unless you are trying to simulate the sun over relatively short distances, like an AU or two... but in this case lets assume that inverse square is essential for all your point lights.
at the moment, shadows are rock solid, i know its a fairly intense spotlight but some fuzzyness to the shadow might help. you could try shadow mapped shadows, or my preference, an area light to soften it. also the falloff from the edge of the light is perhaps a little sharp.
Even if you can't use some of the newer innovations like GI, skylights or area shadows, there are always ways to fake the effects (which are fake anyway) with more simple means, multiple point lights and so on. you can use small pointlights to simulate colour bleeding for example, or a light dome as i mentioned earlier to simulate the effects of a skylight, or even HDRI.
post processing - there's no lens effects at all.. so no matter what other improvements you make, you're not simulating a real camera lens in any way. all real photos have some amount of grain, blur and bloom (the more subtle the better of course) and chromatic abberation and more, but those are the effects that i often add. again i cant stress enough that subtlety is the key, you should be barely able to see the effects if its meant to look like a nicely photographed image from a decent camera.
remember that the difference between clearly computer generated and 'photo realistic' is often a small one and difficult to pin point.. its a whole lot of tiny details that add up to make a big difference.