Overly Dark Render Problem in 3DS Max 2009

Posted Nov 21, 2008
Last Updated Sep 4, 2012

I was recently having problems with all renders done in 3ds Max 2009—all scenes came out too dark despite the fact that they looked fine in the render window. At first I assumed it was a problem with color profiles and Windows Color Management; after making numerous changes to the color management, the problem persisted.

After browsing the Internet, I found no solutions. Finally, I called Autodesk tech support. At first they too could not give me an answer. After a day they sent an email stating that I should make sure that the ambient light setting was set correctly. But I have been doing 3D for ten years, and the ambient light was set to my needs. I replied that this was not my solution—and since the render always looked fine in the preview window but then were dark in the final output file, I knew something else was wrong.

Finally tech support came back with a solution. I had to turn off the option for "Enable Gamma Correction”. It was an option I had never consciously seen or changed; perhaps I changed it while randomly playing with settings or one of my children made the change. I suspect it may have changed when I installed the 3ds Max 2009 Creativity Extensiona few months ago, since it seems to coincide with the time that my dark render problem appeared.

If you are having this same problem, simply click Customize > Preferences > Gamma and LUT and then make sure that the checkbox for "Enable Gamma/LUT Correction” is unchecked. Hopefully that will solve your problem like it solved mine.

Note that this will make the preview render match the output file brightness. You will probably have to add more lights to your scene or increase existing light intensity to make your preview/output brightness match the brightness of the previous "gamma corrected" previews.


Since posting this article, I have learned a lot about 3ds Max that I didn't know at the time. I generally keep Gamma and LUT enabled now if rendering for HDR with Mental Ray... but you can still run into problems depending on your setup. When using Gamma and LUT with Mental Ray, make sure to turn on the mr Photographic Exposure Control in the Exposure Control settings. When using the Logarithmic Exposure Control, turn off Gamma and LUT.


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Feb 25, 2019

Thanks!!! Still pertinent for 3ds Max 2018! :)


Nov 19, 2015

You are a life saver!!!!!!!!!!! I've been trying to figure out what was wrong for hours.


Mar 30, 2015



Jun 18, 2014

Wow thank you!! this really helped!


Sep 4, 2012

Thank Youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!

Shawn Olson

Sep 4, 2012

You are welcome. However, as noted at the end of the article, I now use Gamma and LUT generally. You have to make sure your input and output gamma settings are correct for your needs... and to properly adjust the viewport gamma spinner (which is dependent on your monitor). It still sometimes confuses me... but overall it's fairly straightforward. It's worth everyone's time to read up on the Max gamma settings.

Enis Çoban

Nov 11, 2011

Thank you much. You saved my days

Shawn Olson

Nov 12, 2011

You're welcome!


May 15, 2011

Thanks a ton, you really helped me out. What I did was change output gamma to match input gamma so you don't have to change any lighting and your saved frames look exactly as they do in the render viewport.

tralala tralaa

Oct 4, 2010

Problem with taking Gamma correction off, is that you get very washed out output.

Thomas Wadsworth

Mar 25, 2009

OMFG you are the man!!!!!!!!! for months now I have been putting my renders through photoshop and upping the levels etc and thus losing the quality due the stupid render output being so dark. I thankyou from the bottom of my heart that this has been solved. I may sleep better now.

owen harvey

Mar 20, 2009

This has been an issue i have been trying to figure out for a while now, as i am sure many other people are.Thanks for taking the time to put this on the net.

Thanks O

Craig Rutherford

May 21, 2010

Spot on! I was bashing my head against a Gamma wall!

Well done!
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