To give you _some_ perspective:
- Dark has been rendering these things for at least 2 years;
- I've been in the business for about 3 months;
- Thunder has been doing the same for a little shorter than I have.
Here is the first picture I did.
Humble beginnings, huh?
I would not say there is a quick way to learn anything - there is little substitute for experience. Tips here and there can help, but can only go so far, as Thunder and I both know (Dark helped me out a bit, and I did the same for Thunder).
What I suggest is learning with
someone. It certainly helped with Thunder and I while we were learning (we are still
learning); it helps to have close feedback from someone on a similar level to you. If you catch my drift. If not... tell me
I have to say, however, that I do my pictures quite differently to everyone else. It's a primitive way, but it works for me.
People like Pez, Thunder and Dark tend to place all the models into a 3D scene, add lighting and effects, then render the scene; after this, post-production effects are added in a Photoshop equivalent (I hate that term). I do most of my work in EPI (an imaging engine written by my brother), rather than in the 3D suite.
I started by taking screenshots in ModelView32 and then making stars, then making nebula backdrops, and throwing them all together. I still do something remotely similar now, but on a much more efficient level - and that came from experience. No doubt most people are not that different in this respect.
I would have to say that you learn by doing. Explore. Try things out. Don't be afraid to screw things up. Because even if something works, you'll find out what doesn't work, and eventually, you'll find something that does. And that is where the enormous satisfaction comes from
In short, all you have to do is give it a go. Ask questions. But remember if you do pictures the way someone else does them, you won't have your own style, and, well - that's just not as satisfying. Hope that all helps.