I have always said it is important to have an awesome topic in mind before starting a new image, otherwise you may find an excuse to not finish.
One day I was in a market in the city where I live, Guadalajara, called San Juan de Dios. All of a sudden I stopped and noticed everything around me. I saw the colors, shapes, textures and at that moment I knew that this was the inspiration I had been searching for. I spent the following days looking for images of fruit markets from around the world. Armed with this information I started to set the foundations for my image, such as composition, elements, color temperature and exposure.
I started roughly sketching an image to get the overall feel and once I had established the composition and proportion I started working on the scene assets. At this point I decided to go with V-Ray due to the fact that I've seen some very good CG images that have been created with this engine. This was a big decision to make because I had been using mental ray over the past two to three years.
Once I started to classify the assets necessary for my image I felt overwhelmed by the challenge of generating them and populating the 3D scene. I tried to be careful and organized while generating the assets (Fig.01). I created a Max file for each final asset ("banana.max", "apple.max", etc.,) and then started to manually fill the fruit crates before being made aware of a big problem - realism! It just looked weird. After considering this for a while I remembered the "behind the scenes" features for the movie Ratatouille, where they ran into the same issue of the props looking unrealistic. Their solution was to let gravity do the job for them, similar to a real life situation.
I created a lot of instanced fruit geometry and using the RayFire plugin I controlled the dynamics of the fruit falling onto the crate (Fig.02 - 05). Once satisfied I collapsed the entire object (now a full crate of fruit) as a V-Ray proxy. This allowed me to easily handle a single object composed of thousands of polygons.