One poser alternative is Daz3D's Studio
. It may not pack all the bells and whistles, but the base version is priced right and is probably a bit easier to get into than blender.
The light cage site is interesting. The rendering quality is very basic, so it's not exactly realistic— Lights shine right through the head onto ears, for example. I suppose if you keep that in mind, you could even construct more complex light set-ups by taking screen captures from the site and layering them in photoshop with, say, the lighting mode. Any of these ideas is a better guideline than none, but lighting is a complex thing, with the interplay of light strength, distance, shape and softness all contributing to the way we perceive shapes in the real world. Anybody can take a picture, but good cinematographers and photographers know how to massage the light just so
. I guess what I'm saying is that while these are a good foundation, don't rely on them too much for expression at the expense of form.