Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Making your own spherical HDRI's, the cheap way.

I assume that you must have thought at least once in your brief existence: damn this environment could be really awesome for rendering purposes! Not? Well, I did.

Read further to see a quick 'n dirty rundown on how to do this.

This is what you need:
  • Android phone
  • Robot View
  • A normal camera
  • A nice location
  • Photoshop~ish program
  • A render program which uses spherical HDR's for lighting (duh)

1) First, make a spherical image (Let's call it "pano" for now) using robotview, stitch it inside this program (takes a while, some bugs are present. It's still in development...) and send it to your pc (share > dropbox for example).

2) And don't forget to make your own backplates with your normal camera. The place where you took the pano should be visible.

3) Your pano can look like this:

Export the pano to photoshop and apply any corrections, filters, etc. whatever you want (auto color was in this case very useful, it made the snow more white).

4) For HDR you actually need 3 pictures: low, normal and high contrast.
To fake this, make a low and high contrast from the original picture, by doing this:
Image>adjustments>Exposure (PS)


5) Combine these pictures to a HDR: File>automate>Merge to HDR (pro)

When they ask for "manually set EV" give the normal picture an exposure time (like 1/60th), the light-version a higher exposure time (1/30th for example) and do the same for the darker version (e.g. an exposure time of 1/125th).

6) Setting it as a 32bit file, you can enable "remove ghost". Sometimes it improves the picture.

7) Now you have your own HDR.

8) Import the HDR file to your favourite render program and have fun!

Camaro RV
Good luck!


  1. Nice! But my question remains: is it possible to make your own HDRs without the use of Photoshop?
    And is Photoshop Pro obligatory, because you mentioned it specifically in step 5...

    I sure hope it's not.

  2. Hi Elian,

    Photoshop, or any other high-end photo editing program, is needed if you want to make these HDRs.

    Photoshop pro doesn't exist, Photoshop extended does. However, you don't need the extended version. The feature itself is simply called "merge to HDR Pro" It could be that this features can only be found in CS5.

  3. I did a little research, and it seems that HDR is possible since CS2. NOw, I mostly use Paint.NET. It can do all basics that PS can, but it cannot create HDRs by itself. However, I just found out that that is why people make plug-ins... If I can get the download of it, I have a free HDR converter!

    Ow yeah...