Image based lighting and my new camera. Wheeee!

I know, I know, this isn’t really too artsy, or heck, even fartsy, but I’ve been having so much fun with my new digital SLR camera that I had to share. Here’s some tests I’ve been doing with creating my own HDR (high dynamic range) images and using them to light scenes in Maya.

First I took a chrome Christmas ball outside and took some pictures of it. I took anywhere from 3 to 7 exposures of each picture in RAW format.


Then using Photoshop’s Merge To HDR function, I combined all the RAW images into one HDR image. HDR images have a much larger range of values and color information than a regular digital image. More information than is visible to the naked eye even. But a 3d program can see it, and use it!

Then I cropped out just the Xmas ball spheres. Having an image of an environment in this spherical format provides much more information than just a single flat frame.


Next I made a really simple scene in Maya to test the image based lighting with. Three basic primitive shapes sitting on a plane. Here’s what it looks like with just some generic lighting.

And here it is using the image above to light it. What a difference! 


Then I started swapping in some of the other hdr images I’d created.

Wow, what a change!  This is from indoor shots of our living room with just the Christmas tree lights and the TV turned on. Note the bright white reflection in the cube, coming from the backside of the sphere, which is getting it from the bright light from the TV.


Here’s a panorama photo of our living room that the image lighting was based on (click it for a bigger version).


Then I took this spherical photo of our living room with the normal room lights turned on.

And here’s a render of the same scene using that image for the lighting. 


Anyway, I’ll be incorporating more hdr image based lighting in my 3d work as I experiment with this more (and thanks to my buddy Josh W. for getting me excited about digital photography!)

Blog Comments

Very cool Bryan!!

Is it as easy as you make it sound? I think my favorite is the last with normal room light. Who would have thought that household incandescents could give such a rich spectrum. I wonder what nasty flourecents would give you?

I left out some steps, but it’s really fairly straightfoward.

As for the incandescent lighting, that’s not the only thing going on in that image. The warms are defintely coming from the light bulbs over head, but the cools are coming from the television, which I set the chrome ball right next to when I took the pictures. As well as the reflected/bounced light from the cool carpeting.

Another great thing about image based lighting is that your specular highlights aren’t just round, but are actually in the shape of the light sources.

That Josh W. sure is amazing.

This 3D stuff is so amazing. It’s way far over my head but I love reading about the process anyway. Thanks for taking the time to lay it all out Bryan.

Really interesting Bryan! I can’t wait to see more of this stuff 🙂 I see I missed a whole slew of cool posts too while adventuring in Canadia!

Hello, this is my first time on this website and i find it very interesting. But anywho i like this picture alot. You are very good. I am into photogrophy and hopefully i will be able to do this someday. But when i do i now know how so thank you.

I do love IBL! I have been using EXRs from Stitcher to do my Image Based Lighting. I have also been adding geometry to my IBL light maps. What 3d software do you use?

Hey Mark, yeah IBL is so very fun. I’ve been doing a lot more with it lately, I’ve got to post some of my new stuff. I use Maya for my 3d work, and Mental Ray for rendering. Although I’m going to be playing around with Renderman soon too, which should be fun.

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