How to Create HDRI Images

How to Create HDRI Images

Creating HDRI (High Dynamic Range Imaging) images involves capturing a wide range of light values to produce a more realistic and immersive lighting environment. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to create HDRI images:

Step 1: Equipment and Setup

  • Camera: Use a digital camera with manual settings and the ability to shoot in RAW format. A DSLR camera is recommended for its versatility.
  • Tripod: Use a sturdy tripod to ensure stability during the shooting process.
  • Remote Shutter Release: A remote shutter release or timer function will prevent camera shake.
  • Location: Choose a scene or environment with interesting lighting conditions. It could be indoors or outdoors, but ensure a wide range of light values.

Step 2: Camera Settings

  • Set the camera to Manual mode (M).
  • ISO: Use the lowest ISO setting (e.g., ISO 100) for optimal image quality.
  • Aperture: Choose a small aperture (e.g., f/11 or higher) to maximize depth of field and sharpness.
  • White Balance: Set the white balance to either Auto or a custom white balance based on the lighting conditions.
  • Focus: Switch to manual focus mode and focus on a specific subject or area. Lock the focus to prevent any changes during the shooting process.
  • RAW Format: Set the camera to capture images in RAW format for maximum flexibility in post-processing.

Step 3: Composition

  • Frame your shot carefully, considering the overall composition and the lighting conditions you want to capture.
  • Include a wide range of light values in the scene, such as bright highlights and deep shadows. This will contribute to the dynamic range of the resulting HDRI image.

Step 4: Bracketed Shots

  • Take a series of bracketed shots with different exposures to capture the full range of light values in the scene.
  • Start by taking a properly exposed shot based on your camera’s light meter reading.
  • Use exposure compensation to capture additional shots with different exposure settings. Take shots at varying increments, typically around 1-2 stops apart.
  • Make sure to maintain consistent composition and camera settings throughout the bracketed shots.

Step 5: Image Processing

  • Transfer the captured images to your computer and import them into image processing software.
  • HDR Software: Use specialized HDR software like Adobe Photoshop, Photomatix, or Aurora HDR to merge the bracketed shots into an HDR image.
  • Follow the instructions of your chosen software to merge the images, align them, and adjust the tonal range and color balance.
  • Tone Mapping: After merging the images, apply tone mapping to compress the high dynamic range into a displayable format. Experiment with various settings to achieve the desired look.
  • Post-processing: Once the tone-mapped image is generated, you can further refine it in an image editing software like Adobe Photoshop. Adjust the exposure, contrast, color balance, and other parameters to enhance the image’s quality and appearance.

Step 6: Saving as HDRI

  • Save the final processed image as an HDRI file format, such as OpenEXR (.exr) or Radiance (.hdr).
  • These formats retain the extended dynamic range and allow for further adjustments and use in 3D rendering or lighting software.


  1. Use a remote shutter release or timer function to minimize camera shake.
  2. Shoot in RAW format to capture the maximum amount of image data.
  3. Experiment with different compositions and lighting conditions to capture unique and interesting HDRI images.
  4. Avoid overexposure in the brightest areas of the scene to prevent loss of detail.
  5. Use a lens hood to minimize lens flares and unwanted reflections.
  6. Take multiple sets of bracketed shots to ensure you have enough options during the post-processing stage.

Remember that creating high-quality HDRI images can take practice and experimentation. With time and experience, you will develop your own techniques and preferences for capturing stunning HDRI environments.