Thoughts on Stock ‘Studio HDRI Maps’

Studio HDRI Maps

Here at Lightmap we believe passionately that each 3D render you create deserves hand crafted lighting. That’s why we don’t create and sell stock studio HDRI maps. In this article we explain why we feel like this.

Studio HDRI maps

We don’t think so, here’s why:

1. Dumbing down
Lighting is one of the most exciting stages in creating a 3D image. Lighting can make or break the quality of your final image. Carefully positioned lights and reflections will bring the form and materials of your scene to life. More importantly a badly placed reflection can ruin your image too. Learning to light properly one light at a time, whatever method used, is an essential skill for a 3D artist that will be used on every future project. Using stock HDRI maps does not teach you to light properly because you simply place a pre-made lighting setup.

2. Generic results
Your image won’t stand out from the crowd. The most useful stock studio HDRI maps are often the most generic and bland, allowing them to light most different types of scene. But they give your final image that standard studio lighting look.

3. Hit and miss
It’s such a random process. Testing out each HDRI map in turn and rotating it to try and get a good result is not an efficient or smart approach to lighting. You have taken so much care with the other parts of your scene, the modelling and materials, why try to shortcut the lighting?

4. More choice slows you down
The more HDRI maps you collect to give you a better choice of lighting environments – the longer it takes to randomly test them out and decide which to use. Soon your supposedly faster lighting process is actually taking a long time and you still can’t get the look you want.

5. Lack of control
You may quite like the lighting effect from your chosen studio HDRI map, but if you want to tweak it – you can’t. You can’t change the size, color or location of a single light. Not easily or interactively. It’s these adjustments that make the difference between a good or amazing image. Your only control with a stock HDRI map is to rotate it and change the brightness of the whole thing.

5. The costs add up
If you continue to buy sets of HDRI maps to get the different lighting looks you want. The costs add up over time, especially when considering you are investing in a method of lighting with all of the above limitations. If you use the same HDRI map over and over, it’s a good investment, but your images will start to look the same. If you have a large library, you will be paying for maps you maybe never use.

There is a better way…

Make Studio HDRI Maps

HDR Light Studio software provides a smarter approach to lighting your shots, with the advantages of HDRI maps – fast render times, easy to use and and photo-real results.

HDR Light Studio allows you to quickly and easily create your own HDRI maps – each light can be moved around the HDRI map, scaled, rotated in 3-axis, color changed, brightness changed… all interactively.

Our patented lighting interface allows lights and reflections to be positioned directly on the 3D model by dragging the light on the model to re-position it on the HDRI map, with live rendered feedback as you drag and discover the sweet spots for reflections. It’s like painting your models with light/reflections.

Lighting Ingredients

HDR Light Studio includes the finest ingredients to use in your HDRI maps. A large library of 4K HDR photographs of real studio light sources contain fine details and character that will add essential realism to your 3D renders. Or you can use the procedural lights for soft lighting effects.

Much more than studio lighting creation…
You can do so much more with HDR Light Studio than create studio lighting:

  • Control, augment and mix existing HDRI maps
  • Control the brightness of lights a HDRI map
  • Add new direct and indirect lights to a HDRI map
  • Use lights to adjust the color in regions of the HDRI map
  • Mix HDRI maps
  • Replace the sky with a procedural sky and add clouds
  • Create and control 3D lights/emitters in your 3D software mapped with HDR content

HDR Light Studio is a complete lighting solution that puts you in the driving seat as a lighting artist – allowing you to have fun exploring lighting treatments with instant feedback. Your investment in HDR Light Studio means you will always have the perfect HDRI map for every render – ensuring your work will always be viewed in it’s best light.

Try HDR Light Studio free for 15 days and experience the power of interactive HDRI map authoring (and more) for your 3D images – they deserve it!

Free Trial

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About Mark Segasby

Mark Segasby is the Co-Founder and CEO of Lightmap. His background as a first class product designer and visualization artist led to the development of HDR Light Studio lighting software in 2009. Since then he has been working with 3D artists and designers around the world, helping them light their shots faster and with more creative control. Because HDR Light Studio works with all leading 3D software and renderers, Mark has gained considerable knowledge and experience of the rendering industry, being up to date with all the latest developments through Lightmap’s partnerships with the companies in this field. He is on a mission to teach 3D artists the importance of lighting as a key ingredient in the success of their imagery.