How to light a scene with 1 V-Ray light with HDRI | Cg Blog

A perfect light for exteriors

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The big difference between interior and exterior renders is the light: precisely the way as the light is spreaded in the scene.

In interior renders the light decay is clear, this is why interior renders have more shades and they look nicer than exteriors.

In a different way the exteriors are often lighted by the sun, this light condition is simpler but the problem is the flat lighting. Sun light does not decay so everything appear flatter.

But there’s a solution! The way to achieve a rich light, with a lots of shades is HDRI.

HDRI is the easiest way to light a scene getting a perfect light, HDRI is perfect to accord:

  • Sun and Sky light
  • Environment reflections
  • Background image

With HDRI you don’t need to tune more parameters in order to according all these  features because it’s all embedded in the HDRI file. You just need 1 light!

– Use only good HDRIs: : I love Peter Gutrie Hdri!

(I bought many hdri from Peter: I’m so satisfied)

He created big and awesome HDRIs. In this video I will use one of its files to give you an example of the HDRI power:

If you want to buy great and economic HDRIs:


WARNING: Do you get a unreal proportioned backgrounds? You are probably using low/bad quality HDRI maps.

/ Also Learn Corona Renderer

54 Responses

  1. Rostyk says:

    Nice trick but i recomend use direct light or vraysun for more shadows aslo.
    And nice fast and ease way to setup light rig is

  2. samitha says:

    I was waiting to have a tutorial like this. I have no words to express my happiness. You are a great friend. Thank you very much sani…..

  3. saeid says:

    hi, ciro

  4. Huynh says:

    Thanks for putting the video together. It was very interesting to watch.

  5. Great tut! It’s such a simple workflow with fast credible results.

  6. Ciro Sannino - Auth says:

    Hi Rostyk!

    You are right, but it always depend on what you want to get.

    If the sun is not totally clear, if the sun is a little bit hidden by some cloud so the light will be exactly what the HDRI is creating in my render example.

    You dont need any Sun light… because the sun is embedded into the Hdri.
    Of course this works ONLY if you use a really high quality HDRI.
    (like peter guthrie sell..)

    • alex says:

      I have a problem with this tutorial. When I put a hdri as lights in the dome, effectively illuminates the scene with his influence, but I get the image as background, despite having another map (sky type) as background in the enviroment.
      Do you know why this happens to me?

      • Ciro Sannino - Auth says:

        The beauty of IBL (this system) is keeping all parfectly matching: light, reflections, background. Anyway you can turn the vraylight as invisible if you want to replace the background..

  7. Daniel says:

    The HDRIs from Dosch Design are good too. But those from Peter Gutrie are the best i’ve ever seen.Thx for the great tutorial!

  8. peprgb says:

    Muy bien explicado, Gracias Ciro!!

  9. pankaj says:

    hi ciro… i dosent seen anybody like u….. u are great frd… truly….

  10. shadab says:

    thanks this is great stuff

  11. PRIO says:

    excuse me … mf disturbing moment,
    how are you all, I am just learning to render …
    Would would you teach me about HDRI, and May I ask her HDRI files … please help yes yes masters
    Baca secara fonetik

  12. 26 says:

    Maybe older version of Vray only allow Bitmap to control HDRI, but recent version, I think people should use VrayHDRI (map template) instead of 3ds max standard bitmap. It designed for HDRI and well integrated to Vray.

  13. Ciro Sannino - Auth says:

    Dear 26,
    You are understimating how much memory you can save in this way


    • 26 says:

      Oh, really? I didn’t know that and you didn’t mention in article. Yeah, thanks for tips. I’ll use it ‘coz it save ram. But do you serious or it’s 1st Arp answer? (check again :P)

  14. santosh jain says:

    awesome i will very helpfull

  15. Adaji says:

    Awesome!You are the best tutor anytime any day.Words can never express the joy I have each time I read your tutorials.Thumbs up for you.

  16. qasam says:

    nice and thanx but can i get hdri files and where is rendering setting

  17. Thierry says:

    Nice tutorial, but with my Max2011 and Vray 2 i dont have your “open Exr 1.2” windows.
    I have only a window “open exr confguration” without “real pixel float rgb” option.

    There is un plug in ?

    thank you for your support.


  18. Bruno says:

    Hi Ciro!

    This is a great tutorial, but still could not get the settings right. I do not have open exr plugin though. When I put the HDRI in the scene, the light is extremely strong with a multiply 1, even adjusting the camera to a real daylight situation.

    Do you know what might have gone wrong? How can i install the open exr plugin?

    Thank you

  19. evaristo says:

    hello Ciro!
    your tutorial are very good…sou agradecido e gostaria de estudar mais o V-Ray, parabens…Evaristo

  20. atmaram mankar says:

    Hi, i am atmaram here i like to u r video hdr tutorial, again i want vray 1.5 gold ,copper silver and more metal tutorial.

    Thanking you,

    yours truly,

    Atmaram mankar

  21. Balaji says:

    hello dude, recently m workin on walkthroughs… I faced prblm to adjust d correct settings for rendering in vray… I adjust d settings but it takes too much time…. Plz help me… Thnx

  22. Balaji says:

    hi sir… I got the right place here ofcourse of you… Thnx a lot…

  23. ZAKU says:

    Hi CIro,

    Just got a quick question for you.
    I was trying to do this trick in 3Ds max 2012, but when I open my .exr files, there is no OpenEXR configuration window pop up. Is there any setting that I need to do before I bitmap my exr file?


    • Ciro Sannino - Auth says:

      Hi ZAKU!
      Honestly I never use the last versione… I hate to do that lol
      I don’t know what happens with 2012 but i think in this case is better to use hdr format (not exr)… Peter Gutrie recentyl updated its files on 3doncean. Good luck! 😉

  24. Moncho says:

    Hi Ciro, I was trying to follow your tutorial, but It does not work for me. I am using 3d Max 2009 and Vray DEMO 1.5 sp2. Would you mind helping me with this? Basically it get dark and that´s it. I try with diferents multiplirt values but nothing change. And the sky keep black.
    Thank you very much in advance and congrats for your site !


  25. sunnny says:

    hi ciro i am beigner in v ray plz help me for best render setting for clr image

  26. rooha says:

    thanks a lot

  27. Amal says:

    Thankx for u ciro u are very nice man

  28. Hamed Hosseinzade says:

    what is OpenEXR in this photo?
    I haven’t this window in my pc,if it’s a plugin please give it’s download link

    • Ciro Sannino - Auth says:

      It’s a way to save memory. In any case you can donwload this maps using HDR format, it’s better.

  29. Alexandr.English says:

    What about vray settings? Can U show it?

  30. hamdan mat talip says:

    Hi Ciro..

    first of all, i would like to thank you…this is very truly great lesson ever.. even for rendering fast too, since this tutor help me very@ a lot.-lot.

    By the way i tried to apply vraysun and vraylight together due to have a soft shadow in sunny day as similar setting by mr. Peter Gutrie preset given. My question it’s correct or possible to use both vraysun & vraylight inside the scene?


    • Ciro Sannino - Auth says:

      Hi Hamdan,
      basically you can do as you want. Of course if you have a cloudy hdri and you add a soft vraysun they will work fine! But don’t add HDRI + vraySKy to avoid overlighitng from the environment.

  31. hamdan mat talip says:


    thank you for your advise..i noted.

  32. Dario Tonzuso says:

    Hi it possible to see the camera settings?

  33. LuisCorrea says:

    i think any question is not stupid, it is better to ask , so, here´s my little question

    to achieve nice shadows like a vraysun, or a real world shadows look like, when we use hdri + vraysun, we don´t have to say no to add vraysky environment, am i right?

    • Ciro Sannino - Auth says:

      Hi Luis,
      without using tricks, just looking at the REAL WORD: you get sharpen shadows if you have a clear sun. If you want this just use V-Ray Sun! If you use HDRI it is supposed you’re gettin clouds, sun through the clouds.. in this cases the shadows just depends on you hdri => Different Hdris create different shadows. Of course you’re free to mix vray sun, hdris, using tricks etc etc… I was just answer you considering the REAL WORLD.

  34. Huzefa Mehdi says:

    This is great.
    Pls. send me exterior day & night scene lighting , rendering settings.

  35. mahdi says:

    Hi ciro.
    that is great.
    thank you.

  36. ajay says:

    its really good thanx a lot

    greetings 🙂

  37. Thanos says:

    Hello, i have a question about Resolution and Adaptiveness under the use texture option in dome light. I changed the resolution and nothing changed, so i guess hdri is not affected by that value? I changed adaptiveness from 1.0 to 0.1 and gave me a very dark noisy result. Supposignly it would give me better result if i lower the adapt right? Any thoughts on that? thank you very much!

    • Ciro Sannino - Auth says:

      Hi Thanos,
      IBL (image based lighting) works perfectly with defaut values… so no need to change it 😉

  38. Omid.p says:

    great work, i love it.

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