Creating Realistic Lighting Using Your Own HDRI's | Patrick Foley | Skillshare

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Creating Realistic Lighting Using Your Own HDRI's

teacher avatar Patrick Foley, 3D Artist

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Capturing Your Image: Part 1


    • 3.

      Capturing Your Image: Part 2


    • 4.

      Prepping HDRI For Cinema 4D


    • 5.

      Applying / Manipulating HDRI


    • 6.

      Post Editing (Photoshop)


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About This Class

In this class, you'll learn how to create photorealistic lighting for your renders by taking your own panoramic photos using nothing but your phone. 

You'll learn why certain HDRI's work better than others in certain situations along with how to prep them for cinema 4d. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Patrick Foley

3D Artist


Hello, I'm Patrick. Many know me as Patrick4d. I've been creating photorealistic abstract renders in Cinema4d and Photoshop for awhile now and was overwhelmed at the support and buzz surrounding my social media. My work has been featured by Adobe, Photoshop, The Motion Designers Community,  and more.

So as a thank you, I've decided to share some of my knowledge. I will be releasing a new class every other month so hit the follow button and jump aboard!

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Level: Intermediate

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1. Intro: What's going on guys? This is Patrick again. Thanks a lot for tuning in. We've got a really cool class for you today. I noticed a lot of you guys have been hitting me up about not being able to get you renders looking really realistic or what to do about making realistic shadows. So I'm going to show you exactly how I do that. Making my own HDRI images using literally nothing but my phone to take 360 degree panoramic photos and wrap them around my project. So we're going to be going over that. We'll need Cinema 4D and Photoshop just for coloring a little bit. I'm going to show you exactly what makes a good HDRI, what makes it bad, or what makes it better for certain circumstances, but we'll be going through a lot. So let's jump into it. Let's start taking some photos. 2. Capturing Your Image: Part 1: All right guys. We're here in this parking garage, fifth floor. I wanted to use this one for an example because as you'll see, there's a lot of natural light coming in from here and over here. But if you'll notice behind over there, there's almost no natural light coming in and that will act more towards contrasts and creating nice shadows from this side because it's technically the same thing as putting a light source over here. Having an object right here, it would create a nice shadow going this way. If you want some really nice shadowing, you're going to want images with one shield light on one side and maybe a little less on the other side. Because if you get light from all directions, we all know that that creates for a really flat image and that's not always what we want. We're going to take our phone here and go to the panoramic feature, if you're using an iPhone. I'll just start right here. Go around, you get the camera guy right in this one and then stops. So we're getting like a 360 degree image when it's wrapped around, it's actually it wasn't 360 degrees, but it really doesn't matter because it's going to look realistic either way when being reflected from the objects. When we wrap this around, the dome that we create, you'll see that it's not only going to reflect properly, but it's also going to emit light from the light parts of the image, which creates for the really nice shadows because we have light coming from one side and darkness coming from the other side were darker. Let's go to the next location. 3. Capturing Your Image: Part 2: Hi, guys. So we're on the second location now. It's actually one floor above where we were last time. You'll notice now that we got lighting coming from all directions, natural light. We have the sun pretty much on top of us, and it's not necessarily bad. In fact, it's still going to give us really realistic lighting. The only difference is probably going to be one, what it's reflecting and two, the harshness of the shadows we're going to get. So if you're looking for something really harsh and a lot of outstanding shadows, the last location is probably what you're going to want to go more towards because we had lighting coming from a clear one direction. But this one we got all directions and I'll show you again in post the differences from what it'll look like in the same scene. So, I'll show you exactly what that here will look like and I'll show you what this will look like. But, these are just a couple of the ones that you can take. You can just imagine any location you can find with really cool architecture. It'll make really cool reflections in your objects. Yes, and this is the second one. Let's go back in and apply these. 4. Prepping HDRI For Cinema 4D: All right, guys. So we're here in Photoshop. This is the photo editing program I use the most. You can probably find a bunch of free ones if you don't. You can even probably use iPhoto for same stuff like this, just to do basic coloring that we're about to do. But as you can see here, oh, yeah shout out to my boy Brian, Brian [inaudible] , who's the one filming me earlier he gotten the shot. He was also generous enough to let me use his lavalier mics, which allowed me to sound much better and it was much easier to understand me out there instead of my last video where I didn't really have a mic so we're just relying on the camera audio. So appreciate you man. So if you look at this picture here this is exactly what I was talking about. It's a little easier to explain here because if you notice there is a clear dark half of the picture, and there's a clear bright half. What I was kind of equating that to, was literally setting one light up on one side of an object and not really having that much light on the other side. Because once you wrap this around, which we'll do in the next segment or so, the objects being placed in this atmosphere obviously would have shadows similarly to this car, which you see, is giving a harsh shadow here because of the lighting source is right here and all these other cars here giving off shadows. As you see because there's no light source coming from this direction, there's not really any shadows coming from these cars over here. So again, it's really all about how you guys want your objects in the project to look and what kind of shadowing, what kind of lighting, and what they're reflecting. Another thing I want to go through before actually editing this photo was just color. This one actually looks really good. I'm not going to have to change too much because it already looks pretty white balanced. Nothing looks way too cool or way too warm. What I mean by that is if I go to Filter, Camera Raw and I start messing with the colors here. So you'll see here, you have the temperature settings here. A lot of times if you're camera is in white balance correctly, it'll look a little too warm or it'll look a little too cool like this. Especially during the day, a lot of times it'll look like this. But we're fortunate enough to have it pretty even, so I'm not really even going to mess with that. It's important to change these settings now before playing into cinema 4D. Because then you're not really going to have accurate lighting because what we really want to do is make everything even when making our project in cinema 4D and then later coming back and having all the freedom to adjust these settings once the final render is out. So this looks good here, I might just brighten up this little bit by pushing the blacks. Again, it's all how you want this to look. So we're getting a little more information out here just by going like this, which again we'll probably take down the shadows, it's a little bit, but it's also brightening this part as well. So I might just go in the middle or something. Again, you'll really see this stuff once I start applying these in cinema. But I'd say this looks good for me. I'm not going to mess with the color. Everything looks pretty flat and pretty even so I'm good with that. So I'll click "Okay", and you can save this, how it is, save this in a folder that you'll use once you're picking your HDR in cinema. So this one is good. Onto the next one again, you'll be able to see that unlike this one where there is a light and a dark side. If you'll notice again, there's light coming from all directions now, every part of this image is bright, which is useful in many instances, sometimes it isn't. If you want these really harsh contrast in shadows coming from the objects. But there is still some contrast in this image, because you just see where the sun was closest to, it is definitely brighter around here than here. So it's still going to give you not really that flat of an image, a flatter image maybe. But I guess I'm using flat as a negative term. I would say more even because either way, putting an object in this atmosphere is not going to create a bad looking image because it still has really mixed up values, it's got some yellow here, it's got some different shades here, darker hue blue. Once we actually put objects in this atmosphere, it's going to reflect these things just as nicely as before. It's always helpful, again, I was using my phone. But if you guys are fortunate to have a DSLR or anything like that, that can handle more of these light values that you can push the colors more. It's always nice to have a moderately unedited image like this. So it's not really saturated, not really colored or anything, not stylized, but also captures the full sky. We're getting a little bit of clipping here, it's a little hot here with the clouds losing some information, but that will be totally fine for using in cinema. But images where the whole sky is white, that's usually not preferable. Sometimes it'll just look like clouds when reflecting from the image, but for this it looks pretty fine and we're just going to check to make sure. Again, this one looks cool too, because it doesn't look way too warm or way too cold. I'm pretty happy with this. Sometimes I like to press the highlights down to see if we can recover any information here. It looks like we can, guess I'll keep that a little bit. I don't want it to look too cartoonistic or whatever you call it, by removing too much information from the clouds. But something like that might be cool. We definitely don't want something like this 'cause that's starting to look really stylized, and we want something to look really natural, and it looked like we just took it out of the camera. So something like this push the Blacks in a little bit maybe. But this looks pretty good. I'm happy with this. So we can close this out and you can save this. So both of these images are currently ready for Cinema 4D and we'll start working with these in the next section. 5. Applying / Manipulating HDRI: I guess so we're here in cinema 4-D and we've got a blank template here, and again with this class, I'm not going to go over everything start to finish. I'm just going to try to get us to a good point so we can see the different applications of these HDRIs that we took. So I'm just going to make a floor, start off there, scale up a little bit and make a camera, up in the render view. Make sure we're all set in both view-ports and so what I'm going to do is change the focal length to telephoto 135 millimeter. We get most of the floor on here because I really just want to get a good feel of how the shadows and the materials are reacting to the HDRI. I'm going to create just a sphere, classic and make sure we're on top of this thing here. A matter of fact, we can actually move the floor down. There we go, so it's sitting on their nicely. When I intersect the segments up to like 40 maybe. Let's see where we're at here. Scale this up a little bit, just getting a good position. Again, actually it doesn't matter for this purpose whether anything falls off here. Because again, for the sake of this class, I'm just looking for the shadowing and the reflections of the materials. What I'm going to do is create a dome which will be the HDRI wraparound, so we're around this whole thing here. We've wrapped around, far above the camera? We created a dome, much like I do in the other classes. I'm going to make a material that I created here and apply it to the dome and make sure I check on ambient occlusion and global elimination here. The render site settings were on the physical here and again, make sure in the physical channel were set to progressive, so you can see a fast render and set all these values to like two, and some scattering we can take time to zero, actually because I don't think we're going to use that now. Global elimination, all these settings, take the sample custom, I make it 20. When I want to get a fast result before I actually start bumping these out. you'll see that when I pop out my interactive render region here by clicking option "R". It's black because we haven't assigned any excess external light. With this material painted on the dome were going to kill the color and the reflectance. We just have this black dome around everything, and we're going to check on the luminance channel, and now we got light coming from all directions, so it looks pretty flat. What we're going to do is take this texture, load image and go to HDRIs and here we got the image, the first image that we got and we can take a look at how this looks. So let's just bump this in and remember when you're exporting, I guess I should have said this back then, but make sure when you're exploiting these images, you're not compromising the resolution because, it's always the more information we have for these purposes the better. So mine is like 8,000 by 1,000 pixels, which is a pretty big images panorama. I'm going to open this and see what we got. Already we're getting a turn of, you can see lighting come from this side, completely dark on this side. What I want to do is actually hop out of here, so I can see what's going on here and I'm just going to rotate the dome. You can see as I rotate, I'm literally changing the, the light source. If I want the light or the light to come from this direction, and you see this cuts here, which is totally fine because it's not when we're going to be zoomed in, in the camera. You're not really going to be able to tell what's going on, which will be totally fine and more specifically, if we were to change the angle for this class, it doesn't matter, but make it so you kind of hide that stuff. There's other ways to get around making a full 360 degree image that I can go over in a later class. But for this, this looks nice, and we're getting, you see, it looks nice but it's looking a little dark. We're getting some splotches, which is perfectly normal with the settings we have. We have a really low sample count. You'll see if I go to ten samples, it gets even worse. Much much splashiness. If you've got a five, worse one. It's all pretty much the same ballpark, but what if we were to take this to like a 100, we are getting rid of that, a lot of those samples and we would like to 200, that's way too much, 200 we're almost completely getting rid of a lot of these slashes. So any of you guys who are submitting projects to me that had a lot of this splotches. A lot of us do with this value along with if you were to set like plain lights up going to this elimination tab and clicking GI area light. So that helps eliminate some of that as well. But we're going to go back to 20 for now just so we can get a faster render and I think I want to bump up the brightness of this HDRI as well, so what I'm going to do is go to this material, the HDRI and notice you've got the brightness here, but you can go as far up as you want. But notice that I went much higher and it stays completely the same. That is simply because you have to change the mixed mode to something like multiply. So now we're getting something much brighter, obviously way too bright. I want to start with maybe 120. It starts looking better and this really has something to do with how dark or how bright you want your actual render. If we were to apply the material to the sphere and let's give it a reflectance flexion legacy. So you'll see right after that, you see how realistic all these reflections are, simply because we're using an image that we already made using our phone really, and notice that this guy's head's getting cut off, so a lot of times this is the camera I got right here. A lot of the times your default setting when you place this HDRI is a little too cropped low, so if you jump out of the camera and you going to just feel it out, so obviously this is not realistic at all. So we're just going to move this up to something like this, where it's going to give us a much more realistic feel. This looks like much more of something we would see rather than ambient we cropped down. Again, it all has to do with a strategically taking your photos, and depending on how specific you want to be, 99 percent of the people won't even, you know, won't want even pay attention to that as long as we got something that looks like it's given realistic reflections, it'll be fine. Not to mention all of the other stuff we might do to this thing like adding some bumps to where you can't even tell what reflection is going on. Like our reference being a magician last time, a lot of this stuff really doesn't have to be as crazy as it seems. You just got to make it look realistic to the general public. So even something like that looks really cool with just a subtle bump. Now we're getting, you'd never be able to tell the difference between whether we used a phone or a crazy DSLR panoramic, 100 percent realistic image, 360 degree image. Because remember this is not even 360 degrees. This is like 180 I think. Technically we're not even going the full way. I was just showing you how to take like 180 degree image. But for everything and I do, and everything that I've learned by myself doing this. This, gets me a great image that I'm happy with. 90 percent of the people. I think it looks realistic and that's really all it's about, not to mention doing more things like adding depth of field, checking that on. Because we have a telephoto lens on, checking this thing, the f-stop but not to like maybe 0.6. Everything's going to be blurry now. Setting the focus, maybe like right here. Again, we're getting a crystal sharp focus right here and in the back we're getting blurs. We haven't even messed with floor textures. We haven't done anything in the floor. Again, we're going to splash in this because of the samples that we have. But you can imagine actually texturing these things using another class we already went over how to create your own textures using those elements mixed with how to take your HDRI, mixture, the render settings with the other class. You know, we're starting to be able to make these full projects fully self-sufficient and not having to rely on other people's works or anything, which is always a good thing. We've only spent a couple of minutes here trying to create something. Even as something as simple as a marble, you can see the reflections we got already going. I just want to show you the difference between maybe this HDRI and the other one. Let's go make another material for the other HDRI. Matter of fact, I'm actually going to copy duplicate this one right here. I'm going to drag this on as well. Instead let's take this down to 100 again. Because we definitely don't want it to be too, take this up real quick. We definitely don't want it to be too bright with this next image. This next image we choose, let's go load image. Should be this one. Yeah, outside on the rooftop. Let's see what it does. Right after that, we're getting some way different. Notice there's not a crazy shadowing cone from any direction. That's literally what I was talking about. Making those last videos. Because, you know, we're still getting realistic elements, were getting realistic lighting, realistic reflections. But we're just not getting as much contrast and some of that stuff will be, the shadows will come from other elements you have in the scene. Or some of that stuff will be through the textures you put on your floor. Or, there're so many different variables that you have to think about. For some people, this is great and remember, because you notice this image looks pretty flat and doesn't look too cool, doesn't look too warm, it's pretty neutral. This is exactly what we want when making these images and cinema 4D, because once we bump them out, we have the freedom to do them later on in Photoshop. That's, remember when we were editing the colors, making sure everything was pretty flat neutral before putting them into sine of 40, that's what you want before. Again, taking him back into Photoshop once we've rendered this image and being able to manipulate those colors the right way. This is a little bit, look at the last, let's zoom in here. This is the last HDRI we took. Let's change this. I've stopped to one again. Maybe the focus distance here, 0.011. Again, we're, we're still getting like a blurry image because we haven't, this is just the pre-render. Let's see, we got here. We get again, even though we're using this image that has lighting from all directions, this still has potential. It'll actually look photorealistic, hyper-realistic after post. Again, it has everything to do with completing the actual render, so the floor textures, it's the lighting we got. The length is, a huge part of it, I would say it's at least 50 percent, maybe more. Photoshop to me, takes an 80 percent image to a 100 percent easily, realistic wise. I've gone over how to edit photos as well in Cinema 4D and maybe I will attach this video. But I think for the most part, you get the idea. We've made two HDRI's, one with a lot of contrast like before. We go back to this one, one we made with a much less contrasty looking photo. This is the image we got right now. Actually this is with the brightness only set to a 100. I'm really happy with this as far as the lighting goes, because we can see the clear reflections, especially with the bumps. It looks realistic to me. Again, we haven't changed the splotchiness, we got up the field. We haven't even messed with the the floor really. But I guess I can actually have a another part here. I'm just going to increase the size of this. I'm not even going to texture the floor. This is mostly on just the lighting of this thing. The only thing I'll do the floor maybe is take this down and add reflection to it or something with a little bit of roughness. Maybe this will be good enough. Something like this. I'll literally, let me take the f-stop to like 1.4. I'm really not going to do anything else to this other than just bump it out. I'll show you how I can I guess bring this fully to life. Again for this class, I'm not going to go crazy because I'm going to say some stuff for other classes. But just as far as the lighting goes, this is looks like a great image already. Just by using a texture that we are, just by using the HDRI that we made in two seconds by going outside. I'm just gonna change the settings here, going from 4-4 or 2, all two values to four. Taken this to fixed, taking it to medium, I actually like this at five and go into the global eliminations, take us a lake, one because it's simple let's take it to 150. That should be good. Now let's take this to 1080 by 1080 and I'm happy with this. Again, we're only using one sphere, one simple sphere. It's your choice whether you want to take the same texture, put it on a bunch of these spheres and make them look like marbles on the ground. But for this class, I'm just going to keep it simple and I'm going to render this out like it is. Let's see how that looks. Again, because this is fairly simple, it shouldn't take too long. 6. Post Editing (Photoshop): So we've got this finished image here, and again, I didn't texture the floor and put in a little bit of roughness on here. So the point was not to make this extravagant scene here with a bunch of realistic elements. It was just to get the lighting, I want a somewhat realistic texture. I'm might've gone a little too hard with the bump, but nevertheless, you get the idea. We'll bring this to life a little bit more in Photoshop. So, we're going to save as a 16-Bit TIFF, and we're going to click okay, and just save this as, I don't know, tutorial tiff hdri. We're going to Photoshop here like we had and we're going take this image, drag it. We're going to duplicate the layer as always by clicking command J, so we can edit non-destructively. I don't like editing on the main background layer and convert this for smart filters. So we can always go back and edit these settings later. But because it's 16-Bit TIFF, it has more information that we can bend the colors how we want without it distorting as much. First thing I was like doing, let's just drag the blacks up here and let's see. Let's try drag in some contrast back into this thing. Taken some grain in the effect's tab. I always like some photorealistic grain. What I was saying before with the temperatures, this is where you can start editing how you want your photo to look. You don't want to already have this edited, because if this was all orange like that, then you're stuck with this orange tinted image already. So then you've got to play with the colors as if it's already colored a certain way. So you want this like nice even image to start with. I might take this here a little bit add some green and go to the split toning, add some red, and add some highlights and take this up to maybe here. Tone it down a bit, we don't need as much red, maybe not as much green even. Take this back. In fact, I don't even think we need that much red at all. [inaudible] We're starting to get somewhere here. I do want a little bit of green highlights and I'm going to boost this up a little bit. But you can see how messing with these values, we're already getting something, maybe adding a little vibrance. Before is much more flat than you even thought. We're getting the finished image. It's starting to look a little stylistic with how much color were popping into this thing and the noise. We can take the grain down a little bit. It's always good to see before and after because sometimes this looks flawless, and sometimes you went a little too overboard with it editing it. So I'm going to take these values back a little bit. See the vibrance. Let me that saturation sometimes I like to use. Starting to look like a mini Earth actually little bit, looks these like little cloud areas. So that looks cool, and I'm pretty happy with this. Looks pretty decent to me. Again, I wish I put a little bit less bump because this thing looks very rough, the surface of this thing. But I'm pretty satisfied it's ready for the next step, and because we're editing in smart layers, we can always go back. So double-click the camera raw icon and all the settings are here, so it's not flattened or anything. But if you already see, we've added a lot including grain to make it look a little bit more photorealistic. The last thing I do is add a hue and saturation adjustment layer by clicking on this icon right here, and changing these values a little bit just to see if I like other color combinations that make this thing much more stylized. A lot of times I actually end up doing this in picking something totally different. So if I take this down a little bit, maybe over here. I'm happy with this. This is giving this purplish tint to it's skin color. We're still kind of on the abstract level here. We want something stylized. We don't want everything look into realistic. So I'm just going to choose this right here. Then I'm just going to save it out. Export save for web. Just like this, a 100 percent quality [inaudible]. Perfect for Instagram. I'm just going save it like that. So that's really it guys. We went outside, we took these HDRI images. They really took us two seconds minus me talking and explaining some things. So you can see we only went to two locations and it was really the same locations, just different levels. So just get creative with it. You can do inside, outside, just make sure you have decent lighting. Remember to make them realistic. If you like this guy, please give a rating. Your project that I'm going to assign is simply taking your own HDRI. I want you guys to upload the HDRIs that you took into the project along with your finish render so I can see which images you wrapped around and how it actually turned out in the render. So I can give you some good feedback as well. But I really appreciate you guys watching and stick around for the next one.