Strength of HDRI and camera exposure

Hello everyone! I hope you’re having a fantastic day. My question is, I feel like I am lacking very essential knowledge regarding how to use HDRIs. Surely I know how to set up an HDRI to light the scene up but sometimes it is just too dark with default strength. I was wondering if there is any trick I should know how to decide the strength properly. What I usually do is that I first change camera exposure -to an EV guide value in photographer addon- then start increasing the strength of the HDRI until I have an okay lit up scene.

Any help would be appreciated, thanks a lot in advance! ^^

You probably have a low quality one, it’s very commom to find those online. With high quality HDRi you are good to go using a basic setup. There’s more in-depth info here, and some good free samples here and here.

Thanks a lot for your reply! I have some from JorgenHDRI but mainly using the ones from hdrihaven. So, with higher quality HDRis, it would be good to go with -strength: 1- and adjusting the camera exposure? Sometimes I increase the strength up to 10 and that makes me feel like I am doing something wrong

Either increase the strength or increase the exposure. HDR don’t contain absolute values of gathered light, but relative values. Some HDRs, especially if they come with an IBL file describing additional lighting required to make it work (sunlight, usually), are clipped and contain an expended range but not a full range.

I typically use Nishita sun for a reference, then I’ll adjust the strength (and sometimes color) of the HDR to match with sun disc, and without sun disk (by clipping the HDR myself). When they produce similarly’ish (can’t ever get really accurate) results, I lock the HDR and work with exposure instead.

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Thanks a lot. Do you also have any favorite source for paid HDRs?

There’s a commom mistake, you can’t drag and drop. Need to Add > Texture > Environment Texture in your World Properties. Strenght 10 is way up, normally I use 1 or lower. False color helps with proper exposure (Color Managment).

Environment Texture [strenght = 1]:

Drag and droped [strengh = 1]:

I downloaded 2 bright ones and a dark one from here: (polyhaven)

Useful so far.

Edit: Oh, … I added a Bright/Contrast node. Gives me some options.

I am using Gaffer to handle HDRI’s rotation, color, contrast etc. So I believe there seems to be no problem adding it to the scene. I also check false color to check if there is any super dark or overly exposed areas

Very similar result with strenght 0.7. Probably an addon parameter is messing with your lightning settings.

You can drag and drop, but it will come in as an image texture rather than as an environment texture. Select the node, Shift S (with node wrangler enabled), then select Texture/Environment Texture, then plug it into background node as usual.

I only use the free stuff, HDRI Haven, HDR Labs (IBLs, so clipped), PaulDebevec, and the builtin miniature ones. I’ve also converted a bunch to miniatures and fixed some of the supplied ones.

I haven’t used Photography addon since Nishita sky gave us a proper reference light. I don’t think the version I have, which may be an older one, has been tweaked to use Nishita strength 1 as a proper reference. And I mostly do interiors, so I only use HDRs/Background plates for camera rays, and Nishita+ground bounce for the rest.