4 Things You Didn’t Know About DAZ Studio Iray HDRI

4 Things You Didn’t Know About DAZ Studio Iray HDRI


DAZ Studio now comes with the built in Nvidia Iray render engine. HDRI environment lighting is one of the cool features. But as with any technique or solution, there are pros and cons. HDRI lighting means you surround your scene with a spherical “environment”, in this case an image–that projects lighting onto your characters and props. HDRI means High Definition Range Image, and holds a lot more lighting data than a normal JPG, PNG or BMP image would. In reality, you get more contrast, real shadows based on the environments varied intensity across the sphere and a realistic represenation of the lighting itself.

Some other pros include faster rendering times, since you no longer need to render the background itself (at least not in the same way). Further on, you actually don’t need to add any lights at all. You simply add the HDRI image to the Environment Map option in the Environment Tab of Iray render settings and hit render. Now, a downside is that the image needs to be calibrated in order to work with DAZ Studio Iray, or else it may look washed out and far too bright.

Using HDRI as an environmental way of lighting sounds good, and looks good, although it has its share of limitations.


In order to get the shadows and everything to match, you need to have the character or your characters right in a specific spot “inside the sphere”, and everything needs to be scaled properly. You can only have the DAZ Studio camera at a specific height, so that it matches the background image height (at the time of the photo was taken), or else it will not match correctly. On the good side, any shadows do fall on the “ground”, although it’s not really there.

Iray handles all the “fake” shadow catching, and it looks great. But…

When using DOF (Depth Of Field, that blurry background / foreground), you can zoom in on the character(s) and get past some of the limitations with more camera freedom, since the background will be blurred, but that again limits how you can use this type of lighting, since you cannot show feet when using DOF. (The entire background gets blurred, including the ground).¬†There are special HDRI images you can get for DAZ Studio Iray from Dimension Theory in the DAZ 3D store. I’ve checked these out and they are great right out of the box.

All in all, a fast, fun and simple way of lighting with great results, but limited as to where you can have your characters in the “background”, virtually no lighting control plus (since it’s done for you) and when using DOF you cannot show the ground at all. A good idea when you’re limited with lighting, is to start playing with the surfaces instead. By increasing the Base Color values past the default 1,1,1, you can actually control how hard the lighting hits your characters. In order to do that, you need to override the maximum levels. Simply click on the cogg next to the Base Color sliders in the Surface Tab, and remove max limits. (This only applies to Iray Surfaces) Another thing you can do, is to adjust the White Point to a slightly more blueish tone in the Tone Mapping section of Iray render settings. This will tint your renders in a warm orange color, which is something I’ve done in the renders on this page.


If you’re looking for more advanced ways of using Iray, with full control and all the options, then check our collection of Iray tutorials for DAZ Studio HERE.

Keep rendering!

– Val Cameron, CEO and founder of Dreamlight

Helping DAZ Studio artists love their art and income since 2005.

P.S. If you’re looking for more advanced ways of using Iray, then check our collection of Iray tutorials for DAZ Studio HERE.

Happily sharing how to create great 3D & 2D art in DAZ Studio, Lightwave and Photoshop, Val Cameron, CEO and founder of Dreamlight, has been coaching and mentoring hundreds of thousands of artists since 2005. Bestselling DAZ 3D vendor with over 230+ video tutorials, plug ins and light sets.

6 Responses to “4 Things You Didn’t Know About DAZ Studio Iray HDRI”

  1. BC Shelby June 9, 2015 at 6:47 pm #

    I have several issues with a lot of HDRIs.

    First is the sun is often not bright enough, making it appear to be filtered through a high cloud layer even if the sky is clear blue.

    Next, I’ve seen some where the tone mapping was already adjusted and shadows appear too “blue”.

    Third, in many (like the Yosemite HDRIs for Daz studio), there is often no sun shadow at all which makes for a sort of incongruous setting where everything else in the backdrop is casting shadows except the figure and props in the foreground. Other times there is a shadow, but it is still too diffuse.

    Finally, in all HDRI’s the sun has a “fixed” elevation. This is especially troublesome when using an HDRI with other scenery to get a sky background as Skydomes do not work with the Iray “Sun” (unlike 3DL, there is no way to turn shadowcasting “off”). Hence you can end up with your subject in shadow as the HDRI “sun” is below or behind other items in the scene.

    I have posted in the Daz forums that it would be nice to have a set of HDRI skies with the sun at different elevations for each sky sphere similar to the old “Azure Skies” set (which included HDRIs for UberEnvironment). Shadow casting needs to be improved too so that shadows have the same sharpness and falloff as those produced with Iray’s “Sun/Sky” environment, otherwise they look fake and defeat the entire purpose of using a photo real render engine.

    Thank you

    • Val Cameron June 9, 2015 at 8:14 pm #

      Hej BC, some good feedback!

  2. BC Shelby June 9, 2015 at 6:56 pm #

    …oh and forgot to add, In normal viewport “textured” view mode, one does not see the HDRI scenery at all so it’s a lot of guesswork as to positioning and rotation. The only way to see the HDRI is to use the Iray view mode which, unless one has a fairly powerful Nvidia GPU, has extremely slow refresh rate when performing camera moves or adjusting figures, props or rotating the sphere.

    For example I have an old 1GB GTX460 which takes just as long to refresh the view in Iray mode as it does to run a test render (about 25% convergence) which seriously impacts the workflow.

    • Val Cameron June 9, 2015 at 8:16 pm #

      True, you can’t see anything in the preview window. A possible work-around would be to add a sphere primitive and map it with the same image. That would give an idea of where things are, although it might need some tweaking and scaling to give a decent preview. This sphere would need to be completely removed prior to rendering though…

  3. michael June 12, 2015 at 10:02 pm #

    Hi Val newbie to Daz just starting out with 4.8 “Q”…is there a way to relocate the universal change it’s pivoting point etc…thank you …M

    • Val Cameron June 29, 2015 at 7:41 pm #

      Hi Michael, welcome to DAZ Studio! As far as I know it’s not possible to do that directly. However, there is a trick you can do (in most cases). First, create a new null object (Create -> New Null). Now, parent that object you want to change the pivot point of TO the null object.

      You do that by dragging the object and releasing it on top of of the null object in the scene tab. Now, select the object (NOT the null) and move it relative to the null to select a new pivot point.

      Having that new null object selected, you can now modify the other object with a custom pivot point… ūüėČ Somewhat limited with figures though… Have fun!

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