Get a More Realistic Sun Specular When Using HDR’s

Derek Flood Shares a Simple Technique for Getting a More Realistic Sun Specular Hot-Spot With Image Based Lighting.

Image-based lighting or using HDR’s for lighting a scene is a favorite way to add realism to a rendering instantly. They are easy to use and have the bonus of providing reflected environments in your objects — Yet most outdoor environment HDRs almost never give a render an accurate sun specular hotspot. The doesn’t mean that you can get a more realistic look by adding a custom sun flare in the scene.

CG Artist Derek Flood shares a technique that can replace the “dot” of the sun with a more realistic image of the sun. “Traditionally CG renders specular (the reflection of a light source) as a simple dot or disc,” Flood says. “With image-based lighting, this has been replaced with HDR images of light sources for increased realism”.

Flood covers the technique using Autodesk Maya and V-Ray. However, the concepts could easily port to any other DCC package and renderer combination.

You can download this ZIP file containing the Maya scene with this light kit, and a Nuke script to derive the various render elements.