How to shoot your own custom 360 HDRIs for less than $360

September 30, 2015


In this video, I will show you how to make your own custom 360 HDRIs to use with HDRI Studio Pack. You will need a Theta 360 camera and a new app we developed called Simple HDR.

See the full SimpleHDR Page here to learn more

What You Will Need

  1. A Theta 360 Camera: This camera is a lightweight simple camera that shoots and stitches 360 photos with one click.
  2. Simple HDR: I collaborated to make this app with my friends over at the excellent Built Light team. We made this iPhone app to make shooting the correct bracketed images for HDR photography very simple. Choose from Pro or Auto mode and in less than 30 seconds you have a series of photos to combine together to make a full 360 HDRI.
  3. Photoshop: Use Photoshop to combine all your bracketed photos together and save as an HDR to use in your 3D program or to archive.

Quick Note From Nick: If you shoot your own 360 HDRIs, either with a Theta or more traditional ways let me know in the comments. We need you for an upcoming project!


Tutorial Focus:  ,
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  • Hey Nick
    I have been working on a project using some of these techniques involving video combined with C4D-made geometry. I am waiting for the release of the Theta S in a couple of weeks in hopes the higher resolution will yield some great results. Your app for still images is perfect. Now I need something that will do the same for video!

  • Wish I had a Theta! Though I’ve been having a lot of fun lately taking 360 photos with just my iPhone.

    A tedious process that wont give you a perfect stitch, but I’ve found that the Google Street View app gives me the best quality 360 photo of all the apps I’ve tested.

  • purchasing this week!

    • update: just purchased.

      • Thank you so much!!! Please let us know what you think of the app!!

        • Nick – is this app compatible with the newer Theta S? If it is, we will probably buy this as it seems like an excellent app (little pricey, but it’s niche I guess).

          • Hi Cahal,

            We will be making sure it works with the Theta S when it comes out. The price is high for an iPhone app for sure, but not for one that is this specific. We hope $10 is worth the value of pressing one button to get an HDRI.

            Theta S compatibility will be announced as soon as we get one and confirm.

  • That is something really interesting! Some HDR-Shops will have to change soon ;o) Is there any chance you will publish an android version of this? No hurry, just in perspective… would be great!

  • Hey GSG,

    Why don’t you use Adobe Lightroom to create the HDR?

  • looks like a new, high-spec model “Theta S” was just released?… (eerily similar naming convention as the iPhone S, and oddly familiar website design as well?).
    I think I’ll be getting one. Thanks for making that app too! Brilliant. Time to make some HDRIs

  • Hey GSG,

    Bought a Theta the other day and loving creating our own HDRs. Keen and happy to help you with the upcoming project.

    • Eddy. Did you buy Simple HDR? I would love to get feedback if you did.

      • Hey Nick,

        Yeah I did buy it. I initially had tried using the images from the Ricoh app to use with Sky objects or HDRI Studio and the results were ok but I found that using Simple HDR made all the difference with creating shadows and adding realism if using for compositing. Probably down to the extra light data included in the 32 bit files I’m guessing. Top job with the app!

  • Hi GSG,

    I am planning to get a Theta S when they come out (1st of November for UK). I will get Simple HDR too. I also take 360 hdri’s with a more traditional set up e.g. nodal ninja/fisheye lens/slr. If I can be any help with your project then count me in!

  • Just pre-ordered the Theta S. This camera will have practical uses as well as fun ones.

  • Is it just an iPhone app or can I get it on an android (Samsung) too?

  • Hi All,

    Is it possible to know what is the maximum resolution, that one can get with the process of simple HDR and Theta? (even for the future Theta cam)

    I will explain:
    Because in architecture visualisation sky’s I found that less then 16.000 px wide, leaves reflections pixelated in the facades of buildings, in most cases at least, so I have been using and making 22.000px. , and when I mean making I mean the real hard way, ( shooting with a 450D and stitching it with software… Also Sky’s are really hard to stitch because of many factors like moving clouds etc.
    You can download some of it here its free, to check the results!

    I really think it’s a big step forward the combination of your app with Theta cam, Good Luck 🙂

    • The current resolution is 3000 pixels wide. Not enough to use for backplates, but plenty to get great light and reflection data.

      • Thanks Nick,

        Maybe in the future CGS can make an app to solve this resolution problem, especially with 4 k images and monitors coming up…

  • Hi Nick,

    Yes I do automotive and architectural renderings and well as other CG shots and shoot all my HDR 360 panos and back plates. They are 13k shot on a Nikon D800e. I’ve been refining the process over the last year and pretty much have it down. Give me a shout if you need any help.


  • Any plans to develop the app for Android as well? Regardless, I’m still planning on using it for a small production sometime this month.

  • Don’t have the camera yet but will get the newer one. Just wanted to ask, could you guys add a custom option menu which would have a slider to pick a finer EV granularity like -1,0,1 and ability to take more shots since it doesn’t shoot RAW. Also maybe ability to shoot timelapse and choose interval period and start time and end time or shot count. Let me know if this makes any sense. Thanks

  • Would love it this app was on android. Barely anyone I know has an iphone these days. Guess I hang around a bunch of nerds. 😉

  • Just order the Theta S, hope the app will work with that one and with my iphone 5

  • Hi Nick, Just one little question, what was the app that you uesed to project the IPhone on to your screen? Thank you!

  • Is the little slither left over from the camera body at the bottom of the image an issue ? Would it be an issue if using one of the pink Theta’s or would if be fine to crop the bottom a little ?

    • It’s a pretty small sliver. That said, pink would stand out more than white or black.

      • Thanks Nick.
        Won a white Theta on eBay today!
        Gonna be so handy to shot on location HDRI’s quickly. Handy for my everydays & general workflow speed, much like many of your awesome plugins.

  • Is it working the app for the Theta S? I just bought it and I’d like to shoot some nice hdr here in Shanghai! 🙂

  • Hey Nick,

    Stoked on this.
    I have a question on working the app/camera outside of wifi area.

    If I was on location without wifi that means the app will not work with the camera. If so, is the camera reliable for creating solid HDRI’s on its own without being connected to your app?


  • Just bought app and bummed it doesn’t work with new model. Anxiously waiting for update.

  • Hi Nick, are you thinnking of launching a android app?

  • Hey Nick – are you just waiting on Apple to get the update into the App store, or are you guys still working on it? I only ask as I have a road trip planned this week, so just debating whether to wait for your update to the app, or drop $50 on that other app 🙁

  • Today I shot 6 images, using Theta S, of the same spot changing the exposure manually in the camera app, what’s the difference using instead the app to shoot the images?

  • First I cant take 360 images with my phone using the google camera and taking a photo sphere.
    Also no android app? There has to be a way I’ll find it

  • just got the Theta S, today
    also got your app, before i realised it wasnt updated for the new model. (altho it sounds like it’s coming soon)
    let me know if you need any beta-testings &/or any help on that upcoming project of yours

  • David John Robertson January 13, 2016 at 10:26 am

    Just got my Theta S today. I was disipointed to have problems connecting to my iphone6s+ The wifi would not connect and on the few occasions that it did it dropped out quickly.

    I dont know if anyone else is having the same problems but I think I may have found the problem. All you need to do is turn of your phones mobile data and then connect to the theta as normal. Since I started doing this I have had no problems connecting and zero drop outs! Hope this may help someone.

    I also have the app and hope it is updated soon. Similarly to Nicky I would be happy to help with beta testing or and other projects.

  • Hey Nick, I’m a bit embarrassed for asking this again but do you guys have any news on the Theta S support update? Mi camera is sitting there anxious and sad waiting to work.

  • So Nick, may you please confirm if the app is now working with Theta S?

  • Hi Nick,
    I started a project shooting HDRIs all over Israel. Can you shed some more light on this upcoming project you mentioned? Thanks!

  • Hi Nick,

    does the app work with the Ricoh Theta V?

    Best Regards

    Carl Dixon

  • -> does the app work with the Ricoh Theta V?
    This is also interesting for me.

  • how far away is compatibility with the Theta V? we are looking at purchasing for an upcoming project and was interested in the V, but obviously not if the app isnt ready.

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