The HDRI Haven Story

Update: Things have changed – HDRI Haven is now free for everyone.

So last Tuesday HDRI Haven launched :) Grab yourself a bowl of popcorn and a glass of whiskey because it’s story time!


I’ve been shooting HDRIs for a couple of years now and they’ve slowly started to take over this site a little bit. So sometime early last year I decided I needed to make a proper home for them, a dedicated site that contains only HDRIs.

Naturally, I wanted to just keep giving away stuff for free, so for several months in my spare time I worked on the first iteration of HDRI Haven that would provide absolutely everything for free. I planned to use Patreon or some other donation model to cover my costs, and I even found a kind German student association that offered to host all the big files for free.

But after a while, realizing how many hours and dollars I’d already put in, I came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t work. I could dump all my HDRIs on the interwebs and you would all download them happily… but then what?

After a couple of months, a year at the most, I would lose interest in it and it would dry up to become yet-another-HDRI-site-gathering-dust. And we don’t need any more of those now do we?

The only option really was to sell HDRIs, or not make them at all.

So, I quit my job at Blender Guru and started working on HDRI Haven full-time.

My office.

My office.

I thought about using wordpress or some other CMS, but it would just end up being completely customized anyway, so I decided to bite the bullet and code it from scratch. I’m no web developer, or even a designer, so it was a long struggle of hacking PHP and Javascript together trying to get things working how I wanted.

But in the end I think I managed all the important stuff. I still have a list of “would be nice” features, but those can be added another time.

I think my favourite feature (which was one of the simpler things to code) is the ability to change the thumbnail type to show a diffuse ball rather than the HDRI itself – this helps you see what kind of lighting each one will give you without needing to download them to try them out:


Now before you scoff at me and subconsciously mutter “Blender stuff should all be free”, know that I’m not an evil corporate bastard and I’ve thought about you too :)

As it’s always been on this site, all HDRIs on HDRI Haven can be download for free (at low resolution) without requiring any sign-up process. And if you want to try out the larger versions without buying anything, there’s a bundle of 5 free full-resolution ones too.

This is probably the biggest thing that I’ve ever worked on, so I’ve probably got a bit of tunnel vision about it. If you’ve got any ideas, suggestions or advice, as brutal as it might be, I’d love to hear it.

I hope you’re all doing well, and I’m really looking forward to seeing some pretty renders made with my HDRIs :)


PS: For the next few days, there’s a launch sale going on so everything is half price. Just saying.

2 thoughts on “The HDRI Haven Story

  1. great stuff Greg! I checked out the HDRI Haven site, (and wow, big-time respect that you actually *coded* that! 0_o) … I already bought a couple… I mean I would have to be an idiot of elephantine proportions to ignore the prices you’ve got on these… even without the sale discount. Anyway, Best of luck with this, and I hope it’s a big success!