One of the images above was created with a camera and modern commercial lighting with familiar retouching techniques using software such as Photoshop. The other image was rendered with CGI using software such as Blender. They’re both prime product images, but can you tell which is which?
I won’t tell you the answer just yet (sorry I know you’re dying to find out!) but the use of CGI in product photography is becoming more common as technology improves making 3D rendering more photo – realistic, faster and consequently cheaper than traditional commercial photography.
Commercial photographer Karl Taylor recently took on top CGI artist Ethan Davis in a series of Photography vs. Blender shootouts. The results are frankly mind-blowing. I try to guess which pictures are which, but I’m often wrong and it’s not easy. The CGI imaging is just so good, it really can’t stand side by side with photos from such an acclaimed product photographer as Taylor.
So let’s play a game. Which of the following images do you think are CGI rendered and which are photographs? Please reply by postcard!
I actually find Karl’s experiment quite fascinating. There are certainly obvious differences between the images if you look closely. For example the detail on the watch straps or the way the light is reflected. But I like the idea of photographers and CGI artists working together to create some pretty incredible ideas.
IKEA has been using CGI to create detailed images of its products since 2014, and it’s also being used more and more in the automotive industry. And it’s not just products on white backgrounds, virtual backgrounds can be created to create basically any set you can think of.
This video walks you through the process of how Ikea creates its images. You can see that this is not an easy process and things like materials need to be rendered accurately. The workflow is also significant as the images pass through many members of the team before reaching a final finished stage. The result is undeniably impressive.
However, to get to the same point as taking a photo, one wonders if it wouldn’t have been quicker and easier to just take the photo. Perhaps for one set or for photographing multiple items within the same set, although it may not be easier or cheaper to use photography when multiple sets need to be used and for thousands of images.
CGI has been used extensively in the motion picture industry for some time, so why has it taken still photography so long to catch up? And should commercial photographers in particular be concerned about this trend?
It’s arguably cheaper and faster to create an image in CGI than putting together an entire commercial photo shoot, especially when sets need to be built. Large commercial shoots can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars with a huge on-set entourage. It’s understandable how tempting it can be for businesses to cut back on spending.
Karl and Ethan’s experiment shows how difficult it is to tell the difference, and with the rise of AI capable of creating realistic humans and incredible deepfakes, we’ll see a decrease in demand for real human models at all see?
Of course, right now I don’t think photographers should worry too much, since CGI artists need to understand light just as well as photographers do to accurately render images. Artists of the same high caliber as Ethan aren’t everywhere in abundance…yet.
I believe that we will see more and more of these types of images in the future, but we should not fear these changes. Everything evolves, and with change comes opportunity. We always have to learn and adding more skills is never a bad idea. Perhaps learning Blender and CGI rendering could future-proof your photography business.
This is exactly what Karl Taylor wants to achieve with his new course in CGI imaging. It is aimed at photographers who want to learn about Blender and CGI.
“In commercial and industrial photography, the age of pure still photography is dying out fast,” says Karl. “Most photographers will need to adapt to CGI, filmmaking, and stills in a new realm of visual multimedia to survive the next decade.”
Karl adds that the course is not just for photographers who want to learn CGI, but would also be useful for computer graphics artists who want to learn more about lighting. “One thing I learned from this process is that even the best CGI artists need knowledge of photography and lighting to achieve realistic renderings,” he says. And it’s true that Ethan is a phenomenal photographer too.
If you want to add another string to your bow, Karl and Ethan can guide you through the process of learning CGI imaging in their new course on Karl Taylor Education, with prices starting at $19 per month.
For those of you curious as to which picture was which, here are the answers:
Cover picture: left – photo, right – CGI