RIP, traditional photography? Research shows CGI is undermining it like never before



In many ways, new technologies are making photographers’ lives easier and more productive, but they are also bankrupting many photographers. And here’s yet another example to add to the list.

CGTrader offers 3D modeling, 3D / augmented reality, and digital asset management services to online retailers. And his latest research suggests that it’s not only cheaper for customers to pay for CG viewing (or “virtual photography”) rather than for a traditional photoshoot – it’s a lot cheaper.

This is a CG visualization of a chair, not an actual photograph (Image credit: CG Trader)

Specialized data was collected by CGTrader (tip of the hat to Furniture news) from more than 100 photo studios and photographers, in 17 cities across 11 countries. He asked each for quotes to photograph five key furnishing products – a table, armchair, sofa, vase, and lamp – and provide five separate product shots on a white background, as well as a style scene from life for everyone.

The most expensive location for photoshoots was New York, at $ 17,952, while the cheapest was Montreal, at $ 6,178. And, as CGTrader cheerfully points out, none came close to the $ 2,000 price the company would offer for an equivalent 3D visualization (through its specialist service, ARsenal by CGTrader).

Here are the quotes he received in full:

  • $ 17,952
  • $ 15,322
  • Copenhagen $ 15,023
  • $ 13,676
  • $ 13,004
  • London $ 11,525
  • Antwerp $ 10,933
  • Sydney $ 10,805
  • Paris $ 10,703
  • Wellington $ 10,427
  • $ 10,060
  • $ 9,076
  • Milan $ 8,800
  • $ 8,525
  • Brussels $ 8,319
  • Berlin $ 7,965
  • Montreal $ 6,178

A CG visualization of a table and chairs in a large office (Image credit: CG Trader)

We could discuss the representativeness of these numbers all day (you can see the full research here). However, even if you could personally undermine CGTrader in your photography practice, it may not help you for long – as advances in AI and other computer technologies mean that the price of CG visualization will likely continue to rise. to lower.

All in all, then there is an uncomfortable truth here that is hard to ignore. As CGTrader points out: “Because 3D product photography can be done by a single artist, without the physical products having to be on site, the production costs will always be lower. That’s before you took into account the possibility of digitally altering product characteristics – color, angle, adjustment – without the complete rework that traditional photography would require.

“Plus, the same 3D models can be used to create WebAR experiences for e-commerce – which overall offers significant savings. As technology and AI evolve and more digital artists engage, 3D product visualization is the natural successor to traditional photography and looks set to hold the future of imaging for online retailers. “

Again, this is not a photograph – it is a CG visualization (Image credit: CG Trader)

So, should product photographers give up the ghost and go out of business now? We would say it would be premature.

As you can see from the examples on this page, CG visualization has come a long way in recent years, and it’s hard to tell it apart from photography in many ways. Especially considering that the line between heavily photoshopped photography and CG visualization is often very thin.

Yet at the same time, there is still a weirdness to CG scenes, which means they ultimately remain unconvincing, albeit on an subconscious level. These lines are too smooth, too exact, too geometric. Real life is full of jagged, lumpy, and random imperfections that just can’t be recreated as pixels … at least not yet.

Another “virtual photograph” (Image credit: CG Trader)

Yes, if you just want to spruce up a webpage where there are hundreds of products, and each one only appears to be the size of a postage stamp, then it’s probably not worth spending thousands on one. Photo shoot.

But if you want a breathtaking broadcast in Vogue, a premium printed brochure for your premium brand or a physical billboard in a prime location, that’s not going to cut it. A proper photoshoot, with all of the expensive lighting, props, and styling it entails, is always what you need to make your brand stand out from the crowd. Especially if you want real people in your pictures; something that CG certainly can’t do as well.

That said, any product photographer whose main job involves generic mass market items for online retailing could well lose some of their clients to CG viewing in the years to come.

So keeping an eye on the luxury market, and trying to find more work in it, is probably a good thing to start thinking about …

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