Traditional Photography or 3D product visuals – which one to choose for your brand?

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Being visual is key to convey information memorably and interactively. 

Visual assets represent one of the most crucial types of content for brands. Indeed, according to a HubSpot study, 32% of marketers mentioned that visual images are the most important form of content for their business.

This is being emphasized by the high expectations of consumers in terms of the brand’s visuals. According to Jeff Bullas, over 67% of interviewed consumers said that the quality of a product visual influences their purchasing decision online. 

While traditional photography has long been the only way to go, 3D visual asset production has proven to be an efficient alternative in terms of flexibility, time-consumption, and cost. 

Of course, there are both advantages and disadvantages linked to the two methods. The final choice should result in the products you are willing to showcase as well as on your objectives. 

In this article, we are going to explore why carefully selecting your visual asset production method is a strategic decision for your brand that can convert visitors into consumers.  

 

So why should you use 3D visuals? 

1. Gain in flexibility

Beautifully staged images are what every brand aims for; however, getting those images can be extremely complicated. The lighting needs to be just right.  Models and products should be in specific positions. But what if the product changes and you have to do it all over again? 

Using 3D modeling, you could easily switch some key elements without having to reshoot the entire scene or make some photoshop corrections. Also, instead of hoping for good weather for your outdoor photoshoot, you could just use 3D assets. Using such technology, the scenes are created in controlled conditions where each modification can be made in a twist. 

If your product is available in multiple colors and materials then there is no need to photograph each one of them individually. Once you have modeled a product, you will then be able to generate it into hundreds of other colors, patterns, and materials in a few clicks. There are endless alternatives when it comes to declining products into a variety of different styles. 

2. Reduce waste

Using 3D visuals there is no need to produce each product variation to capture them visually. Once you have scanned one ‘product shape’, you are only a few clicks away to decline it in infinite materials and colors. Leveraging 3D technology allows the brand to considerably gain time on visual asset production and to significantly reduce production costs and waste. It’s no longer a need to produce the physical product to sell it. In brief, 3D technology helps brands to switch toward more sustainable practices such as made-to-order.  

3. Create interactivity 

Move away from flat and static 2D visuals and bring life to your products leveraging 3D interactivity. Let consumers play with your visuals and visualize in real-time the variation of a single product in different styles. Customers can customize the product down to the smallest detail, giving them confidence in what they are buying. 

Spice up your e-commerce website visuals using 360 product views. This way, you can showcase your products efficiently and interactively converting your visitors into customers. You can also create engaging and playful video animations using 3D visuals to provide unique experiences around your products. 

4. Gain in precision

While some of you might still associate 3D with gaming and unrealistic renderings, the technology has drastically evolved. The thing is consumers are hardly able to differentiate a 3D visual of a product from a picture of the same product.

Give it a try yourself, can you tell which visual is real?


As you can see, 3D has reached a level of realism that makes it possible for consumers to truly get a sense of your product. 3D offers the possibility to interact with the visual (360° spin, zoom on specific parts…) which is considerably elevating the shopping experience. Consumers are now able to see the product from every angle, customize it in real-time, to get a sense of dimensions on specific sceneries, all of which engage the users at their fullest.
Switching to 3D, you will make your customer feel in control of their shopping experience. Let them choose the views of the products, explore the endless possibilities of product customization… In brief, turn them from passive visitors to active ones leading their shopping experience.

Now you may be wondering, so when is it best to use photography?

It’s important to keep in mind that not all projects require the use of 3D so it’s essential to identify your brand’s needs ahead of choosing your method.
For example, fast fashion brands have such a high production pace that it isn’t worth it to invest in 3D. One-time products are usually best suited for photography as there isn’t a need to create a library of visuals.
Some apparel products are hard to capture using 3D and the vibe might be best captured on mannequins in motion like in the Lacoste example below.

In the end, it all comes down to your brand’s objective in terms of visual content.

Check out our decision factors table below to help you decide which method to use: 

Photography

Computer Generated Imagery (CGI)

Availability of subject (product, prototype or environment)

If the subject is available at a reasonable cost, use photos.

Otherwise use CGI

Number of variants

If the subject exists in a limited number of variants, use photos.

If the subject has a wide range where only materials vary, or is customizable, use CGI. 

Camera positions, reflections backgrounds

Classic backgrounds and no reflection, use photos.

Complex backgrounds, reflections and 360° (eg. vertical spin of a mirror on Mars), use CGI.

Cost

Inexpensive, but each image has a cost, not much economy of scale. 

Upfront is expensive, then large economy of scale (each additional image is very cheap). 

Quality

High but requires a studio and high-end equipment. It is labor intensive.

Remote rendering* guaranties photorealism. Local rendering**doesn’t.

*: Remote rendering: Using best-in-class modern graphics cards, the rendering (transformation of 3D data into an image) happens in the cloud. Eg. SmartPixels’ technology. 

**: Local rendering: The 3D data is transformed into an image using the capabilities of the local device, typically inside the web-browser (aka WebGL)


Overall, whether you need high-quality visual assets for your marketing teams or you simply need a visual asset of a product declined in multiple colors or materials, SmartPixels’ 3D visuals can help.

Our technology not only helps consumers to customize and visualize products in real-time, but it has also proven to be an effective way to convert passive consumers into active ones and drive sales.

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