Challenges & solutions

Is now the time to embrace CGI? Comparing traditional to virtual photography

Retailers are used to leveraging traditional photography for product imagery. But long timelines, complicated logistics, and prohibitive costs make it difficult to meet the needs of today’s businesses. Products are expected to hit the market rapidly, product catalogs are lengthy, and images are needed for more than just catalogs: retailers are fulfilling image requirements for e-commerce product pages, advertising campaigns, email programs, and a multitude of social networks.

There has to be a better way, right? Let’s unpack everything that a traditional photoshoot entails, and compare that to the steps virtual photography requires.

The old way: Traditional photography

The first step is selecting the SKUs you want to feature. Once this is done, it’s time for art direction, so you bring in your creative team. You also need to scout the perfect location. Will the shoot be done in a photo studio, or are you searching for the perfect home to rent for the day that will give you the lighting and ambiance you’re looking for? As you choose the location, you consider the time of year and potential weather conditions if there is an outdoor element, making sure the space will suit your needs. 

Don’t forget about ordering the samples and having them sent to your chosen location. You will need to make sure this is done with plenty of time to avoid having to rush ship items from overseas and eating up too much of your budget for the shoot. But either way, shipping these items, especially for products that are heavy and unwieldy, like furniture, isn’t cheap, nor is it environmentally friendly.

Now that you know what you’re shooting and where you’re shooting it, it’s time for a photographer and crew. Again, you should try to do this with enough time to spare so that top photographers have availability during the time you need to conduct the shoot. Once they’re booked, don’t forget that they will need accommodations if traveling, and the crew will need transportation to and from the shoot. 

Depending on where you’re shooting, you’ll need the proper permits and permissions. If this is somewhere you’ve shot before, you are probably aware of the requirements, but if it’s someplace new, you do some research and file the necessary paperwork.

OK, now you’re getting closer! It’s time to shoot — almost. First, you must prep the space and make sure the crew has their equipment organized. Hopefully, the samples have arrived on location! If any samples are missing, say an accessory like a pillow you wanted to use to accentuate a sofa you’re shooting, it’s time to pivot. You’ve probably had this happen before, so you scramble to figure out what you can use to replace it, or if you’re really prepared, you have a backup option.

The photographer and crew can now get to work on the actual shoot. The team works quickly, swapping in each product that needs to be photographed before the day is done and the sun sets — literally — on your shoot. 

It’s time to break down the equipment and ensure it is returned to where it needs to go. You’re careful not to keep the team overtime, knowing you need to stick within the allocated budget. But before you can head out, the samples need to be taken care of. Luckily, you’ve lined up a non-profit that will take the furniture items, but you need to transport them to their headquarters. 

Finally, the shoot itself is done! The photographer will now edit the photos, which may take a while. Once you receive the photos, you provide some feedback and they are ready to be distributed to the e-commerce, marketing, and creative teams to deploy across channels. But if you forgot to shoot an item or missed a specific shot or angle, it’s too late to make changes. Once the shoot is complete and the photographer has gone home, the images taken that day are the images you have to work with.

The new way: Virtual photography

With CGI, there are fewer steps to reach final product imagery, which significantly compresses the timeline and shrinks costs. First, like a traditional shoot, you select the SKUs you want images for. 

But instead of shipping products across the world to your shoot location, you simply provide a few reference shots, product specs, and material types to a CGI technology partner such as Nfinite. Nfinite then takes these inputs and returns with a 3D model of each product, which you approve. Once that’s done, you create images with 1 click — yes really, 1 click — on the Nfinite platform. These images render, and you now have product images from every angle, as well as a 360°-spin. 

Now, instead of scouting, paying for, and booking a location, you create lifestyle images within the platform using thousands of pre-created scenes. No matter the style, type of room, weather, or lighting you’re looking for, you’ll find it in the Nfinite scenes. Simply swap in your products and adjust the scenes as you see fit, all in a few clicks. Rinse and repeat. No technical expertise required.

Simply export the images you created and disseminate them to your e-commerce, marketing, and creative teams so they can deploy the imagery across channels. Or, even better, have these team members use the platform to create exactly what suits their unique needs.

The cost of not switching

No photographer and crew, no location scouting, no permits and permissions, no fancy equipment. No transporting in samples from across the world and then figuring out what to do with them when the day of shooting is done. The world of virtual photography has a myriad of benefits that traditional photography can’t match. 

What exactly are the cost and time savings this switch makes possible? Retailers save up to 85% on image creation, and CGI is 63% quicker than traditional photography.

"By using CGI, Nfinite allows us to produce visuals faster and cheaper without our team needing to learn new technical skills,” notes Jean-Philippe Marazzani, Chief Marketing Officer at E.Leclerc.

Curious about how to compress your imagery timelines and shave costs? Learn more about virtual photography

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Is now the time to embrace CGI? Comparing traditional to virtual photography

June 26, 2023

Q2 2023

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Preview Visuals Within Email Notifications

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Control Your 360° spins

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