IKEA Slowly Shedding Photography in Favor of Computer Renders

Of the two images above, one of them is a computer render and one of them is an actual photograph. Can you tell which is which? If you can’t, why should IKEA?

The Wall Street Journal reports that IKEA is slowly moving away from using photography in its catalogs in favor of CGI for its online and print publications.

12% of the company’s images this year were created by a graphic artist rather than a photographer, and next year that figure is expected to grow to 25%. No, it’s not that the company’s 208 million catalogs look better with computer fabrications — they’re simply cheaper and easier to produce.

Using CGI instead of photos offers some attractive benefits. Instead of creating and discarding entire living spaces for photo shoots, graphic designers can simply whip one together on a screen. Instead of replacing entire sets of furniture to change the color, they can use a few simple clicks and keystrokes.

It’s all part of the Swedish furniture giant’s overarching plan of cutting costs and increasing productivity.

The company first began experimenting with CGI back in 2005, after three computer graphic interns succeeded in recreating the image of an IKEA chair digitally (the image was later included in that year’s catalog to test its believability). Fast forward seven years, and the company is now retraining photographers in its massive 285-man, 94,000-sq-ft photo studio to work with computer rendering.

Check out the story over at the Wall Street Journal for an interesting quiz that tests whether you can recognize renders from photos. As for the two images at the top of this post, the top one is the render. Could you tell?

  • Ikea Onoh

    After wrestling the above images on to my car roof, dragging them home and spending the next 4 hours cursing while assembling them, I don’t care which one is real, I just want to have a word with the instructions illustrator.

  • vietnam

    yes i have and i see nothing like that.
    so what are you talking about?
    that he don´t like the invasion of iraq?
    or that she does not like george bush?
    that is called opinions!!
    well you are very fast to yell “BAN HER” .. you are a pathetic loser in my opinion.

  • Sorry pal

    Not completely sure the opinion of someone who can’t compose or execute a sentence really means that much. Sorry.

  • vietnam

    more like iraq, vietnam.
    and nobody helped the poor sioux or apache… nobody helped the 200000 in hiroshima and nagasaki .. or the millions of africans who died as slaves in early america.

  • vietnam

    well i think it´s fair to say the truth?

  • jens hoff

    that means your are drunk most of the time and you have bad teeth….

  • 222222222

    or you?

  • vietnam

    well i speak english because your are to dumb to learn another language….

  • Hohohoho

    Claiming you speak English is like McDonalds claiming it is health food.

  • Anonymous Coward

    Well played – you certainly got me there.

  • George Cloon

    As if a LOW IQ DNA experiment as you can spell a word in a different tongue. That is the problem with the education system…. there is no place for a Forest Gump like you. George from Silicia.

  • Buffonery

    You didn’t actually spell the name of the place you are pretending to be from correctly. So funny it hurts.

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    It’s great that they’re retraining the photographers to work with the computer rendering software instead of just firing them and hiring people who already know the job, kudos IKEA

  • 0394093

    mcdonalds that´s all you fat americans can think of right? LOL

  • Troll Hunter

    Not American, but well done in showing how narrow your thinking is. Yet again.

  • vietnam

    than hud de nag ta ye gurt del karnat … LOL !!!

  • 3

    Get a life moron.

  • Marcus Lundberg

    The oven gave it away for me. It has some really odd hotspots that made it look flat and computer generated. Other than that.. really good job on the CGI!

  • View Minder

    I don’t care how good the CGI people get… I can still tell a real naked chick from a CGI naked chick!

  • Renato Murakami

    I could, but probably only because you said one of them was CGI.
    And I’ve seen plenty of CGI that was close to impossible to tell, even with trained eyes or awareness.
    I’ve also seen photos people couldn’t tell if it was an actual photo or CGI… it’s a frontier not as narrow as most people would think.
    This is specially true if you only have a bunch of static objects composing the photo in some organized way… of course it gets harder when it comes to faces, animals and some other types of renders.
    What made the distinction to me (and I could be wrong) was the stove, plant, a lack of more complex objects (like the food on the lower pic, things with detailed textures/shapes like kitchen utensils and stuff inside the cups and plates behind glass door with proper lighting and reflections).
    Still, even those are possible to create with CGI – only it’d take far more time and would be more complex to do. But techniques are already available, and not only that, some game engines can create very complex textures, shapes, reflections and lighting setups in real time with a standard consumer-grade gamer PC. No need for render farms at all.

  • obican

    Being a 3D Artist, I can tell that the first one is a render even though I had a serious share from a bottle of Jaegermeister.

  • vale1005

    I picked the top one. because in my mind, the windows outside of the window were at an angle. I’m thinking 90+%buildings are parallel vs angled to the one across the street. The shadowing looks a bit busy, nut I’m nit picking. If I wasn’t told one was CGI, I’d prob would of not thought twice.

  • 9inchnail

    Rendered images have the huge advantage that you can just re-arrange them any way you like without much effort. Once you have models for every piece of furniture, you can “shoot” dozens of differently arranged rooms without leaving your desk. You can have a single chair and change it’s color any way you want instead of having ten chairs standing by on set. Just think about how many people you need to arrange these shots. Or would you, as a photographer, like to push a fridge around or carry tables around the studio? For rendered images you only need one guy and a computer.

    Everyone here whining about 3D renders is a hypocrite. Most photos shown here of new cameras are rendered and you can hardly contain your orgasms.

  • Petri Aukia

    Three substantial benefits that have not been mentioned are:
    1) The CGI models can be updated annually, by removing some items and adding others
    2) Subtle localisations can be made with the CGI models. Snow and Scandinavian cool light from the windows in Sweden, Mediterranean light and Palms in Italy.
    3) The CGI -models can be animated with little effort for the website. The pictures are much harder to animate and require substantially more staff
    4) The CGI models can be easier to color, when the color of the product changes.

  • Klöonkunbloöfenugën

    Ikea can 3D render their landfill instead of photographing it.

  • e40200287

    I spotted the bottom image as non-CGI because of pancakes. You can’t render yum realistically and easy/cheap, no?

  • john hollands

    I spotted the top one because of the lamp in the window. Creator couldn’t resist the PIXAR-LIKE lamp. Remember the PIXAR animation of the baby lamp and mother lamp?
    easter egg giveaway.

  • Nigel Incubator Jones

    Yes! I usually get this sort of thing wrong, but in the top pic the window light would have washed out the books, sink and cutting board. It’s too good.
    Still, it took me a second to get it. Great job!

  • Sean Walsh

    There’s actually been a large backlash against “fake” imagery and
    over-photoshoping (I think there’s even been articles here on PetaPixel
    about that), so I can only imagine the sh*t will eventually hit the fan
    with IKEA.

    Having shot roomsets, kitchens and bathrooms for Sears Canada, I know
    how much work goes into art directing, building and shooting a
    believable living space (we work in dark rooms creating daylight, go
    figure!). The average roomset required 1-2 art directors, 2 carpenters,
    1-2 photo assistants, a prop stylist, and, oh yeah, a photographer!
    And then if you have to get 2 or 3 models in there… The labour and
    time for one shot is very high, and then multiply that by however many
    lifestyle shots are in a catalogue? It’s no wonder IKEA would prefer to
    save money on time and materials, but consumers are becoming
    increasingly unhappy of being fooled with Photoshop and 3D renders, so
    we’ll see how long this lasts.

  • laibacute

    good luck…..

  • mikemike9

    It’s worth noting that your constitutional right to free speech doesn’t extend to comments on a blog any more than it extends to the letters page of a newspaper. This blog doesn’t have to print your comments, and besides that, if free speech law _was_ the only thing governing what Tanja could say, it would also, surely, cover Bill’s comment.

  • mikemike9

    Indeed, it was the oven; it’s too smooth. But before I decided, I noticed the power cable of the anglepoise lamp. It’s not a rendering issue so much as a modelling issue; the way a cable hangs is usually more chaotic than that.

    Then again, the rest of that scene is rendered so beautifully that it might have been a private nod to John Lasseter by way of Luxo Jr.

  • Disgruntled 3D Artist

    Firstly Mr Zhang I don’t know any ‘graphic designers’ who’d be able to create a render like this.. If you’re going to write an article at least get the termanology right! 3D Artist, or 3D visualiser. Secondly you belittle the profession with your misguided and misinformed observations. Creating an image like this involves a huge amount of talent, training, know how, equipment and a critical eye. Its not nearly as simple as “whipping it together on-screen with a few clicks of the mouse”. You’re talking several hundreds of hours work, modelling, texturing, shading, lighting, rendering, compositing. You also state CGI is “easier to produce than [traditional photography]. Sorry to disappoint you but there’s no magic ‘make realistic kitchen button’ even on windows 8.
    You’re viewpoint is laughable. Do your job properly, this is journalistic drivel.
    You have an opportunity to educate and inform people of a profession in its infancy which mystifies so many people, yet you dumb it down.
    In the majority of cases creating CGI isn’t cheaper or easier at all, particularly for catalogues where the suppliers provide their products for FREE for the photoshoots, hoping it’ll help sell more of their stuff. If you’re a granite worktop supplier and providing £10,000 kitchen worktops for free, it’s not ideal. If you’re providing 99p glassware it is.
    You clearly haven’t done your homework.
    The difference is equivalent to comparing your journalistic endeavours to that of a best-selling author.

    Yours Truly,

    VFX artist for film, TV, commercials & 3D architectural visualisation