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?

  • Jesse Hildebrand

    Honestly… I couldn’t tell by looking for artifacts or inconsistencies, the only reason I chose the bottom as real is because it’s got a more natural, cluttered, comfortable kitchen look, while the top looks more like a staged scene in a video game or movie. It looks real, but staged… it’s missing all those tiny little details that make a space look lived in, rather than being a set. But wow… I’m sure at higher resolutions it would be easier to tell the fake, but at catalog resolution it’s just fine.

    That said… I feel bad for product photographers. That was one area that still remains pretty stable in the photography world because there’s still a LOT of technical expertise, especially when it comes to lighting things like glass or reflective surfaces that made it hard for the amateurs and uncle-Bob-with-a-DSLR to invade.

    Oh well… it’s still going to take expertise in lighting, we’ll just have to learn how to use software instead of a camera to capture the scene.

  • OSAM

    Easy to tell. I’ve been out of the 3D world for a while, but that was a no-brainer.

  • Jesse Hildebrand

    The more I stare at it, you’re right, the more it’s obvious which is the fake… but I guess the only thing that matters is: Would it fool you for the 3-4 seconds you look at it in a catalog, without knowing you could be looking at a render?

  • Tanja Schulte

    i have done architectural renderings for some time.
    a good vray rendering will be seen by the majority as a real photo.

    so if it´s cheaper for ikea why not? it´s not as if the ikea photographs are art.

  • Tobias Weisserth

    Of course the messy image with the food is the photograph.The CGI is pretty good, but compared to the photograph you can still easily tell by the way the light falls and looking at the objects and their arrangement.

  • Goaway tanja

    Tanja – you are all criticism, with no showing your own work. Where is it? Where can we see your monumental german brilliance, so we can all give you the attention you so desperately seek? I can find no mention on google of you other than your nasty racist posts on sites like this. Please stop – for all our good

  • Das Boot

    Yes, Tanja – let’s see your work – I agree with the other reply – I’m getting tired of seeing your bitterness here

  • Tanja Schulte

    and that from an anonymous moron who don´t even has the balls to show his real name….. LOL

    racist posts? you better stop taking these drugs or whatever it is that causes your illusions!!

  • Tanja Schulte

    another anonymous coward.. or just the same bald clown who stalks me?

  • Nobody

    Please, don’t feed the trolls. She is somebody in her own mind, and that, is OK.

  • tanja gohome

    Judging from the constant negative reviews of your posts, I would suggest you adjust your attitude. Where is your work? What’s the link then? You are an embarrassment to the millions of Germans who have shed their past.

  • Tanja Daspannja

    Where’s your work Tanja? Where? Or are you afraid to show us how bad it is?

  • Michael Zhang

    Hey guys, we removed a few comments here. Please refrain from personal attacks and insults. Debating is okay, but please don’t let the commenting section turn into a fight. Thanks :D

  • Cats

    Photographing a kitchen costs a lot because, well, you have to set up a kitchen on purpose!

    As for photographing a chair or couch… please. It takes about 5 minutes plus a few more in post-production and looks amazing.

    For products, keep the 3D for prototypes and tell the consumer they are looking at a prototype.

    If not, there is the risk that the consumer will buy something, find out it isn’t what they looked at in the first place, and make you lose much more money than you “saved” by 3Ding the item instead of photographing it.

  • Cats

    P.S., I’m not saying “don’t use 3D”… for kitchens it’s great help because of the cost and time involved in making them from scratch.

    Also, 3D is great for adding decoration to other photoshoots.

    It’s all a matter of balance. My main point is “don’t fool the consumer” as in SHOW THEM what they are going to buy, or risk losing money with lost sales.

  • please banher

    Can you please ban Tanja from commenting. Her posts are a litany of insults, racism and inappropriate nationalism. Please go back and have a quick look in case you missed them. Attacks on other photographers’ work and insults to other countries have no place and should be banned. thank you

  • Anonymous Coward

    If you ate going to delete comments, then can you go have a look at Tanja’s past comments and delete those too. The ones where she insults people and makes statements against entire countries and their people. Be fair now – she is a troll, and should be banned from posting

  • Bill Robinson Photography

    Tanja – I’m not anonymous, but I must say that your posts are very tiring to see. Why not stick to making comments about photography instead of constantly using this site as a platform for insulting people and trashing countries that you have paper-thin understanding of. I’m sure that you have something good to say, and I for one would welcome hearing it.

  • lickit

    don´t allow anonmyous to write here.
    or at least don´t make it so easy.. check if an email exist and verify it.
    without any registration, cowards will always hide behind anonymity.

  • peter bond photohgraphy

    last time i checked we had free speech in our constitution.

  • peter bond photography

    this is about the topic…. but your off topic. so what do you want to prove?

  • Brian Muntz

    You can immediately tell by the inaccuracy and unnatural look of the shadows and light! Especially the shadow coming off that green plant.

  • Getta Cloo

    Peter – this is an international audience here, not an American one. You missed a bunch of posts that were deleted, in which she insulted people. She also hates Americans and has posted frequently to show this. Free speech doesn’t cover hate speech by the way, which is something she has practiced many times

  • Pot Kettleblack

    You mean just like you did?

  • Samuel

    I think its pretty clear to most people who have worked with 3D before, however this is on a screen would it be quite so obvious on a non backlit page? I’m not sure. I think at least they should have to mark the 3D images to warn people

  • Too Lazytospell

    I think there is proper spelling and punctuation in the Constitution as well, Peter.

  • brob

    the shadows in the top one appear to be just too crisp, but the average consumer won’t see that

  • Mike Sweeney

    This is a classic case of the 80/20 rule. You get 80% there, it will work fine because only 20% of the population will work out it’s fake. And even then, most wont care.

  • Peter Bond Photography

    i only read that she was insulted.. because of this posting that i think is abolutely fine.
    btw: i think that a great deal of fellow americans are stupid too.

  • peter bond photography

    how many languages you speak?
    let me guess….. your own and that´s it.
    and becasue you don´t seem to know other countrys have a constitution too. get some education about other countrys!

  • jens hoff

    Well can you prove it anonymous coward?
    Or ist it because you little American soul can not stand any critizising of your sick society?

  • jan ulfensen

    or you?

  • Hrnep

    why not just invade her country steal everything, destroy the rest and call it “mission for freedom II” ?

  • SUstinks

    you are a troll.. an anonymous troll who calls fro banning.. what a joke!!!

  • endless mirror

    or you?

  • vietnam

    can you prove it liar?

  • Peter Wrong

    “how many languages you speak?”?? “other countrys”?? I would work on your first language Peter before calling others out on theirs.

  • Leave Myfro

    Fro banning? Let’s leave hair out of this.

  • peter bond photography

    idiot… im not nativ english speaking how long do you need to get that? im from mexico….

  • Anonymous Coward

    Not American, but nice try Jens. You should stick to looking at your own country’s record before looking elsewhere.

  • hahahahaha

    Peter Bond is a Mexican name? Nice try.

  • please banher

    Just click her name and look at her posts. Proof. Stop trying to be a tough guy

  • HrnepHrnep

    Like in 1945? Sort of glad someone did that.

  • ulfulfsen

    are you really that retarded?
    of course bond is a mexican name….
    google for the name BOND in mexico.

  • jens hoff

    Nice try? To ashamed to tell us where you come from you anonymous coward??

  • Get the ulf outtahere

    Can you reply without calling someone an idiot or retarded? you know that only makes you look like what you accuse others of.

  • your mother is a drunk

    is your mother still a drunk?

  • Anonymous Coward

    Well, I’m from Surrey. Does that help you, Mr Pretend Mexican?

  • boohoo tanja

    Tanja – this new persona suits you

  • William Palank

    “Instead of replacing entire sets of furniture to change the color, they can use a few simple clicks and keystrokes.”
    Can be done by even the most rudimentary users of Photoshop in seconds.