Extremely Realistic Computer Generated Imagery is Killing Photography Jobs


One half of the face above is a photograph, and the other half is a highly detailed computer generated rendering created using a program called KeyShot by Luxion. Can you tell which is which? If you can’t tell, why should we? (Okay, to be honest, we’re not sure either).

Joseph Flaherty over at Wired writes that KeyShot and other programs that can generate photorealistic renders are being widely used for product photos these days, and are quickly killing off jobs that were once held by photographers.

Flaherty says that many of the product photographs you see these days aren’t photos at all, but similar photorealistic renders that didn’t involve a camera at any stage:

For product shots, KeyShot is a control freak’s dream. Unlike photographs, the images it produces show no greasy fingerprints and are unmarred by dust. “If someone puts their heart and soul to a product, they want the images to be perfect,” says Jensen.

Technically, KeyShot works by simulating the scattering of photons as they bounce around in a scene and interact with the different materials.

Check out this Nikon D60 product photo, which was created entirely on a computer:


The KeyShot website has a gallery that currently has 13 pages full of these renders. Here’s a sampling of the images that might fool your eyes if you were to see them inside an advertisement somewhere (some companies are starting to go 100% CGI for their promotional materials these days):

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You can find out more about how this kind of rendering works over on the KeyShot website, or head on over to Wired to read Flaherty’s piece on how the world of photography is being rocked by this technology.

Hyper-Realistic CGI Is Killing Photographers, Thrilling Product Designers [Wired]

Thanks for sending in the tip, Eric!

  • Howard Mims

    You are exactly right….. I just had an interview last week with GM. It was for creating commercials in 3D for their new cars…. It’s cheaper to pay a select few than to build a million dollar prototype car and have somebody film it.

    Something to take note of, people are very difficult to create in 3D. This is a very difficult process especially if there is animation involved so it isn’t cost effective. People will need to be filmed for commercials. However, promotional products will be owned by CG.

    If you don’t believe me then look up a guy named Alex Roman and watch his commercial called “Above Everything Else.”

    Evolve or become extinct

  • Howard Mims

    Makes sense on a large budget project that can afford directors….. but CG is a tool that is used by artiest that are trained in traditional art skills. In other words, they know what they are doing when it comes to art direction. Hopefully that doesn’t sound rude.

  • Howard Mims

    You are right man…. It is very time consuming making stuff in 3D. But the problem we are facing right now in the entertainment industry is that art direction is a dime a dozen and there aren’t enough jobs to go around.

    I’m a CG guy with a background of traditional art. I talked with EA Games last year and they were trying to fill 250 jobs, 6 were for art (what I do) and 244 jobs were for computer science. What us art guys are having to do in the entertainment industry is wear two hats to keep our jobs, Art and Computer Science. CG has become so competitive that only the best land artistic jobs in studios, in other words the art direction isn’t needed from an outside source.

    “A lot of 3D films have hired traditional cinematographers to frame and direct lighting” – this is for people like Steven Spielberg, there aren’t a lot of those. Unfortunately, that isn’t going to be a strong argument pertaining to photographers keeping a job.

    Unless a photographer is in product promotion then they need not worry. Products are the easiest to build because they aren’t alive, so CG will dominate product promotion unless there are humans or living things in the picture.

    $3,000 dollars for a room? That’s not bad at all. I’m doing 3D work for a QVC commercial….. We are charging $10,000 for 1min. Others quoted my client $20,000. It’s our software that costs an arm and a leg, if we don’t have it then the customer has to pay so we can ether rent the software or purchase a license.

  • Howard Mims

    To be honest we are already there now…..The tools are there, it depends on the artistic eye of who is making the picture.

  • thatsthat

    All this reminds me of the movie Looker from the 80s.