Shutterstock is set to acquire 3D-render stock agency TurboSquid for $75 million dollars, investing in a future where photos aren’t necessarily captured with a camera. TurboSquid’s value appears to have soared amid the COVID-19 outbreak, as traditional photography was hampered by stay-at-home orders.
Shutterstock’s acquisition is one that brings in both talent and intellectual property and adds more than two million customers to Shutterstock, making it the largest marketplace by revenue for 3D graphics, beating out Adobe. Getty, Shutterstock’s largest image competitor, does not offer 3D assets at all.
3D modeling has not only become easier thanks to software like Blender or Zbrush, but it’s also becoming more realistic. While much of TurboSquid’s library is full of assets that are very clearly computer-generated, there are many assets that look incredibly realistic. The existence of such models should come as no surprise, as companies like Ikea have been using 3D models for advertising images for some time.
“The growth of 3D, AR and VR content and the potential to engage consumers with this disruptive technology is at an all-time high,” Shutterstock’s CEO Stan Pavlovsky says. “And TurboSquid’s industry-leading platform allows us to make the distribution of 3D accessible to Shutterstock’s community of creators and marketers across video, gaming, e-commerce, and beyond.”
While speculation, ShutterStock’s acquisition timing may very well be linked to the difficulty companies may be having in acquiring new imagery for advertising. What was once a more fringe-level area of content creation is now sitting center stage as many advertisers may turn to 3D modeling as an alternative to photography which has been challenging to set up thanks to the spread of COVID-19. 3D models can be made without needing full studio sets and multiple people, making them arguably more agile and less expensive in comparison. So while the use of 3D models is a tried-and-true method for retailers like Ikea, the pandemic has forced other companies who normally would not have dipped their toes into the 3D modeling space to give it a shot.
Regardless of the reason, Shutterstock’s investment in this sector signals that the stock image giant believes that photography won’t always involve cameras.
3D rendered scenes are yet to be a dominant portion of commercial imagery, but time will tell if that changes. It’s also possible that 3D models will work in tandem with photographers to create full scenes.
As reported by DPReview, despite the many advantages of using 3D assets, there are some downsides. A stock photo is ready to use as soon as it is downloaded, while 3D assets need to be assembled into a final image which can be extremely expensive. So while time and effort may be saved in the creation of the asset, that advantage may grow slimmer as editing time increases.