Is CGI delivering a knockout punch to the commercial photography industry?

To be frank, CGI is hammering some serious blows to the traditional commercial photography studio. It allows the creation of images without ever having to take a single picture. The type of photograph can be anything from a simple product image to a very complex composition with dozens of elements. Entire catalogs can be created without stepping foot inside a studio. Take a look at any recent IKEA catalog – the vast majority of product photographs were created on the computer with CGI. 

CGI is starting to replace a lot of product and conventional photography, which is the “bread and butter” for many studios. It’s economically impossible to stay in business when a large percentage of the day-to-day work is gone and never coming back. For many studios, the investment in CGI software and training is just too great. It’s nowhere near the same type of transition as when studios moved from film to digital. Learning to create a CGI image is one thing, but creating a totally realistic and photo-real CGI image is another.

Producing a single product photograph with CGI may actually cost the client more money initially, because it does take longer than setting up a studio product shot. But as more images are created, the cost savings to clients become significant. 

Think of what doesn’t need to happen in the CGI world: no products need to be located and shipped, no time is spent in the studio, and there’s very little retouching necessary. In the studio, physics play a part (like when shadows fall in inconvenient places or full-depth focus can be impossible to achieve). With CGI, however, none of the above is a factor. And if the photograph needs to be changed, there are no reshoots – only the cost of replacing the elements in the CGI scene and re-rendering. 

Will CGI ever fully replace photographers with their cameras and lights? In a word: no. It’s often faster to take a single photograph then to go through all the steps needed to create a CGI image. The food and fashion industries aren’t ready for CGI, and neither are a lot of soft goods products.

Ultimately, while CGI is becoming more and more necessary for marketing collateral and image-based business solutions, there is a time and place in this world for both traditional commercial photography and CGI. Here at TRG Reality, we can help each client decide which approach is best, both from a creative and technical standpoint. Often, the best solution is some combination of both techniques. This is what’s so unique about TRG Reality: our photographers work in tandem with CGI artists to efficientlyprovide the most creative and realistic images possible. 

Do you think CGI is eradicating the commercial photography industry? Do you prefer one imaging technique over the other? Let us know in the comments below!