In the furniture retail industry, a picture truly is worth a thousand words. For this reason, all successful companies have teams of marketing and advertising experts who put a great deal of work into finding the most effective way to create a portfolio of visuals that showcase the unique qualities of their product lines.
Over the past ten years, more and more of these marketing experts have begun to use different forms of 3D modeling to create the images for their advertising campaigns rather than paying for traditional studio photography.
The Basics of 3D CGI
“3D modeling” is a bit of an umbrella term, and encompasses many different types of computer-generated models and techniques for image creation.
At its most basic, “3D modeling” refers to any computer-generated, somewhat realistic representation of a product. A related term that you may encounter, “3D rendering” indicates a high degree of realism. 3D product renderings are often indistinguishable from photographs, as they include tiny details such as material textures or reflections from surroundings.
Marketing teams can dictate the level of photorealism they desire, which often depends on how fast they need images for an advertising campaign or how much money is available in a budget for a given project.
So how exactly do the requirements for the 3D modeling process differ from those of production photography, and what advantages does it have over more traditional imaging methods?
In many cases, a drafting services expert only needs a set of high-quality photographs of the product in order to begin creating a 3D model. The designer will use these photographs to build up a rough sketch of the item in a special program, using generic polygons as building blocks.
Once the model is refined to a point where it resembles the product, the designer can then add in effects such as colors, textures, shadows, and atmospheric lighting. The completed image file can be placed on a simple white background, or, with a few additional steps, can be combined with a fully rendered background to create a picture that puts the product in a relevant setting.
The relative simplicity of this process, as well as the quality of the resulting images, are just a few of the characteristics that make 3D rendering an attractive choice for marketing teams. Cost and versatility are also important factors.
Before we cover the advantages of using 3D CGI for furniture marketing in greater detail, let’s first explore a few of the common stylistic options and situations in which they might be particularly effective for advertisements.
Lifestyle Images and White Backgrounds
As discussed above, most 3D models are created in a blank digital space akin to starting with an empty piece of paper for a sketch. But these images are only used to their full potential when they are placed in a meaningful background.
Choosing the appropriate background depends on the purpose of the image. The two most widely used types of backgrounds are fully rendered settings and simple white backgrounds. So when might a marketing team or designer choose one option over the other?
Companies often use printed or online catalogs to showcase the full extent of their product lines. While it is essential to have a thumbnail image of every product, it is also important to show consumers how these items might be incorporated into their daily lives, thus prompting a purchase.
A good way to do this is to set up a scene such as a kitchen, bedroom, or study that integrates several pieces of furniture in a natural, inviting manner. In this instance, a detailed background pulls the image together and creates a cohesive, professional image.
Lifestyle images like this can be powerful marketing tools, as they allow companies to draw in viewers and help them imagine how they would use a product in their own homes or offices. Additionally, full room setups can place unique pieces in a standard context. This is especially important to online consumers, who are often trying to decide how or if a product will fit into a room without being able to view it in person.
As useful as lifestyle images are, there are also many situations that require a different type of visual.
White backgrounds are more appropriate, for example, when displaying a product’s range of color options. When using 3D product renderings, this type of background may also be effective for highlighting an item’s fabric, joints, or other details of construction. Sometimes, a white background is simply the most successful tactic to draw a consumer’s attention to an eye-catching design.
Furniture retail companies are putting all styles of 3D CGI to use with increasing frequency. Below, we’ll cover some of the top reasons why these companies are choosing 3D modeling over studio photography for their marketing visuals.
12 Reasons Why Companies Choose 3D CGI over Photography for Furniture Marketing
1. 3D CGI Is Cost-effective
Furniture companies invest large portions of their budgets into creating images for advertising campaigns, promotions, and websites.
Perhaps the top reason for the shift towards computer-generated imagery is its extreme value compared to production photography. A studio session has a long list of overhead costs; renting studio space, paying photographers, fabricating every single prototype that needs to be photographed and shipping all of them to the studio location, and providing sets or decorations are just a few of the expenses inherent to product photography.
Additionally, this process must be repeated every time the company wants a new set of images, which turns these from one-time expenses into recurring ones.
3D CGI, on the other hand, is incredibly cost-effective. Since a large portion of the work is done remotely and often does not require any more than a set of images from which the designer can obtain dimensions and material qualities, the need to build and transport single-use prototypes is removed. Digital backgrounds also eliminate the need to purchase decorations and stylistic props.
2. 3D CGI Gives Companies and Designers More Control over Image Quality
While production photography is done by teams of professional photographers and product design services, it is still subject to several variables that can affect the quality of the final images.
Lighting schemes can interact with furniture materials in unpredictable ways, especially metallic surfaces. Shooting in a specific location, particularly outside, can become difficult if weather or other environmental conditions don’t cooperate.
The 3D modeling process, however, is free of almost all uncertainty. When compared to 3D product renderings in blind tests (i.e. where the subject doesn’t know which of two images is a digital one and which is a photograph), 3D models are often picked as better, more realistic pictures than actual photographs.
The high degree of photorealism and consistency that 3D CGI delivers give it a distinct advantage over production photography. Backgrounds can be created from scratch, which makes weather conditions irrelevant to the design process. Using CGI, companies can develop images that are as close to perfect as possible.
3. The Editing Process Is Much Easier for 3D CGI than for Studio Photography
Another significant advantage of using 3D modeling is the capability of instantaneous feedback and editing.
While computer-generated images are often of more consistent quality than studio photographs, sometimes marketing teams may need to change aspects of an image after it has been completed.
What happens in this case? For an image generated through studio photography, most times the only answer is to redo the shoot. This can cost a company both time and financial resources.
For computer-generated images, though, the editing process is quite different. Since the finalized image is saved as a digital file, designers can simply re-open the file and begin to make the requested changes. They can test different lighting schemes, make minute adjustments until any unwanted shadows or reflections are removed, or edit the position of items in a scene.
Corrections and edits are sometimes an important part of the marketing process. 3D CGI makes editing easier and more cost-effective, which ultimately provides furniture retailers with high-quality images at better values.
4. 3D Product Renderings Can Be Efficiently Customized or Re-Branded
It is essential for furniture companies to not only develop a line of flagship products, but also to offer these products in a range of styles and colors that appeal to different consumer demands.
From a marketing standpoint, it is important to have the ability to showcase these different options for potential buyers, ideally with an image to accompany each variation in style. But creating these images is not always an easy task if companies opt for studio photography, since each custom option must be built as a separate prototype.
This can become expensive for larger companies with an extensive inventory, and completely cost prohibitive for smaller companies who might be looking to explore new markets. To manage costs, furniture retailers may opt to only show images of a portion of their inventory.
Through the use of 3D CGI, however, this problem can be avoided. Designers can start with a base image and create a set of related models that represent the different customizable options that a company offers.
This is an especially effective technique for companies looking to expand website content or print an annual catalog. Seasonal promotional campaigns can also be easily accomplished by altering a set of stock images to include appropriate decorations and backgrounds.
5. The Capabilities of 3D CGI Extend beyond Creating Photorealistic Exteriors
In a digital landscape, designers have the opportunity to push creative boundaries in a way that studio photographers and retailers often cannot afford to do.
3D product renderings don’t have to be used only to show exterior shots of a product. Cut-away views, sets of panels that replicate the construction process, and zoomed-in images are all possible ways to utilize the full capabilities of 3D CGI for furniture marketing.
While companies will sometimes create additional prototypes for the purpose of taking cut-out photographs, designers can do the same thing without the need for another physical product.
This helps marketing teams promote the unique attributes of their furniture, and can also go a long way towards building brand loyalty since consumers can verify the durability and quality of construction even online. The versatility that computer-generated imagery offers can open up several different avenues for promotional campaigns and marketing ideas, such as social media polling or unique website content.
6. Designers Can Create Stunning Lifestyle Images without Having to Travel to Different Locations or Build Sets
The extensive range of options available for backgrounds and settings give 3D product renderings a functionality that traditional production photography cannot match. As mentioned above, adding a background to a promotional image is an extremely effective way to bring an emotional layer to an advertisement.
Trying to market a kitchen barstool to new high school graduates shopping for their first set of furniture and looking for trendy pieces with a modern flair? What about selling armchairs to seniors who are finally replacing the one that’s been by the fireplace for decades?
Having the ability to create a convincing setting and a narrative for a product may make the difference in a sale. By using 3D CGI to create these images, imagination is the limit for marketing teams and designers.
Many designers maintain a considerable digital library of stock backgrounds, and can create new ones upon request. Best of all, because the backgrounds are digital, there is no need to build sets, buy props, rent space, or transport camera equipment to locations outside the studio.
7. The 3D Modeling Process Has a Less Complicated Workflow Than That of Production Photography
One of the reasons that product photography is so expensive is its complex workflow. Companies will usually set up an initial consultation to assess what they need from the photoshoot and to discuss the available budget.
Then, the photography team needs to prepare equipment, create sets, and scout locations, amidst a long list of other tasks. The actual studio session requires a full team of people, including photographers and an art director. And after the photos are taken, most times they still require digital enhancement.
Proofs are sent to the company, and after the final set of images are selected, they must go through post-production touch-ups before they are complete and ready to use.
Each of these steps has an associated cost, in both employee time and equipment use. By choosing 3D CGI as a way to generate visuals for marketing, companies can avoid a complicated process and communicate directly with designers.
8. Choosing to Use 3D CGI Shortens the Time to Product Launch
Because the workflow associated with creating a set of 3D product renderings is simplified compared to that of a studio photography session, companies can launch new products on a shorter timescale. This is especially advantageous in competitive markets, where quickly bringing a product from the drawing board to the showroom can make the difference between huge profits and missed opportunities.
The real key to a faster product launch, though, is to start promotional campaigns before inventory is fully produced. Not only does this help companies get the word out about their hot new products, but it can also provide valuable information on customer interest for companies trying to introduce products to previously untested markets.
This can then save you money by allowing companies to match inventory to demand instead of over-producing items that won’t sell. Since 3D product renderings can be created from a set of specifications or photographs, companies using CGI often don’t even need a prototype to begin building up visuals for promotional campaigns.
9. 3D CGI Isn’t Just Useful for Big Companies
One of the most exciting things about 3D modeling is its accessibility. Since studio photography sessions are so costly, smaller retailers may not have the inventory to make a day in the studio worthwhile and are often unable to justify the expense.
With 3D CGI, however, there are options available for businesses of any size. Smaller companies, start-ups, or even individuals can hire a designer to work on a set of two or three product renderings. This can allow them to focus on marketing a few signature items, building up a distinctive image for their brand, and possibly leading to future growth.
Larger, more established companies can use 3D modeling to generate high-quality images for the full complement of their inventories and ensure that they are providing options for as many potential consumers as possible.
Companies also have a great degree of control over the level of photorealism in their computer-generated images and can select a balance of detail and efficiency that matches their time constraints.
10. 3D Modeling is a More Environmentally Friendly Option than Studio Photography
Environmental sustainability is important to all companies, and choosing 3D CGI can actually go a long way towards reducing waste for a business.
Only necessary prototypes are fabricated, and those prototypes that are constructed will be used for a long time. Using early promotional campaigns to gauge interest in different products can help companies avoid wasting resources and producing excess inventory.
Additionally, removing the need to transport products to and from a studio session also helps companies demonstrate that they are committed to making environmentally friendly decisions and reduce their carbon footprint.
11. The Capabilities of 3D CGI Extend Far Beyond Still Images
While it is true that 3D modeling is a very effective way to generate detailed, photorealistic images, these product renderings have many more applications besides catalog thumbnails or advertising material.
By adding a few pieces of information to the digital file of a product’s rendering, designers can take that product image and animate it. Interactive images that allow consumers to rotate a product, view it from all angles, and zoom in on details are incredibly advantageous for businesses focused on expanding their revenue through e-commerce.
A panoramic view is also a creative way to bring customers on a tour of a space and showcase how different products work together in a room, in the same manner as a walk-through of a physical showroom. This way, customers can feel like they’re interacting with different pieces of furniture, and can have the confidence to purchase without leaving the comfort of home.
Animations can also display different configurations of modular furniture for homes or offices. They can even be used to increase consumer knowledge by animating a unique aspect of a product’s construction process.
12. Finding a Team of Qualified Designers Is Easy!
Large companies such as IKEA have begun to employ full teams of in-house designers, who create exclusive digital content to meet the demands of the business’s marketing teams and advertising goals.
But how can other companies get connected with qualified professionals?
Luckily, online platforms like Cad Crowd are here to help. Cad Crowd can match businesses or individuals with teams of freelance designers based on a company’s goals and the services that they require. Smaller companies can hire on an as-needed basis, depending on the volume of work they have at any given point. Options for hiring on an hourly schedule are also available.
Professional designers who work through Cad Crowd have been vetted, and are specialists in a wide array of services such as 3D furniture modeling services, 3D furniture rendering services, 3D product animation services, furniture design services, and more. Businesses can customize their hired team to suit their needs, including the degree of photorealism in their images, their budget, and their target markets.
Even larger businesses can benefit from outsourcing to freelance designers through platforms like Cad Crowd, especially if they’re searching for someone with a specialized skill set that would be particularly helpful for a specific project.
3D CGI has several advantages over studio photography. 3D product renderings are cost-effective, versatile, easy to edit, and very effective for use in online advertising campaigns. If you have a product and need high-quality images or animations, let Cad Crowd connect you with a team of freelance designers. Click the link below to get a quote, or check out the 3D CGI services that Cad Crowd offers.