Finding the right imaging solution for your business can be integral to your online success. Shoppers rely a great deal on high-quality product images to make online purchasing decisions. And as the volume of online shopping continues to rise, demand for more and better images is going up.

But image production can be expensive. A single photoshoot can cost many times what the product itself is worth. Whereas with virtual photography – also known as 3D rendering and 3D product visualization – many business owners don’t understand what the process involves. And because it’s new and technical, there is a common misconception that to achieve high-quality results, you have to pay a lot of money.

We know from our customers that 3D product visualization has become very cost-effective. Just like computers, cameras, or mobile phones, prices fall sharply as new technology matures. But what we didn't know was, just how much cheaper is it to create product imagery using 3D vs traditional photography? 

To see which really is the best value proposition for e-Commerce companies, the only way to answer this question was to investigate the costs of each. So that's exactly what we did. And the results were illuminating, to say the least. On average, digital renders proved to be up to six times less expensive than the production of photographic images. The price difference is huge, and yet only one of the many benefits of creating visuals with 3D. 

In this blog, we break down our main research findings and explore the additional factors why e-Commerce companies are ditching traditional product photography in favor of 3D rendering.

The price of photography around the world

Traditional photography prices vary all around the world.

We contacted more than 100 studios and photographers in 17 cities across 11 countries, from Belgium to Australia, the UK to the USA. And approached each studio with the same fixed project brief to see what it would cost for them to shoot 5 high-end furniture products - a table, armchair, sofa, vase, and floor lamp. For each product, we requested 5 white background shots and 1 creative lifestyle scene.

Not surprisingly, prices varied greatly according to location, with New York representing the most expensive city – racking up a mighty $17,952 for the 5 photoshoots, followed by LA at $15,322 and Copenhagen rounding out the top three with $15,024. Overall, the most expensive countries were the US, Denmark, and the UK, while the cheapest were Germany, Italy, and Spain.

But what was most surprising, is that we found that on average the studio and photographer only made up about 40% of the intrinsic costs of the photoshoot. It's all the finer details that quickly add up. Factors such as lighting, props, visual stylists, transport, and more accounted for around 60% of the final price. Proving that there’s much more to the perfect photoshoot than just the photographer and location!

Working to the same criteria, we took prices from CGTrader Modelry to calculate the cost of doing the same with 3D. Complete images for five products including one lifestyle rendering works out to just $2,000. That’s around six times cheaper than the global average for photography. And almost an eighth of the cost of photography for the same items in New York. So, what is influencing this difference in pricing?

Why is 3D product visualization so much cheaper?

3D helps to create high quality visuals with minimum effort and lower costs.

First, traditional photography is a complex process, involving considerably more stakeholders than when creating 3D renders. While the latter can be completed by a single professional with the right technology, photography involves more than just a photographer when you have studios, stylists, and assistants to factor in.

In addition, there's the cost of shipping and returning the items – an expense that simply doesn’t come into play with renders. This also means that creating renders is more sustainable. There’s no travel. No transportation of goods. In theory, it can all be conducted without anyone leaving their home.

And then there’s the issue of flexibility. When you photograph furniture, for example, you have to repeat the entire process for every version of the item you wish to sell, re-shooting for every season. With 3D product visualization, you can change the color, backdrop, and angle digitally, in just a couple of clicks. In short, rendering costs less because you save time and can do more with fewer repeat costs

3D product visuals also engage and sell better

However, the cost of producing product visuals is not the whole story. You also have to consider the return on investment (ROI), since the visuals themselves have a specific purpose, which is to sell products. A goal that is not achieved equally when comparing 3D product visualization with traditional photography.

Looking at our customers that have already made the switch from photography to 3D, it becomes clear that the main advantages of 3D go far beyond price. 3D visuals have a far higher ROI when measuring their impact. 

As a result of the partnership with Modelry, home fashion label Buster + Punch was able to improve their customer experience and increase engagement by using the latest AR technology. All of that translated into 50% more time spent on product pages and smoother collaboration with partners and sellers. 

Companies are constantly looking for new and creative ways to market their products. And 3D offers an additional level of interactivity through viewers, spinners, augmented and virtual reality that 2D does not. When women’s high-fashion and handbag brand Rebecca Minkoff rolled out 3D and augmented reality shopping solutions on their online store, they found that customers were 44% more likely to add an item to their cart after interacting with a product in 3D and 65% more likely to place an order after interacting in AR.

Getting shoppers to engage and convert faster is awesome, but perhaps an even better metric commonly cited by all of our customers is the positive impact on return rates. Because 3D and AR help customers answer important questions about style and fit before they make a purchase, they are able to shop with greater confidence and as a result, customers return far fewer products

The logistical benefits of 3D rendering

Rollie Nation used 3D technology to create prototypes of their products.

What's more, all 3D product rendering services can be handled virtually, even without the need for a physical product. Since geographically, it doesn't matter where you are. The process is conducted online, so you could be working in LA and liaising with a technician based in Germany, as long as you speak the same language, it doesn’t matter. Lockdowns and restrictions on movement will not impact your ability to complete new imagery or finalize brochures at all. 

With 3D modeling, it’s even possible to create visuals from a product design instead of the finished product. Rollie Nation, for example, was able to use 3D prototype product renderings for a new product launch. Nike is another popular example of a company using 3D configurators to let customers create a custom product choosing any combination of colors, materials, and textures before they go into manufacture.

The price of perfect pictures

AI in 3D is set to simplify specific processes, such as generating & suggesting (e.g leather) textures for the 3D designers.

The price of photography is likely to increase over time. It’s the same for almost all products and services, as prices go up due to inflation, and sometimes at a faster rate. 3D rendering, on the other hand, is likely to keep decreasing in price. As with all new technologies, the more the availability increases, prices fall.

But advancing technology also means that the art of 3D rendering will also become more sophisticated over time, the results even truer to life – although they’re already incredibly accurate. Meanwhile, AI is helping to simplify (and in some cases eliminate) specific processes and save both time and manual effort for technical teams. Such as enhancing textures and facilitating quality assurance.

AI and automation can also help speed up what is an already comparatively fast service, removing much of the groundwork from the digital artists, and allowing for rapid scalability for larger e-Commerce brands. And this means that, with their versatility and ability to deliver 360° views and seamless experiences, 3D product visualization will continue to be in high demand for both businesses and their customers. 

Modelry also uses AI to help prospective customers get an instant price quote. Try it here to see how much you could save by switching from traditional photography to 3D for your product visuals. 

Before you go - key facts about Modelry

If our research study inspired you to take a step forward with AR and 3D product visualization, Modelry is here to help! As the B2B side of CGTrader, Modelry is the leading provider of 3D modeling services and Augmented Reality solutions. 

Here are some reasons why eCommerce brands choose our services:

  • Fifteen years of experience in 3D modeling.
  • Trusted by 150+ Fortune 500 companies.
  • A one-stop-shop for all things 3D.
  • A community of thousands of highly skilled 3D designers.
  • Advanced Quality Assurance (QA) system.

See our blog on how anyone can get started with 3D in 3 simple steps. And to book a demo or learn more, do not hesitate to contact our team!

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Research reveals major cost benefits of moving to digital 3D product visualization

Lara Oliveira is a Content Manager at Modelry. With over a decade of experience writing across corporates and startups, she is now focused on helping companies innovate with 3D and AR technology. Reach out to her at pr@cgtrader.com to talk about possible content collaborations!

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