Are The Interior Photographer's Days Numbered? IKEA Says Yes

Are The Interior Photographer's Days Numbered?  IKEA Says Yes

In my opinion, one of the most difficult fields of photography falls on the shoulders of interior photographers. If you've ever tried to photograph a well designed interior space you know how tough it can be. Furniture superstore IKEA produces more than 208 million catalogs a year, and over 12% of those photographs are not even photographs at all. IKEA has found a way to produce compelling digital renders of their rooms that look exactly like naturally lit photographs.

In the video below, The Wall Street Journal interviews Jens Hansegard who explains the benefits of why companies like IKEA might want to use computer renders over real photographs. As IKEA increases their computer renders to over 25% in the next year, it makes me wonder, will there still be photography jobs for the big furniture and design companies in the future?

Check out the full article and quiz over at The Wall Street Journal

Sample behind the scenes render of IKEA's "fake photographs"

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24 Comments

Lee Morris's picture

oh wow. This is scary

Jens Marklund's picture

I was just looking through the new catalogue, wondering what they shot it with. Looked like it had quite a bit of grain, but I think that had to do with the print.

I knew a girl who got a job at the IKEA studio/hangar, as a photo assistant about two years ago. She said they were five, sharing one apartment, in the small town that IKEA has it's origin in or whatever. Their jobs was to basically set everything in the room up, light it, and then there's the photographer who does the final adjustments and takes the photos (as the same time as some of them go on to the next room). It's kinda like a sitcom set, where they got a big hangar with fake walls - dividing all the rooms. A bit like a doll house.

Jens Marklund's picture

Also, watch this video. It's all CG.

https://vimeo.com/7809605

I think this may happen for catalogue shots like those for Ikea, but not for other stuff (interior design of real/existing houses, for sales, etc.)

ColonelClaw's picture

I'm on the guys who produces exactly this sort of work. Trust me, I'm as obsessed by photography as much as many of the visitors to this site. All of the composition and lighting techniques I use were first picked up from using an SLR going back many years, and the skills are directly transferable. From borrowing my mum's Pentax ME-Super through the first camera I owned a Nikon F-801, to my latest acquisition, a Nikon D800, I'm always thinking photography.
There is no 'magic button' you press to get realistic CGIs, you have to go through all the same procedures you do in real life. The virtual camera in my software (3dsMax and V-Ray) has to set up with the correct exposure, film speed and aperture as a regular camera. But more than that I spend hours, sometimes days setting up the lighting. Again the lights I use have real-world equivalents right down to temperature settings. The compositions don't choose themselves, again they have to be worked on continuously. And I haven't even touched on the modelling and texturing aspect, two enormous disciplines of their own.

To produce this level of work is very difficult, and not many people can do it. The people at the top of CGI earn every penny of their money and are artists just like yourselves.

Michael Tapp's picture

I am surprised this isn't false advertising.

Tor Ivan Boine's picture

This isnt something new. Companies have done this for years. I did some 3d-modelling 5-6 years ago. And even then people made 3d-renders like this at home. 

Oh crap.

This has been happening in the world of commercial product photography for several years now. Many product images of consumer or business electronics are actually just computer renderings rather than photos of the actual products being sold.

Think about time and money.

Which is more efficient?

Jason Peters's picture

I said on facebook and I will repeat it here. For years people have been saying that technology will kill photography but we're still here. It certainly has changed the industry but we're still here...

Time to sell the camera gear and get a really beefed out PC that can render 3d-shit in no time!

Kinda sad i always liked IKEA photos and thought it could be fun shooting for them ^^

★✰★P.S. 32★✰★'s picture

cool.

Hi Fstoppers fellas,
my name is Andrea and I am one of those 3d artist behind the pictures of the IKEA catalog. The process to create our 3d pics is a little bit more complex that what´s described in the article.
We are one of the few companies in the world using interior designer working on our 3d scene to recreate the same feeling and style of the photo shots.
Photographer and 3D artist are working together, trying to connect the real world to the digital, sharing knowledge, to increase our efficiency and creativity.
We have an high demand of realism, that´s because we want that our product will look exactly the same both if it´s a 3d pics or a real one. We don´t and we won´t fool our clients just creating amazing and shining product and interior shots as most of the architecture visualization companies.
So it´s not just about saving moneys, it´s about to be more creative and don´t get stacked in a 4 wall and a ceiling setup, being able to create amazing location and pictures more local market relevant (China, Russia and US houses are quite different by Scandinavian and European).

Hi Andrea, I wonder how many hours do your team neads to complete one CG shoot??

Josée Berlin
I was fortunate enough to be one of the designers working on a project at IKEA in Almhult last year that employed this 3D rendering technique.  As Andrea mentions above, this is a close collaboration with the 3D artist and the designer and photographer. The designer and photographer provide the product knowledge, brand identity influencing the final result that evoke the feelings the photographs give. There is still a place for the photographer and the designer.  This is a process that has evolved in efforts to be more sustainable and forward minded using modern technology.  A unique opportunity for innovative graphic artists, interior designers and photographers who are interested in stretching their capabilities through this unique collaboration.

Patrick Hall's picture

Sounds like we should do a behind the scenes video with you guys....how awesome would that be!

Do you use 3D scanners, where you place the product in the scanner and scan to computer and then map color/texture, also will they be incorporating Lidar in their studios? 

Most likely models used for manufacturing.

Christina Force's picture

I agree there is still a place for photographers. In fact I know photographers who work closely with CG people to direct the lighting. CG pros generally have no lighting experience. It takes a photographer to make it work.

This is what I do for my company.  Instead of flying me to North Carolina this summer to shoot one or two of our elements, I built them using AutoCad, StudioMax, RealFlow, then Photoshop.  Now we have catalog images all within my normal salary without having the additional expense of flying, checking gear, renting a car, gas, food, hotels, etc...

Like others have said, this has been going on for a long time, you just never noticed. A lot of people think 3D models and think about something that looks fake, but you'd be surprised how many car commercials feature no actual live capture. Remember, the 3D guys and girls have to bid their jobs just the same as you do. If you're not happy about the prospect of possibly losing work, then it's your job to sell yourself as the best person for the work, regardless of the format.

I did this a few times using open source software to render what the inside of VIP aircraft would look like when finished.  It is a LOT of work to do well and I'm sure the IKEA guys are just pulling cad models and having another crew texture them.  It's really not that hard. The texturing is tougher and putting in the time to let a good rendering engine work also takes some patience and resources.

Photos look more realistic because of the imperfections and the more 'organic' feel to things since stuff in the models are so precisely placed.

It was quite eye opening though and you really construct the scene from the ground up.  It's not a sunny day in the kitchen...you need to put the sun there.  Making an image with 'natural light' is just like trying to fake it in real life. A light positioned behind a diffuser of some sort. Flagging and positioning appropriately to make it seem like it's just a open window on a clear (or cloudy if you so please) day.

Diffused light?  Direct?  Camera position? [virtual] lens length?  I think I came away from the project better appreciating photography.  If I take a picture of an aircraft interior know I know a lot more about what to expect.