How a great photographer will adapt their process for CGI content

There are many different things that a good photographer can do with your products to bring them to life. They can capture them in use by models to highlight how the product might be used and to instill an aspiration in the audience to be able to use them in the same way, for example, a fitness expert using weights or other lifting equipment. They might capture the products in a professional and relevant setting that the products might be used in, for example, those same weights on their own in a gym. They may also capture the products in a studio setting, surrounded by on-brand backdrops and other visual embellishments. Alternatively, they might turn to Computer-Generated-Imagery (also more commonly known as CGI). 

If you’ve worked with photographers before, and your visual assets are made up primarily of studio-setting photography, or User-Generated Content (UGC) lifestyle photography featuring models, then is it time to consider taking your products to new and exciting places with CGI? 

What is CGI?

CGI is a technology that allows for the creation of images using computer software. It’s commonly used in film and television, but it’s also becoming increasingly popular in product photography. With CGI, your product image shifts from a plain or well-crafted realistic shot of the product itself, into becoming an exciting and eye-catching scene that can be altogether out of the ordinary. CGI is a versatile tool that allows for complete creative control over the final image. 

The process of CGI doesn’t purely sit in the hands of a Creative Retoucher, however. Your photographer will need to understand the objective and what the final image is intended to look like, so that they can manipulate lighting, angles, and backgrounds to create the perfect image for your brand, before handing the images to a Creative Retoucher, who will work all manner of new magic on the image. 

Zania Clothing - Fitness Product Photography

CGI vs Traditional Product Photography

Traditional product photography involves setting up a photoshoot with a professional photographer, models, props, and lighting equipment. This process can be time-consuming and expensive, especially if you have a large catalogue of products. Additionally, traditional product photography has limitations when it comes to creative control. You’re limited by the physical space, locations, and props available to you, especially if the budget doesn’t stretch to building a full set to capture what you have in mind.

CGI, on the other hand, allows for complete creative control over the final image, without the need for physical space or equipment. You can create images that are impossible to achieve with traditional photography, such as products floating in mid-air, becoming characters, or even exploding into pieces. 

How does a professional photographer approach shooting for CGI?

The process of preparing for photography that will ultimately be manipulated using CGI for advertising is quite different from setting up for what might be deemed as more standard product photography. We have a great behind-the-scenes video from a recent shoot that Collette Evans did for the supplement brand Gasmark 10, which shows the process of a pre-CGI photography shoot. 

A professional photographer will first look for ideas and inspiration with you to understand various things, such as what the image will be used for and what kind of image you have in mind. They will work with you to find existing pictures that accurately depict what you’re hoping to achieve. A good photographer will have various mood boards and existing visuals for you to go through to find something that suits you. 

The key thing with CGI images is that they are usually much more different from studio or lifestyle photographs, as they are designed to put your products in a scenario that would be far more expensive or perhaps even simply impossible to bring to life in a studio setting. 

Once a visual inspiration has been selected, the photographer will create a very bare setting for the product to be captured in to begin with, which will then be built up in layers, essentially building the photography from scratch. 

The product will be placed on a white background, which will help to avoid any colour transmission onto the product, which can cause trouble in the editing and creative retouching stages. Lighting is massively important, and a great photographer will light the product effectively to ensure shadows and lighting angle reflects the final scene that they’re being placed in. They will switch up the lighting to ensure all bases are covered. Remember, when it comes to CGI, it’s better to have too many photographs than too few. 

The camera angle is also very important. For example, if you want your product to look heroic and imposing, the camera may sit lower than the product, looking up at it. 

To bring colour into the image, a coloured gel filter would be placed over the lighting, as opposed to being in the backdrop. This can cast a suitable shade onto the product, driving the mood of the intended imagery, which can help the CGI expert in the post-production stage. For example, if the product is going into a dark setting in the CGI stage, the photographer may use a blue filter on the backlighting to help it blend into the scene. 

The packaging, and how you develop your product packaging are a huge part of your brand and branding, so a good photographer will avoid applying anything to the lighting and filters that change the essence. This is your product, and it should be treated with the utmost respect by anybody photographing it. 

Once the product has been captured in as bare a setting as possible, the photographer may then capture some props and other assets, which will give the Creative Retoucher more content to work with, which in turn gives you, the client, more options to choose from when it comes to choosing how to advertise your products. Each component will be shot separately, to be built into the image at the CGI stage. Remember, we said that the process would require building up in layers!

We have worked with hundreds of brands to capture photographs that will go on to be manipulated with CGI by our Creative Retouch team, to create amazing advertising campaigns that truly stand out against the competition.

Whether you’re looking at refreshing your product image range, or need some fresh, optimised visual content for your brand’s advertising campaigns or social media platforms, get in touch to have a chat with the team so that we can understand your vision and objectives, and let us elevate your products to the next level with CGI-driven photography.

Here at Picture Perfect Photography, we work alongside some amazing names that can help us to deliver a one-stop shop in the work we do. Our specialism is undoubtedly the highest quality product photography, but alongside brands such as Big Sky CreativeSF Retouch, Danny Barnett Food Styling, and Jen Hammonds Social, we can offer additional valuable services to our clients. These services include video production, social media management, copywriting, and of course creative retouching. 

Further to this, working with a single operation that offers multiple services can absolutely enable you to manage your budget and your marketing plan much more effectively.

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