Finding The Right Fit: When to Use 3D Rendering and Photography to Elevate Your Business

Are you trying to choose between 3D rendering and photography? They are both effective product visualization techniques. We’ll conduct a broad overview of their features to help you decide which one fits your use case.

Almost any business that sells physical products can benefit from product visualization for their online store. Moreover, firms that undertake grand projects, such as architecture and landscaping, must rely on visualization techniques to help showcase their designs to clients. Whatever your usage scenario, you’ll need to choose between 3D rendering and photography to help entice your buyers.

In every industry, communication is vital. When deciding whether to go with 3D rendering or photography, you must understand that while they serve similar purposes, they do this in different ways.

Typically, you use 3D rendering for advertising products in an idealized way to tantalize your customers. Meanwhile, you might use traditional photography to give your customers a realistic sense of your product’s features. However, the choice is a bit more complex than that. Let’s go deeper.

What is 3D Rendering?

3D product visualization is accomplished using Computer Generated Image (CGI) rendering. To render 3D images, you might use an existing image as a reference point, but you can make your visualizations entirely independent of reality. For this reason, 3D rendering is often called “virtual photography” because it allows you to set the stage for the perfect photograph, using whichever colors, lighting, and backgrounds you want – no need to purchase expensive equipment.

How does 3D rendering work?

Depending on your requirements, the 3D rendering process can take less than a second or more than a day. The underlying CGI rendering software will use data and models to create a render that accurately mimics real life. You could also scan a 3D object to enhance the background data in some cases.

The purpose of 3D rendering is to produce a 2D image from a 3D scene. Here are some popular rendering techniques that achieve this.


This is a technique typically used in real-time rendering. Instead of animating each pixel, the scanline technique goes faster by animating virtual images row-by-row.


As its name suggests, raytracing focuses on the light source to generate an image. CGI software uses raytracing to follow the light sources in a specific scene and simulate realistic lighting.


Radiosity focuses on creating shadows in an image by analyzing each pixel. It helps you model an image from all viewpoints by focusing on reflective surfaces, not just light sources.

As you can see, 3D rendering and its underlying processes are pretty complex. That’s why it makes sense to hire a 3D rendering professional to consult with you and find a solution tailored for you.

Why Do People Use 3D Rendering?

While 3D rendering might seem pricy, it’s often used to save time and costs. After all, could you imagine how exhausting and expensive it is for large businesses to take a photo of their entire catalog? And with each image, you would need to ensure that the background and lighting are perfect and match the display on your website. Not to mention, large products like furniture will require a great deal of physical exertion and planning to transport and rearrange to obtain the perfect shot.

Naturally, 3D rendering is an ideal communication tool when you have a project that is yet to be completed. When you’re constructing a building, drawings and physical models simply don’t do it justice. Indeed, sometimes 3D modeling can help you foresee structural issues ahead of time. Alternatively, you could help sell yourself to your clients by using 3D renders to animate your concepts.

What is Product Rendering?

Also known as product visualization, product rendering is when you use renderings, photographs, and artwork to communicate information about your product with your clients. While product visualization is undoubtedly essential to any eCommerce site, many brick-and-mortar stores find that putting quality visuals on their website can attract more customers.

Since two-thirds of customers claim that image quality is essential to them when choosing what product to buy, you can’t afford to neglect this aspect of marketing. You need to be sure that the images you use on your site will help you communicate their selling points to the buyers.

Moreover, you can help convert customers that are uncertain about your products by giving them the flexibility to try the product in different colors or with various backgrounds.

3D Rendering for Product Visualization

Online shopping is highly competitive. Which website do you think sells better, the one that showcases its products using standard images or the one that emphasizes its strong points and makes them easy to interact with? 3D rendering gives you the edge.

There are so many things that 3D product rendering enables you to do. CGI rendering allows you to capture every single angle, perspective, and background you could dream of with the right software. Furthermore, you can manipulate elements like colors and patterns with ease. Here are some of the powerful ways you can leverage CGI rendering software.

  1. Create lifestyle scenes to help customers understand how to use the product.
  2. Show your products on a clean, white background.
  3. Demonstrate your product in a virtual showroom to emphasize its best features.

Of course, there are many other ways you can use 3D rendering, but those are the main ones. Let’s look at a short case study.

How Ikea Uses 3D Product Rendering

As we mentioned earlier, product photography has diminishing returns. If you have many products to photograph, then CGI product photography works better. Few companies sell more products than Ikea, and when you get into all their product variations, traditional photography becomes completely unmanageable.

As a result, Ikea decided to use 3D renderings in their online catalogs. When they first started selling their furniture online, they noticed that customers would spend a lot of time considering their pieces before bouncing without buying anything. After all, furniture is a major purchase!

Ikea chose to use 3D rendering because of the flexibility it offers. While we’ve already discussed how you can use 3D modeling to view products from every angle, Ikea also valued the ability to use interchangeable backgrounds. Since Ikea operates in several different countries, it’s quite beneficial for them to adjust their products’ backgrounds toward a specific culture. This helped their customers envision how the furniture would fit with the rest of their living space.

Pros of 3D Rendering for Product Visualization

  1. Unlimited flexibility and creativity.
  2. Far more convincing than traditional photographs.
  3. It saves you a fair amount of time and sometimes money.

Cons of 3D Rendering for Product Visualization

  1. It won’t represent the product in the most realistic way, which sometimes causes issues for customers later.


As opposed to 3D rendering, photography is far more traditional. Since everybody is walking around with cameras on their phones, you might be tempted to think that photography is a simpler alternative to 3D rendering. This is not the case.

Simply put, photography requires that you exert far more effort into the visualization process. If you don’t want to collect all the cameras and props yourself to organize a photoshoot, you’ll need to hire a photography studio which is an expense in and of itself.

Moreover, photography affords you far less flexibility compared to 3D product visualization. Of course, if you work in an industry where people expect to see real-life images rather than a render, then you might favor traditional photography. You know your customers best, so that decision is up to you.

Photography for Product Visualization

Sometimes, sticking to the traditional route is best. If you feel your clients would not appreciate virtual photography, then go ahead and take photographs. If you decide to use real-life photos in your product modeling, you have several options:

Use Manufacturer Images

Ask your suppliers if they can provide you with images of their products. They should be able to offer you this for free, and you can load the images onto your website in seconds. The only downside is that the photos won’t always match your website.

Take Your Own Photographs

If you can’t get your hands on images from the manufacturer, you could take product images yourself. Unfortunately, this might also mean that you need to purchase extra items to make sure you get the photos right. Furthermore, this process can be time-consuming.

Hire a Photography Studio

Not everyone has the time or resources to take professional-looking photos. That’s where a photography studio comes in. They can provide all the cameras, lighting, props, and professional expertise you need to obtain the pictures you want. Of course, some find this expensive.

Pros of Using Photography for Product Visualization

  1. It enables you to capture products realistically, which is necessary for some businesses.
  2. Sometimes, you can acquire images for free.

Cons of Using Photography for Product Visualization

  1. Realistic images are rarely as attractive as 3D rendering pictures.
  2. Stock images won’t match the themes on your website.
  3. Taking photographs yourself takes time, and paying a studio still costs money.

Architectural Visualization

Imagine being an architect 100 years ago when all that people could use to showcase their design plans was a model or a paper drawing. Since then, a lot has changed. Nowadays, we’re able to create 3D rendering images in a matter of seconds.

Visualizing a building always works best to give clients a comprehensive view of the site. Typically, designers use both photographs and 3D renders to portray their work. Of course, to showcase your talents, you need to make sure that your best features shine through in an idealized visualization.

Exterior 3d visualization by Faraday 3D

Exterior 3d visualization by Faraday 3D

3D Rendering for Architectural Visualization

As we noted earlier, 3D rendering is perfect for scenarios where you need to show people what could be. In architecture, the design and planning phases are pivotal for any project. They take up significant time. Moreover, building projects are expensive. It can take a lot to convince all the stakeholders involved before you break ground.

Therefore, 3D rendering becomes an effective way for you to project every minuscule detail and plan for every eventuality. You’ll be able to show clients various scenarios and add and subtract features at will. Some 3D rendering tools even detect structural flaws in your designs ahead of time, which will save you a lot of time and money down the road.

Aside from facilitating your planning activities, 3D rendering can also be an effective way to market your services to future clients since it empowers you to create beautiful designs. By adjusting everything from scenes to angles to lighting, you’ll be able to create impressive designs that help you win more bids.

Pros of Using 3D Rendering for Architectural Visualization

  1. You can easily modify your designs on the fly.
  2. Anticipate structural changes ahead of time.
  3. Often saves you money in the long run by projecting problems that other modeling techniques don’t.

Cons of Using 3D Rendering for Architectural Visualization

  1. The software can be costly.

Photography for Architectural Visualization

Photography is a useful visualization tool in the architect’s toolbox, but it can’t do everything. Rather, it helps you give a bit of context to some of the designs you’ve already made. Use traditional photography to supplement some of your other marketing material.

For example, many architectural firms find that they can appeal to their audience by posting photos of their past work on Instagram. 3D models are a beautiful thing, but users on these platforms often value authenticity. It’s quite ideal to use a 3D CGI render of one of your past projects in tandem with a photograph of the final result. This will show everyone that your firm dreams big but also takes every measure to make those dreams a reality.

In both residential and commercial real estate photography, customers will also appreciate seeing a real-life image of the property. So just like with product modeling, understand the scenarios where authenticity is important to your clients.

Pros of Using Photography for Architectural Visualization

  1. It might save you money.

Cons of Using Photography for Architectural Visualization

  1. Obtaining aerial shots is quite costly, if impossible.
  2. This option isn’t particularly useful during project planning.

3D Rendering vs. Photography: Which Option Should I Use?

As we’ve noted throughout the article, it’s not uncommon for you to use both 3D rendering and photography on the same website or even for the same project. However, there are still scenarios where one option provides a clear advantage. To wrap up, let’s go over some of the most suitable use cases for 3D rendering and photography.

When to Use 3D Rendering

3D Rendering is best when you want to entice clients. If you want to go the extra mile to showcase each of your product’s features and let customers test them out, you’ll need a 3D product visualization to achieve this. At the same time, 3D rendering is indispensable for architects who need to visualize future projects down to the smallest detail.

To make sure you’re pointed in the right direction, you should hire a 3D visualization artist to realize your vision entirely.

When to Use Traditional Photography

In some cases, 3D rendering can seem a bit uncanny. It’s often beneficial to use traditional photography as an accompaniment to 3D product images to infuse your pictures with a dose of reality. This way, you’ll be able to provide your clients with a realistic understanding of your products and services too.

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