Still Using Product Photography to Drive Sales? Part I


Today’s guest post is from Brian Seipel, a marking project expert at Source One Management Services focused on helping corporations achieve both Marketing and Procurement objectives in their strategic sourcing projects.

While this guest post is a bit off of the beaten path for SI, it’s a very interesting one and relevant for those Procurement professionals that want to run with the marketing bulls.


Still using product photography to drive sales? Why there may be a better way!

Pictures are certainly worth a thousand words when it comes to products sales, and well-shot product photography is a key aspect of many sales and marketing budgets. Many organizations recognize that those “thousand words” are the least of their worries, however – those pictures are worth a large chunk of their budgets as well. In fact, the higher-end or more physically detailed the product is, the more organizations can expect to pay for a proper photograph.

Any organization operating in the luxury space has likely asked the question, “Do we really need to put so much money towards product photography?” Unfortunately, the answer has always been a resounding “yes” from Marketing – until, perhaps, now. As with all areas of business, technological advances are offering a clever disruption to the product photography space.

Digital Rendering: The Product Photography Killer?

Many organizations are either turning to, or considering a test run of, digitally rendered images to replace product photography. In a nutshell for those unfamiliar, a rendered image is one generated entirely from a computer. Without going too deep into how rendering works, here is a brief overview:

  • The Wireframe: To start, we need to build a model of a product. The wireframe defines the shape of an object by taking a 2D or 3D drawing and developing it into a digital model.
  • The Skin: At this point, the model alone has no form. Typically, this empty “space” is represented visually as a simple set of intersecting lines (hence the name “wireframe”). The skin, or texture, applies visual characteristics to the model. Consider a product made with both white gold and brown leather – two materials that are very visually different. The gold would be light, smooth, and highly reflective. The leather would be rough, rich in dark color, and non-reflective. All of the attributes of these materials must be perfectly reconstructed in a digital environment.
  • The lighting: When a product photo is taken, excruciating attention is paid to creating a compelling lighting setup. Lighting is used to evoke specific emotional reactions or showcase key elements of a product. This is just as true for rendering – lighting sources have to be both created (how bright, focused, and warm or cool the light source will be) and directed at the model (determining what direction light should come from, and how many sources are needed to effectively light a product).

Think about any Pixar movie you’ve ever seen – these are beautiful examples not just of rendering, but also a fair representation of just how far advances in rendering have come. As amazing as they seemed to us when they first hit theaters, early digitally rendered movies look crude by today’s standards. The pace of development is moving extremely fast, thanks to refined techniques, better digital tools, and more powerful computer platforms to run them on. In fact, it is becoming extremely difficult, if not impossible, to discern a photograph of a product from its comparable rendering.

But it isn’t enough for a rendering to be “as good” as a photograph. For organizations to ditch photography, rendering needs to offer more. And it will. How? Come back for Part II.

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