OK, this post isn’t really an in-depth examination of which is best, CGI or photography. That all depends on the subject matter and how good a photographer or CGI artist is doing the work – plus how much time (and money) they are given!

I’d actually forgotten I had done this little project, so my recollection of how I did each is sketchy. The basic idea was to photograph a psychical item and recreate it using 3D software (Cinema 4D in this instance) to see how they compare. I know what you’re thinking, come on Steven, a tube of filler? How exciting. But there was a reason. I worked on the Ronseal account so had the 3D and was able to buy a tube of the actual product. Oddly, the photo has the old logo and the 3D the new one, it was updated years ago, so I was surprised the old packs are still being sold.

I didn’t attempt to light them exactly the same, more just with a similar feel. I could have spent longer and rim-lit the photo, but I’m happy with how it looks. Both look glossy and the lighting helps show the depth and form of the pack.

So which was the best route, CGI or photography?

That all depends on what the finished image is going to be used for. Both took me around the same time to create, so if I was being paid there wouldn’t be much in it. Looking at them side by side, the CGI looks better, maybe that means I’m a better CGI artist than a photographer! I could’ve spent more time shooting the photo or retouching it after, but pack photography is about speed. Both are more than good enough for brochure and digital use.

The benefits of the CGI are that now I’ve done one pack, I could easily render the rest of the range. It’s a more flexible and efficient route. Yes, once the studio lighting setup is in place I could also quickly shoot the rest of the range. But when the client comes back with changes two days later I’d have to set it all up again. The other benefit of the CGI is that if this was a hero shot appearing large on a poster the label and text would be crisp, whereas the photo would highlight the print quality. Not to say the print quality is bad, just that it would be noticeable when blown up.

Photography would possibly be a better route if this were a more creative image. Say for instance the client wanted the pack to be splashed with water, yes it could be done with CGI, but it would probably be quicker to photograph.

You’ll notice I haven’t actually said which is which. It’s pretty obvious if you’re a photographer or someone who works with images, but I doubt the target audience would notice the difference … or care!