CGI: The Good, The Bad, The Deception

Once the profession of photography truly walked into the digital world just prior to the turn of the century, the effect it had was immediate. No need to go over the technical details regarding the move from film to digital – I’m sure you all remember it quite well.

Many of us that were dragged kicking and screaming into ‘digital imaging’ soon realized the advantages of this new tech and eventually gave in. And yes, for others it was love at first pixel.

All that being said, while the changes it has had on the profession have been revolutionary, those changes continue…and the debate remains whether all of them should be looked at as positive changes.

Take the current advances in CGI (Computer Generated Imagery), a fascinating field to be sure, that are allowing for the creation of digitally enhanced images that are so realistic they are now often and easily mistaken for actual photos. Experts are telling us that newly developed imaging algorithms are about to take CGI capabilities to even greater heights.

While the current goings-on involving CGI advancements are worthy of a later posting on that subject alone, another interesting, and very related, little tidbit from the CGI world that caught our eye recently that may initially seem innocuous, is actually a pretty significant piece of news.


Swedish furniture company IKEA actually uses 3D computer models to create as many as three quarters of the images in its catalogues. This allows them to get perfect product shots in any combination they like, with detailed 3D models of everything from kettles to coffee tables dropped into virtual rooms and then adjusted for light and shadow until they look perfect. The need for photographers to shoot the products in actual rooms is vanishing.

If IKEA can do this, what will stop other companies from eventually following suit? And how many jobs lost for photographers does this eventually “compute” to?

“It’s been a topic of conversation among many of us for years now,” began Lorraine Jenkins, a Long Island, New York-based photographer. “There are a lot of jobs where people used to need a ‘photographer’ that are disappearing due to advances in CGI. For a lot of us these advances are equal parts fascinating and horrifying.”

While the word ‘horrifying’ may appear to be hyperbole, Jenkins isn’t alone with those feelings.


“This kind of tech is changing the definition of photography or more specifically it’s calling into question the need for a distinction to be made on when something is traditionally shot versus when it is purely computer generated,” explained Scott Gleason, another concerned pro shooter in New Jersey. “Problem is, no one is going to make that distinction. And you know a company like IKEA, and many others using CGI won’t, so the consumer is looking at a catalog of product images that you could argue don’t actually exist.”

The argument isn’t a new one as it’s been going on for over 15 years now and many will simply claim that photography isn’t changing at this point, it’s just continuing to evolve, as everything does over time. And any “evolution” typically leaves some casualties in its wake.

“We’ve always had to adapt to changes, every profession does,” Jenkins concluded, “But I think in this profession there will always be something that is more about what goes on behind the equipment and all the tech that you as a professional bring to the table that separates you and your work from everyone else.”

What do you think? Will you rather stick to “ordinary” photography and photoediting in Zoner Photo Studio?

— Images courtesy of Flickr Commons

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AuthorMichael McEnaney

I am a veteran technology journalist with over 20 years experience covering consumer electronics and imaging tech as well as launching, editing/writing content, selling and marketing a variety of publications and websites. Most recently I helped NAPCO launch the network of consumer tech websites and also helped launch the popular tech website as well as launching his own website at that covers all consumers can do with their digital images and videos after they’ve captured them. My true passion has always been photography – both capturing life’s most precious moments as well as covering the pros that capture the world.

Comments (9)

  1. Am just tying this out, but love what it has to offer !!

  2. Absolutely I consider CGI cheating and deceptive because it is not real. If it is not real it cannot be claimed to be true. This leads us to other areas where photography even video dwells, perhaps the news agencies incorporate such deception in their “stories”. If someone is selling anything and they will go so far as to make up things to sell, then why would not the news do this to sell their stories? I believe we are living in a great time of deception because of such technology. I prefer the basic photo adjustments at least it is real. Real is good, deception is bad. Period.

  3. I feel it will be necessary to have like every thing else revolutionary, to show how the image was contrived and labeled as such , legally.

  4. Art has no boundaries! Period!

  5. So in the name of Art we can deceive, Lance? Some News Agencies have already tainted news to the point of perpetuating a lie even after the justice department said there was no evidence of hands up “don’t shoot” in the Ferguson case so what is it one step further to add CGI to make one’s case instead of the truth. News Agencies also have done special editing to make someone look bad or sound bad to the public rather than just sticking to the news and let us evaluate the whole rather than an agenda driven theme (Propaganda). Technology has made it so much easier to deceive the public.

    1. Hi Steve, Art is about fantasy, life… what you see in art may not be what I see in art. There is deception in life through history…even in the bible. That is well before technology…I suggest you look at technology for the greatness it has to offer. If you disagree with anything look how easy it is to put your point of view across… this is technology not deception. You could always find a reason to blame something for something. In this life it is all about change, progression, movement. CGI is just a tool for us to use. It is the human who chooses to use whatever tool he has in his or her hands for the bad or the good. We all have choice. Thanks… have a nice day.

      1. Lance, I wasn’t bashing the technology but the misuse that can be done to deceive the public. I am an Electronic Engineer and appreciate our advancement in these fields but also see how these new technologies can also be used to enslave the public. I also appreciate art but the point I was trying to convey is the potential abuse of technology.

  6. Lance, to some, killing people and mutilating the body, splattering the blood against the walls of their own house is art. Still think there should not be boundaries?! I don’t think that was a very sober comment.

    1. You are entitled to your point of view Johan. Look at any of the great artists in the world from past to present and you will see battles that show mutilation yet these are hanging in all our great museums. So what is the difference between now and then? Do you think seeing Jesus on the cross is not the same? Do you think that there should be boundaries around the museums of the world? I am not saying I agree with killing people for art. I am saying that through out history it has become the norm to just paint whatever the artist wants to paint. Games as you are referring to do have guidelines to who can buy games of that style. It is the human being who lives by profit as there motivation who flouts the laws regarding who can buy games of that style. It is your choice to see that as art if you think it is as art has no boundaries in art….not in killing people…that is not art and never will be so what is your point? If you look only at the negative side you will see whatever YOU want to see!

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