Deciding Between 3D Renders and Product Photography

What is the first thing that catches your eye when you launch an e-commerce site?




If “product images” is what comes to mind, congratulations, you know exactly what fellow online shoppers expect of their shopping experience on the Internet.

Not convinced? Here are more statistics that indicate that is the case:

And the conclusion? Product imagery is key when it comes to a selling product. Particularly e-Commerce brands — where consumers need the additional information to help them feel more confident in their purchase of a product they cannot touch, feel, or try out in person.

So how can a brand make sure they have enough compelling product imagery on display online to attract prospective customers? Here is where 3D rendering and product photography comes into play.

What is Traditional Product Photography?

Mouth watering images for ice coffee delivery.

As the name suggests, traditional product photography has been the main go-to method where product images have been created for marketing and branding.

Most of the key visuals that you have traditionally seen in magazine ads, giant billboards, flyers and more, are probably obtained through traditional product photography.

What exactly does it entail? Typically, during a product photoshoot, products are staged (with props, models, or green screens) and a photographer takes pictures of them.

The selected photos then undergo editing to make the images “pop” and look good enough for print or digital use.

What is 3D Rendering?

3D rendered images of the packaging and products of a CBD company.

In comparison to traditional product photography, 3D rendering is a new technology that allows digital artists to create photo-realistic computer-generated visuals. In simple terms, the image is built from scratch within a computer program to mimic the actual real-life product.

How would a brand go about creating a 3D render? Simply provide a brief to the digital artist on what you would like to have in the final 3D render, and they will “draw” it up on their program. The outcome? A 3D photo-realistic image of a product in whatever setting you would like to have.

Deciding Between 3D Rendering or Product Photography?

So how does a brand decide which route to go for? The short answer — it depends.

Depending on what are you hoping to achieve with the end visual image, either, or both combined could be your best bet. Need some help? Here are considerations to help you make that decision.

Building Context

Is your product difficult to showcase on a standalone basis? Does it require a specific setting or activity to showcase its functionality? If so, product photography has an edge over 3D rendering.

Case in point, the example above, is product photography imagery of Anytongs a kitchenware product. Look at how the photo helps showcase the product’s functionality in an appealing lifestyle setting. Doesn’t that make you feel part of the activity and help you imagine yourself using the very product?


Depending on the scale of your project, either product photography or 3D rendering could be a better choice.

When it comes to smaller budgets, short lead times, and complex product briefs, 3D rendering could be the more cost-effective option compared to staging an elaborate photoshoot within a tight timeframe. And did we mention that it is not subject to weather risks if shooting outdoors?

When it comes to readily available products, sufficient lead times, and products that require models to showcase, product photography would still be the preferred option for some brands.


Need to showcase variety? Multiple colours, designs, or even prototypes? This is where 3D rendering can come in handy.

Imagine if you have 100 different variants of a product. A product photoshoot for all the variants would simply take up too much time.

However, if you just take one photo, and rendered the rest of the different designs or colours digitally, wouldn’t that save you a whole ton of time and money?

Wondering how the outcome would look like? Here is an example from tea brand Free O’clock’s 3D rendered product imagery of its 7 exciting variants.

Combine Both for Best Effect

Traditional photography of different types of food options plated in a visually appealing setting for a food delivery brand.

Alternatively, you could consider combining them for the best of both worlds.

Use product photography to get your high-resolution 2D static images that would work well across most marketing platforms — offline and online. Note: You could create interesting stopmotions too for social media with a little creativity.

Alternatively, use 3D rendering selectively for improved customer engagement on the website. From AR 360-degree views, customization options to VR applications and more.

Why limit yourself to one choice when you can have both?

Which Is the Best Choice for You?

Still undecided and are limited by budget? Ask yourself these simple questions:

  • Do you already have the photos and can easily have the photos taken on-site? If so, go with product photography.
  • Do you need to show 1:1 details of the product in the most accurate manner? If so, go with product photography.
  • Would AR models or 360-degree views help with customer engagement? If so, go with 3D rendering.
  • Do you expect many changes to the product after it is launched? If so, 3D rendering would be preferred so you can have the flexibility of adjusting on the fly.

At the end of the day, regardless of which route you choose to go with, what is most important is making sure the visuals are used wisely to engage and excite your customers on all your various platforms.

Visit our website for more relevant content on branding and design or check our instagram page @sergiolaskin for most recent projects.




E-commerce branding & Consultancy. Sharing 15+ years of experience ☄️

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Sergio Laskin

Sergio Laskin

E-commerce branding & Consultancy. Sharing 15+ years of experience ☄️

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