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New IKEA catalogs feature computer renders, moving away from still photography

If you’ve ever looked at an IKEA catalog wondering how impossibly flawless the model rooms look, it might be because those pictures aren’t actually stills of a real showroom. According to reports from the Wall Street Journal, IKEA is now pushing toward 3D renderings of marketing pictures instead of real photographs — making our interior design dreams that much more difficult to attain.

The shift toward CGI renderings will both help IKEA cut production costs and think more imaginatively. “With real photography you’re constrained by the four walls,” Anneli Sjogren, Head of Photography at IKEA, said. “A kitchen has to be built in a week or two and then torn down the following week to make room for a bedroom shoot… everything has to run like clockwork.”

Calling it a “clever way to save money,” Sjogren said with photoshoots, teams would toss out props for the previous shoots, making the entire process wasteful. With virtual renderings, artists can design entire sets for various rooms and adjust the color to appeal to particular audience. For example, American IKEA customers might find darker wood more modern while Europeans might prefer lighter wood hues. Designing the photos in 3D allows for artists to manipulate the changes without setting up new photoshoots.

This year, about 12 percent of photographs found in IKEA catalogs were created virtually. IKEA hopes to increase this margin up to 25 percent by next year. But will you miss the real life photograph?

IKEA real v 3d photographs

If you can’t tell the difference between these two pictures, then probably not. One of the photos above is a real set while the other is a digital creation. The ability to make virtual renderings will also help IKEA cut down the time it takes to create a full catalog, which can run up to 10 months from concept to publication. IKEA’s first stab at 3D photographs began in 2005 with just three interns who specialized in graphic design for their graduate school thesis. Now, the Swedish furniture company is collaborating with photo schools to teach its staff of 285 photographers, carpenters, and interior designers more complex computer skills.

And in case you were wondering, the right photo is the 3D-rendered image. To see more photos of real versus fake IKEA photographs, check them out at the Wall Street Journal.