Can you spot the fake parts of this image? (Hint: It’s all of it)

microsoft-surface-for-windows-650x446

When you look at product shots online or in print – whether it’s a car, phone, or computer – you may have thought to yourself, “How did they photograph it to look so good?” The products look clean and shiny, devoid of any blemishes, which seem too perfect to be real. Of course, no product ever looks that perfect when photographed, and we all know a fair amount of Photoshop retouching is always involved in the post-editing process. But, as Wired reports, designers are now eschewing traditional photography and Photoshop and using CGI to create photo-realistic product shots using software called KeyShot.

By now most of us know what CGI, or computer-generated imagery, is. It’s the tool that’s used to create realistic-looking footage in things like movies and video games, for example, which researchers dub the “uncanny valley.” While it’s hard to fool someone into thinking a giant spaceship hovering above the White House is actually real, you may be surprised to discover that many of the product shots you see today in ads, packaging, and catalogs are actually computer images. That’s right, despite looking like the end product, those realistic images of the Microsoft Surface (shown above) on billboards were actually created with a computer, not shot with a camera.

Many computer-generated product images are created using KeyShot. The software has a benefit that photography lack: CGI renderings are fingerprint-proof and dust-proof. Reflective surfaces, such as the screen on Microsoft’s tablet, won’t reveal the reflection of the photographer or any equipment; lighting can be controlled to highlight details. “KeyShot works by simulating the scattering of photons as they bounce around in a scene and interact with the different materials,” according to Wired. With KeyShot, designers are also able to simulate stretch marks on a jacket or place a clean-looking car in a normally dirty environment, and they are able to do it all very quickly.

According to Wired, KeyShot’s developers are now tackling even more challenging tasks, namely the human face. “With increasingly realistic images being produced in 3-D on MacBooks, a real virtual-reality revolution – without the clunky Lawnmower Man look – could be within sight,” Wired writes.

While the article has a sensational headline (“Hyper-realistic CGI is killing photographers, thrilling product designers”), the article actually doesn’t dive into that dilemma. Judging from the sample photos, however – and realizing that we’ve been duped – perhaps product photography as a profession could one day become an endangered species.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Computing

Our favorite Windows apps will help you get the most out of your new PC

Not sure what apps you should be downloading for your newfangled Windows device? Here are the best Windows apps, whether you need something to speed up your machine or access your Netflix queue. Check out our categories and favorite picks.
Movies & TV

Oscar-winning FX master explains why ‘First Man’ is a giant leap for filmmaking

Paul Lambert, the Oscar-winning visual effects supervisor on First Man, reveals the innovative techniques that blended old footage with modern movie magic to make the Apollo 11 mission to the moon resonate with audiences 50 years later.
Photography

Starting your very own vlog? Here are the best cameras to buy

Any camera that shoots video can be used to vlog, but a few models stand out from the crowd thanks to superior image quality, ergonomics, and usability. When it comes to putting your life on YouTube, here are the best cameras for the job.
Photography

The best mirrorless cameras pack all the power of a DSLR, minus the bulk

Mirrorless cameras offer a lot of photography firepower, inside a compact body. Explore the best mirrorless cameras, from the pro-level to the beginner-friendly shooters, in this guide.
Photography

This A.I.-powered camera follows the action to produce epic selfie videos

Want to capture more epic action selfies? The Obsbot Tail is a camera-gimbal combo that uses artificial intelligence to follow the action. Using a handful of different modes, the camera works to keep the action in the frame.
Photography

Sony crams its best camera tech into the new $900 A6400

Love Sony's autofocus, but can't stomach the full-frame price? The Sony A6400 mirrorless camera uses some of the same autofocus technology and the processor of the A9 in a compact, more affordable crop-sensor camera.
Photography

These point-and-shoot cameras make your smartphone pics look like cave paintings

If your smartphone camera just isn't giving you the results you're looking for, maybe it's time to step up your game. The latest and greatest point-and-shoot cameras offer large sensors, tough bodies, and long lenses -- something no phone…
Photography

GoPro bumps resolution on Fusion 360 cam to 5.6K with new firmware

Currently available in public beta, Fusion firmware version 2.0 offers a new 5.8K mode that results in 5.6K output when the 360 camera's two hemispheres are stitched together. It also adds support for 24 fps video and RAW time-lapse…
Photography

With 5-stop optical stabilization, Fujifilm GF 100-200mm is ready for adventure

Fujifilm revealed a new lens designed to deliver on the GFX system's promise of adventure-ready medium-format photography. The GF 100-200mm F5.6 R is a weather resistant, relatively lightweight, 2x telephoto with impressive stabilization.
Photography

Olympus teaser shares glimpse of OM-D camera that’s good for more than sports

Is Olympus about to release a new mirrorless camera geared toward sports photographers? The latest teaser offers a glimpse of an upcoming OM-D camera set to launch on January 24, and by the looks of the teasers, it's capable for landscapes…
Photography

Nikon A1000, B600 pack big zooms into compact, budget-friendly cameras

The new Nikon Coolpix A1000 packs in a 35x zoom lens, 4K video, and an optical viewfinder, while Nikon's B600 brings a 60x zoom lens to the table. The cameras are modest updates to Nikon's budget-friendly zoom models.
Social Media

Nearly a million Facebook users followed these fake Russian accounts

Facebook purged two separate groups behind more than 500 fake accounts with Russian ties. One group had ties to Russian news agency Sputnik, while the other had behavior similar to the Internet Research Agency's midterm actions.
Photography

From DIY to AAA, here's how to take a passport photo in 6 different ways

If you're applying for a passport or renewing one, you need to submit a photo in your official application. There are strict guidelines, but fortunately, it's something you can do at home. Here's how to take a passport photo.