These images may look like CG renders, but they’re actually photographs

Jan 3, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

These images may look like CG renders, but they’re actually photographs

Jan 3, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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In a world where many CG artists are aiming for photorealism, one very skilled photographer seems to be going the opposite way. These images look like something straight out of 3DS Max or Blender. They’re not, though. They’re actually very carefully designed photographs, created by Norwegian design duo Lars Marcus Vedeler and Theo Zamudio-Tveterås at their studio, Skrekkøgle.

Looking at the final work is pretty surreal, and if nobody ever told you that they weren’t CG renders, you’d never be able to tell. In a way, it kind of makes you redefine “photorealism”. I mean, these are photos, so if your renders look like this, they’re photorealistic now, right?

Construction of each image required a variety of materials and techniques.  These include vinyl wrapped wooden models, 3D printing, and construction paper, which achieves an amazing final result.

The above is a typical scene you might see rendered in 3D software, and I remember seeing something almost identical to this created with POV-Ray about 20 years ago.

Other, slightly more abstract lighting exercises were also recreated by the pair. For example, the floating lit cube with the stepped gradient background simulates low bitrate compression that causes banding. The cube wasn’t actually lit the way one might light it in 3D software, however. Three different brightnesses of card were used to simulate light and shadow.

For the next shot, an array of metallic pink balls. Seeing how reflective objects interact with each other is also a common test with a new piece of 3D software. It’s also a great way for testing out environment maps. Here, they used a panoramic photograph of a beach, wrapped cylindrically around the spheres to simulate an environment map.

Finally, and this is probably my favourite. The iconic Utah teapot. Made with a combination of 3D printed distorted and sliced teapots and some construction paper, this one really looks like something rendered out by 3DS Max.

There’s some major distortion of the model going on there. This type of thing would’ve been virtually impossible just a few short years ago. 3D printers really have opened up the photographic opportunities today, especially when it comes to the surreal.

As somebody who dabbles with 3D occasionally, this is a fascinating project. I really hope Lars and Theo do more of these in the future. You can see more examples of their work on the Skrekkøgle website. Images used with permission.

What do you think? Did they manage to pull it off and make the real look fake? Are you trying to simulate the simulated with your photography? Or are you trying to simulate the real world with your CG renders? Let us know in the comments.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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One response to “These images may look like CG renders, but they’re actually photographs”

  1. Aankhen Avatar
    Aankhen

    Haha! Cool concept, interesting techniques, nice results. That cube is my favourite.