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Product photography has long relied on meticulously staged photoshoots to showcase items in their best light. But now, virtual photoshoots created with artificial intelligence are on the rise, saving companies time and money while still producing polished, professional-grade images.
For ecommerce brands and online retailers, product photos are incredibly important. High-quality images can boost click-through rates, increase sales conversions, and enhance the overall user experience. But physical photoshoots come with challenges. They require extensive planning, expensive equipment rentals, large studio spaces, and coordination of models and photographers. The costs quickly add up.
That's where virtual photoshoots come in. With AI-powered tools, brands can skip the studio and shoot products in lifelike virtual environments instead. The AI handles everything from optimal lighting to natural-looking shadows and reflections. Brands simply upload product images, select a background scene, and let the technology work its magic.
Outdoor retailer Moosejaw used AI virtual photography to showcase jackets on models exploring icy landscapes and tents nestled in lush forests. They were able to generate hundreds of scenes without costly reshoots or location changes. The tool empowered their marketing team to easily produce more images and drive greater engagement.
For brands with thousands of product SKUs, creating unique lifestyle images for each item is unrealistic. AI virtual photography makes easy work of large-scale product campaigns. Brands like Wayfair batch upload their catalogs and the AI generates countless personalized scenes tailored to each item's features and usage. No more generic white backgrounds or hurried photoshoots to contend with.
For decades, green screens have been a photography staple for isolating subjects and digitally inserting new backdrops. But the process comes with frustrations. Green spill, uneven lighting, and blurred edges can sabotage shots. And editing images to remove the green screen background can be tedious and time-consuming. That's why more brands are bidding goodbye to green screens and welcoming AI-powered virtual backdrops.
With AI photo generation tools, there's no need for green screen rigs or editing software. The AI handles the entire process, intelligently layering products onto realistic backdrops. For example, D2C furniture brand Burrow uses virtual room scenes to showcase sofas, beds, and shelves within stylish living spaces. The AI convincingly inserts their products into curated environments, whether it's a sun-soaked living room or a modern bedroom.
Outdoor retailer Moosejaw employed a similar technique to transport their apparel and gear to mountaintops and forests. The AI analyzes product shapes and textures to realistically position items within each scene. Subtle shadows and natural lighting effects further heighten the realism. No traces of sloppy green screen work distract from the end result.
Perhaps most importantly, AI virtual photography streamlines workflows. There's no background work of securing studio space, transporting bulky equipment, or correcting editing mishaps. And products can be reshot in entirely new scenes in mere minutes. This agility helps brands cost-effectively create more unique lifestyle images to resonate with customers.
For global companies like IKEA with vast product inventories, AI virtual photography also aids localization and personalization. Local stores can digitally insert sofas or kitchens into region-specific environments tailored to their customers. And they can refresh backdrops to align with current interior design trends. This level of customization would be implausible using only green screens and manual editing.
Product photography relies on skilled professionals to carefully control lighting, perspective, depth of field, and other elements that make items look enticing. But now, artificial intelligence is learning these photographic techniques to generate product images rivaling those shot in-studio.
For brands looking to expand their visual assets without costly photoshoots, AI that mimics pro photographers is invaluable. The AI analyzes countless product photos to understand optimal composition, angles, and lighting for different items. One company, Anthropic, trained its AI on over a billion product images to teach it photographic best practices tailored to chairs, clothes, electronics, and more.
The AI uses this training to intelligently position and photograph 3D product models as a professional would. It adds realistic shadows and depth effects and can even mimic photographic styles from crisp product shots to lifestyle scenes. For example, the AI might photograph a phone at an angle to emphasize its slim form factor or apply a wide aperture to artistically blur the background. Brands simply provide 3D models or product images and the AI handles the photoshoot, delivering professional-grade results.
D2C furniture brand Article tapped into AI-generated product photography to create lifestyle scenes from their catalog items. The AI inserted beds, sofas, and storage units into various room environments with contextually appropriate lighting, materials, and accessories. The sophisticated compositions and perspectives made each product look its best while also telling a cohesive brand story.
For global companies like Amazon, using AI to mimic product photography at scale is game-changing. They trained an AI system called Sparrow on their enormous catalog to learn product-specific lighting and angles tailored to shoes versus electronics versus housewares. Now, Sparrow improves and automates much of their product imaging. Across thousands of items, the AI consistently produces clean, commercial-quality visuals that boost conversion.
Product images play a crucial role in ecommerce. Varied shots that showcase products from multiple angles and contexts can garner more attention and drive conversions. But organizing full-scale photoshoots for every minor product variation is impractical. That's where AI comes in. With a single product image, AI can generate an endless array of unique product visuals to bolster online retail.
The tech works by analyzing the original product shot to infer a 3D representation of the item. This model understands an item's shape, textures, and physical properties. From there, the AI can manipulate viewpoint, lighting, backgrounds, and more to create completely new renditions.
Anthropic trained its AI on billions of product images so it could intelligently generate variations. With just one picture of a shoe, it might synthesize an top-down shot, angled perspectives to highlight shape, or alternate colors and patterns while maintaining photorealism. The AI also creates contextual lifestyle images of products in use. A single plush throw blanket image could multiply into scenes with the blanket draped on a bed, sofa, porch railing, and more.
D2C furniture brand Burrow tapped into this efficiency. With few initial product shots, they could generate countless mix-and-match lifestyle scenes from their modular sofa and shelf components via AI. Contexts range from office spaces to living rooms to bedrooms, all customized for each product line. This variety helps shoppers envision the furniture in their own homes.
Outdoor outfitter Moosejaw also used AI to reinvent a single jacket image into hundreds of scenes. By tweaking backgrounds, models, layering with shirts and packs, and more, the AI created a sweeping product narrative adapted to audiences like climbers, skiers, and hikers.
Even Ikea applied single product shots to CG room scenes curated for international store locales. A bookcase might shift from a Swedish living room to a Tokyo apartment to a Canadian dorm room while maintaining native lighting and context.
Product photography has traditionally required significant investments in equipment, studio space, and professional photographers to achieve the polished aesthetics crucial for conversion. But for many brands, dedicating large budgets to traditional photoshoots simply isn't sustainable. This is where AI-powered virtual photography has proven to be a game changer. With the right technology, brands can slash photoshoot costs while still delivering stunning product visuals optimized for sales.
AI solutions allow brands to minimize expenses in a few key ways. Most notably, there's no longer a need to rent studio space, lighting gear, or high-end cameras. The AI handles the technical aspects of mimicking studio setups and equipment. Brands also skip travel costs, permits, and logistical expenses of coordinating outdoor shoots on location.
Streamlining the photoshoot process also means fewer contractor hours to pay for photographers, photo assistants, stylists, retouchers, and other production crew. The AI automation handles the end-to-end imaging process start to finish. Anthropic, which trained its AI on over a billion product images, claims this can reduce photoshoot costs by 90% compared to traditional methods.
Importantly, the AI maintains professional image quality throughout. The algorithms intelligently apply studio lighting techniques, depth of field, motion blur, and other enhancements typically achieved manually by photographers. This level of visual sophistication keeps products looking their absolute best to drive conversions.
D2C shoe brand Atoms replaced traditional photoshoots with AI technology to cut costs by thousands per month while boosting sales. The virtual studio scenes perfectly showcase the minimalist designs and material quality customers want to see. Other brands like FIGS prais the AI's ability to deliver dynamic yet consistent product images that reinforce their brand identity. The costs savings also allow for more volume, empowering ecommerce managers to refresh visual assets on shorter cycles to prevent visual fatigue.
For global conglomerates like Amazon and IKEA with massive inventories, AI virtual photography is the only scalable way to manage product imaging. Traditional shoots would be prohibitively expensive for catalog sizes numbering in the millions. The automated AI workflow allows new products and variations to be imaged quickly and affordably.
When outdoor retailer Moosejaw virtualized their product photography, they gained significant budget flexibility. Instead of pouring resources into a limited number of photoshoots, they can now generate endless high-quality lifestyle scenes on demand to adapt to new products, trends, and audiences.
Even for brands opting for a hybrid approach, AI tech meaningfully reduces expenses. Apparel company Eloquii uses AI tools to cut the number of studio shoots while still capturing some products physically. The AI extends those assets into additional scenes and angles. This optimized workflow delivers substantial cost savings while still incorporating the advantages of real photography.
For ecommerce brands, product images need to make items pop on the web and compel customers to click the checkout button. While good product photos get the job done, great product photos accelerate sales. This is where AI comes in. With the right algorithms, AI can transform ordinary product images into extraordinary, high-converting assets.
One way AI takes product images from good to great is by optimizing lighting. The tech mimics how professional photographers light a scene or product. For example, the AI might add catchlights to plastic bottles to make them shimmer as if photographed in-studio. Or it could apply soft directional lighting to leather shoes to make the material look supple and luxe. Even minor tweaks to brightness, contrast, and shadows enhance product appeal.
AI also excels at adjusting focus and angles for maximum impact. If a product shot looks flat, the AI might synthesize an alternate perspective to showcase shape and dimensions. For jewelry, a top-down angle often flatters, while angled shots better highlight a clothing item's draping. The AI understands which compositions elicit excitement for apparel, electronics, and other products.
Intelligent retouching is another way AI improves product images. Algorithms analyze images and make context-appropriate touch ups. This includes sharpening details, enriching colors, smoothing wrinkles on fabric, or enhancing food appearances. The retouching looks realistic, avoiding the overt filtering of manual editing.
For lifestyle shots, AI adopts principles of commercial photography to make scenes more inviting. The tech ensures models are well-posed and lit. It also removes distracting objects from backgrounds or tweaks products to feel naturally integrated in a scene.
Eyewear brand Felix Gray tapped Anthropic's AI to refine their product and lifestyle images. The AI boosted visual appeal by adjusting lighting, colors, and angles for frames and models. Even subtle improvements like reflection touch-ups noticeably enhanced realism and sales-readiness.
Outdoors retailer REI also employed AI to elevate their product images. For a camping stove photo, the AI increased saturation on green trees and added lens flare as if it were shot outdoors. The enhanced realism transports customers into the scene, engaging them emotionally to imagine future adventures.
AI isn't only useful for static product images. D2C brand Care/of leveraged artificial intelligence to improve the quality of their supplement videos which play a key sales role. The AI analyzed their raw product videos frame-by-frame to optimize lighting, colors, focus, motion, and more. The resulting videos were more dynamic and premium-feeling while requiring no added production resources.
One of the most powerful capabilities of AI-powered product photography is the ability to seamlessly insert products into real-world scenes. This application is transforming possibilities for lifestyle imagery, allowing brands to envision products in authentic contexts to resonate with customers.
The AI works by analyzing product and scene images to create a detailed 3D representation of the respective textures, lighting, and geometry. Algorithms can then realistically integrate the two together while maintaining a cohesive and believable visual style. The AI handles intricate details like natural shadows, reflections, perspective, and depth of field to make the product truly look embedded into the environment.
Outdoor apparel retailer Moosejaw utilized this technology to envision their jackets and gear in mountain, trail, and camping settings. The AI effortlessly blended products into scenes like a jacket layered on a hiker traversing a windswept ridge. By mining customer data, they tailored backgrounds to each product's intended use case and target demographic. A winter parka might be shown in use on a snowy peak, while a lightweight puffer is seamlessly edited into a streetscape.
D2C furniture brand Article also employed AI scene generation to preview sofas, beds, and shelves integrated into various living spaces. From moody bedrooms to sun-filled offices, the products feel native to each setting. Subtle details like accurate shadows and natural illumination enhance believability. Article curated room types based on their customer segments, guiding the AI to reflect contexts where shoppers are most likely to imagine each product.
For global brands like Ikea with broad product lines, AI empowers localized lifestyle imagery. Stores can effortlessly insert products into region-specific room settings reflective of local architecture, styles, and culture. A bookshelf might shift from a Tokyo apartment to a Stockholm living area to a London flat, while remaining wholly natural to its surroundings. This level of tailored visual storytelling is only possible with AI automation.
Beauty brand Revlon has also leveraged AI editing to envision cosmetics, hair tools, and fragrances seamlessly used in real-life. By analyzing facial geometry and lighting, the AI convincingly adapts product visuals to model selfies and videos provided by customers. Seeing diverse, candid moments with products integrated makes for compelling user-generated content.
The applications also extend into augmented reality. Eyewear company Eyebuydirect developed an AR feature allowing customers to preview frames on their own face using just their smartphone camera. The AI merges 3D glasses models onto the viewer by considering head angles, facial contours, skin tones, and lighting for incredibly realistic results. This brings an exciting new level of personalization into the mix.
The age of AI-powered product photography is here and only gaining momentum. While brands have just begun tapping into the potential, virtual product shoots and intelligent image generation are rapidly emerging as the new industry standard. As the technology continues improving, it promises even more valuable applications for ecommerce businesses and online retailers.
One area primed for growth is video. Still images provide a solid starting point, but animated footage can capture products from additional angles and in action. Cinemagraphs with subtle motion have proven highly engaging for shoppers online. As AI research progresses, algorithms will likely master generating short product clips and cinemagraphs straight from static images. For apparel brands, this could mean envisioning garments with flowing, responsive motion on virtual models. Or electronics sellers could showcase devices from all sides with dynamic rotations.
Expanded generative capabilities will also enable more nuanced and personalized lifestyle imagery. As AI better understands human contexts, products seamlessly inserted into scenes will grow more complex. Rachel Weiss, VP of Innovation at Glossier, says AI-generated environments will evolve to "feel like a living, breathing world" customized to each product's brand identity and audience. Rather than generic backdrops, VR tools will empower brands to create immersive worlds where customers experience products fitting seamlessly into their actual lives.
Generative AI is also paving the way for more inclusive and expanded visual assets. Ecommerce players can leverage the tech to easily generate product variants tailored to diversity of race, age, ability, gender, and more. Sophisticated models created via AI will move beyond the limitations of manual photography to showcase products on people of all backgrounds. This allows brands to authentically connect with broader audiences.
Behind the scenes, AI promises to optimize content operations. Intelligent platforms will handle the entire asset production and management workflow. This automated ecosystem will track analytics on image performance, refresh assets based on trends and experiments, and even generate captions and copy tailored to each visual. Through AI, content teams can scale campaigns and localized assets exponentially.