Photo-matching is a brilliant little trick in rendering. Initially, rendering artists started using matching techniques to reduce cost. That way, companies specializing in realistic 3D rendering could finally offer high-quality products at competitive prices.
As luck would have it, photo-matching soon became famous for reasons other than frugality.
It is a widely used technique that helps create beautiful imagery in architecture, interior design, and real estate. Marketing and Hollywood are in love with photo-matching, too, especially as a way to develop high-grossing CGI projects in less time and for less money.
So, what is photo-matching, exactly?
Here’s everything you need to know about it, plus a few extras.
Photo-matching is when rendering artists match a model with a photograph of an existing surrounding. They blend a freshly designed 3D object into a real-life context, significantly reducing rendering time and cost. When done right, matching helps create a hyper-realistic effect.
Photo-matching is much easier than modeling from scratch, but it does require finesse.
Photo-matching must look like one of the two – a render or a photograph – to provide desired effects.
The result will preferably seem realistic enough, and viewers will confuse it with a real-life photograph. If that’s impossible for some reason, the result should look like a quality render.
In either case, the difference between the two must be invisible.
To make this transition from render to photograph seamless, rendering artists use many tricks. Perhaps the most important of these tricks is choosing the right angle, both for photographing the surroundings and modeling and rendering the object.
Matching the angle is only one component of perspective matching, but more on that later.
To blend the model into the photograph, rendering artists must also fine-tune the details such as lights, colors, shadows, and contrast. That is the second essential part of photo-matching. If any of these details feel off, the entire render will look unconvincing.
When taking photographs for photo-matching, you must pay attention to three things:
Sometimes, rendering artists can find a perfect photograph in their portfolio or download one from a public source. In that case, they can make the necessary adjustments to the model and then blend the two. The problem is that a perfect photograph is difficult to find.
To avoid futile research, most artists choose to take photos themselves.
Here’s how they do it.
To achieve the best perspective, you must position the camera right.
For photo-matching, the best camera angle is from the street or the air. Aerial views are more frequently used because they are easier to achieve and look more striking. Using a drone allows you to capture a broad context with many outdoor elements.
Besides angles, perspective-matching also includes the general position of the camera and how you orient it toward the object.
How far apart should it be? What is the best focal length? What about the field of view? These are all essential elements to consider.
Rendering artists use their modeling tools to choose the proper perspective.
While solving a project and creating a 3D model, a tool can calculate the camera’s needed position and orientation for every photograph and the camera’s internal parameters.
Don’t forget that the end goal of photo-matching is to save the money and time artists need to complete a project. For some projects, taking on-site photographs is still less expensive and time-consuming than 3D rendering, but only when you come up with perfect photos.
That is why conditions must be perfect, too.
Light and weather are crucial for that. For instance, if you’re photographing a pool, it’s better to wait until there’s no wind, the water is entirely calm, and the moon casts a perfect reflection than to take any photo of the pool and spend days editing it for CGI production.
For the same reason, photographs for photo-matching must be high-quality.
While conditions must be specific to match the rendering project description, the quality should always be exceptional.
That way, you’ll be able to edit and reuse old photographs for other projects, regardless of the scope, the details, or the size required for the desired result.
A perfect photograph and the skill and attention to detail needed for photo-matching can double down the amount of work an artist must put into a rendering project. Photo-matching is an incredible time-saver when there’s no need for heavy editing or corrections.
When it comes to rendering, the longer it lasts, the more expensive it is.
Photo-matching reduces the costs of rendering projects by allowing artists to finish more work in less time and by minimizing the risk of technical errors and rendering mistakes made by rookie artists. Photo-matching is economical in more ways than one.
However, the most crucial benefit of photo-matching goes beyond the cost.
In ideal conditions, photo-matching delivers fantastic results. When done expertly and with a keen eye for perspective and details, this technique can help rendering artists achieve the next level of realism. The result is impressive imagery generated at an affordable price.
Photo-matching is a win-win technique for both artists and clients. It’s such a welcome addition to an existing arsenal of rendering tricks that artists use it in many variations and projects.
It also allows you to apply a photo to an existing model or create a model from a photograph.
Long story short, photo-matching excels in being innovative, easy, and cost-effective.