Well, to be more accurate, they’re using 3D technology to render not only the product images in their famous catalogs, but also the exquisite, idealized and some would say unrealistic “photographic” tableaus of Ikea products in home settings, like this one.
That’s right, that image was generated entirely inside some nerd’s computer. This fascinating article at CGSociety (“The most respected and accessible global organization for creative digital artists”) includes lots of revealing details on this practice.
It began only in the past decade, as 3D technology matured, and advances made it possible not just to create entirely convincing images, but also to relieve the logistical headache of coordinating the delivery of props from all over the world to a photo shoot. Today, three-quarters of Ikea’s product images are CG, and the team maintains a bank of about 25,000 models, all rendered at “ridiculously high resolution” so that they can be used for any purpose, including very large wall murals in stores.
I found the comments on how the company made the transition from photography to mostly digital through cross-pollination of disciplines particularly interesting:
There was a very intensive period of training where the entire photography team met with V-Ray gurus over in Bulgaria and came back with a number of tasks to complete—more 3D pieces to create. And for the 3D artists, it was the opposite way around. They were trained in photography in the studio. This process is absolutely what made for an increase in quality—both in 3D and photography. Actually now some of our photographers have completely ‘gone over’—they’ve become 3D artists. And some of our 3D artists have abandoned their computers and become photographers!