Once in a while an art director tells me they don’t use or rarely use illustration. They use photography. These art directors probably have the best understanding of 3D illustration, but may not realize it. Think of 3D illustration as “Virtual Photography.”
A photographer has an assignment to photograph something—in studio or on location. Depending on the layout, desired mood and angle, he/she decides what lens to use, how to light it, and if it’s on location, what time of day and weather will give the desired results. A location stylist may find possible locations for the photo. If people are being photographed, clothing and hair stylists with wardrobe selections are involved. Need props or vehicles?,Someone has to purchase/rent them, or if they don’t exist, they need to be made. If a special effect is needed (fire, explosions, fog machine, etc.) they need to be ready on set. Finally, the photographer composes the elements, positions the camera, and proceeds to shoot the photo. That is exactly how 3D illustrations are created. The difference is it’s all done on a computer in a virtual space. The camera can face any direction, any angle and everything can be moved and repositioned to achieve the desired results. When photorealism is desired, 3D illustration is a good and frequently less expensive solution. Take a look at the 3D images below.
What a 3D illustrator can do that a photographer can’t do
Ever tried to photograph a scene with the perfect sunset in the background? It can take days to get the right sunset. Using Vue software, the one Hollywood uses to make landscapes for movies such as Indiana Jones, etc., an artist has infinite control of sun placement, size, cloud type, density, and placement, color and density of haze and fog—the list goes on. You have infinite control of terrain, vegetation and placement of everything. Photorealism is dependent on good lighting and proper manipulation of the elements mentioned above. If you want to have people in the scene, sometimes 3D people serve the purpose, or actual people can be photographed in a studio or outdoors in similar lighting and combined with the 3D background in Photoshop.
Medical, fantasy, and sci-fi environments and making or purchasing of props for stills or motion are less expensive and easier to produce than building full size or miniature sets. Again infinite control is possible. And rather than waiting for the sunset on location for hours only to have a cloud cover the sun at the last moment, you place the sun and the clouds exactly where you want them.