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Threekit’s Virtual Photographer Platform Sees Surging Lockdown Demand

Only one year after launching its Virtual Photographer platform, interactive product imaging software Threekit is already hitting major milestones. Seven million product images have been created within the platform, while it’s on track to create 10 million by the end of 2020.

Introduced in August of last year, Virtual Photographer is Threekit’s flagship product, designed to create images for e-commerce that look real but are completely computer-generated. Customers can create product photos with different colors, textures, fabrics and angles, at a fraction of the cost and time of traditional photography, the company says.

Threekit founder and chief technology officer Ben Houston says the platform is based on the same technology he developed that powered CGI for blockbuster films and TV shows, using proprietary layering and lighting technology to create unlimited numbers of product photos from design files.

The company attributes much of the platform’s growth to the e-commerce surge due to Covid-19, as more photography studios were forced to close or reduce hours and shoppers demanded more detailed product imagery and descriptions as they migrated the lion’s share of their shopping online.

“Retail was heading in this direction, but Covid-19 massively accelerated everything,” said Matt Gorniak, Threekit’s CEO. “Online shopping is changing dramatically, with greater emphasis placed on product visuals to mimic the in-person shopping experience. At Threekit, we get brands there before the competition.”

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The traditional product photography process can cost $300 per product, the company says, especially if brands need to hire creative agencies that often ask for significant fees. This cost can add up quickly for product categories where items can be configured in many ways, such as fashion or manufacturing, as the number of photos required to capture a full product line can easily number into the tens of thousands. Conversely, Virtual Photographer’s images come out to $0.01 per photo.

In total, the company says it can help a customer create 50,000 images in just one week, compared to the more typical month it would take five photographers to complete a project of this size.

Threekit cited Salsify statistics when pointing out the growth in product imagery demands, noting that in 2016, the average online shopper expected no more than three images per product. Yet in 2019, the number grew to eight.

In particular, due to this demand for imagery, the apparel and footwear categories could benefit from the customization features Threekit brings to the table, whether it is visualizing a suit jacket with two buttons versus three or getting a closer look at stitch quality.

Virtual Photographer wasn’t designed to take over for in-house photographers—in fact Threekit argues that it can benefit staff by automating repetitive tasks, freeing them to engage in more creative pursuits, like capturing lifestyle imagery.

The company, which has names like Tailored Brands and Crate and Barrel in its portfolio, has been significantly expanding its presence since raising $20 million in Series A funding in November. In April, as lockdowns occurred across the globe due to the pandemic, Threekit debuted an augmented reality (AR) feature designed to automatically generate 3D files for every customization on iOS and Android devices, and enable customers to view what they have personally customized in the context of their own space, without depending on a 3D model to represent what they’re looking for.

The company aims to simplify the visualization process for product marketers, who often need to create new technical specifications and 3D files for every color, material and feature offered for any given product. For example, an apparel company that sells 100 different shirts with 10 colors per model would need to create 2,000 3D and AR-ready files (one for iOS and one for Android) for a customer to see every possible combination.

Then in August, Threekit launched its 3D and AR tools on the BigCommerce Apps Marketplace, giving 60,000 merchants access to the tools to customize their experiences in 3D and AR. The collaboration helps brands enable customization, personalization and configuration in real time and show millions of potential product configurations in AR, right in their browser.