CGI or Reality? Spotting Computer-Generated Product Images

CGI or Reality? Spotting Computer-Generated Product Images

Learn how to identify computer-generated product images and become a savvy online shopper with these simple tips!


As technology advances, computer-generated imagery (CGI) is becoming increasingly common in the world of online shopping. Companies like Wayfair use CGI to create realistic product images that are indistinguishable from photographs. While this innovation has many benefits, it's essential for shoppers to be aware of the difference between real and CGI-generated images. In this article, we'll discuss some telltale signs to help you determine if a product image is computer-generated.

1. Look for Perfection

CGI images often exhibit a level of perfection that is difficult to achieve in real-life photography. Here are a few things to watch for:

  • Flawless textures: If the materials in the image appear too perfect, without any signs of wear or natural variation, it might be CGI. For example, wood or fabric textures should show some irregularities.
  • Perfect symmetry: Objects in a CGI image often have an unnaturally precise symmetry that can be challenging to replicate in real life.
  • Immaculate lighting: Check if the lighting in the image is too perfect or lacks any shadows, as this can indicate CGI.

2. Examine the Reflections

Reflections can be a giveaway when it comes to spotting CGI. Look for the following clues:

  • Inconsistent reflections: If reflections in the image don't match up with the objects or light sources, it could be a sign of computer-generated imagery.
  • Lack of reflections: Conversely, the absence of reflections where they should naturally occur can also suggest CGI.

3. Check the Background

The background of an image can offer hints as to whether it's a photograph or CGI:

  • Solid color backgrounds: Many CGI images have solid color backgrounds, which can be a sign that the product image is computer-generated.
  • Repeated patterns: If the background has a repeated pattern or texture, it might be a CGI image.

4. Look for Too-Good-To-Be-True Details

CGI artists might add extra details to make the image more appealing, even if they aren't realistic. Some examples include:

  • Floating objects: Objects that appear to be floating or defying gravity could be a sign of CGI.
  • Unrealistic proportions: If the proportions of an object seem off or unnatural, it might be a CGI-rendered image.

5. Compare Images

Comparing images of the same product from different sources can help you determine if a picture is computer-generated:

  • Consistency: If the product images are consistent across multiple websites and show no variation in lighting, angle, or details, it might be a sign that they are CGI.
  • Too similar: If multiple products have the exact same image but with different colors or textures, it's likely that the images are CGI.

6. Trust Your Instincts

Lastly, trust your instincts. If something seems off about an image, there's a chance it could be computer-generated. As you become more familiar with identifying CGI in product images, you'll develop a better sense of what to look for.


Dane Hurtubise

Co-founder & CEO of Spoken

Dane Hurtubise is the Co-founder & CEO of Spoken. He has led two venture-backed companies and is a two-time Y Combinator alum. Prior to Spoken, Dane sold his previous company, Parklet, to Greenhouse Software where he served as VP of Platform and Partnerships. An avid runner, cyclist, and Pilates enthusiast, Dane holds a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

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