How to Take Reference Photos for 3D Modeling:

5 Simple Tips

Product 3D modeling is a great way to create beautiful, realistic images for your business. But it’s not easy as it takes time and effort to get the model right and true to the real item. One of the most important parts of 3D modeling is taking photos that can be used to create the model. That’s why professional 3D artists ask for detailed pictures in technical assignments. 

The question is how to take reference photos for 3D modeling correctly if you plan to involve CGI artists and what they expect from you.

To help you out, our 3D modeling company has put together a list of tips for taking reference photos for 3D modeling to get the best result in the end

Let’s dive into it!

Take Reference Photos Like a Pro

Take Reference Photos Like a Pro – Learn the Tips & Techniques of Taking Reference Photos for 3D Modeling

Reference photos for 3D modeling are images that are used to create 3D models. They provide a basis for the modeler to accurately create a 3D object that perfectly showcases the original item. In short, reference photos are images that are used to ensure that the final result is realistic and accurate.  

The most effective reference photos have clean backgrounds and properly exposed colors. While it’s fairly hard to control the conditions under which you take a photo of an existing object, there are plenty of steps you can take to clean up your reference image once you’ve taken the shot.

Learn more about 3D modeling image references in the article “What 3D Artists Want to Get from Their Clients”.

What Background is it Better to Take Reference Photos

On What Background is it Better to Take Reference Photos for 3D Modeling?

It is best to take photos of objects on a flat, dull, and bland background. This will help avoid visual distortions and simplify the process of processing photos to create a 3D model.

Generally, white or black backgrounds are most often used for photographing subjects as they focus on the subject and help make the photos more uniform. However, if the subject is white or black, then the background can be changed to the opposite color to provide contrast. 

Other possible background options for photos of objects can include natural and muted colors, such as light gray, beige, or blue, which will help preserve the natural atmosphere of the image and not change the color of the object.

In any case, the main goal is to make the background as inconspicuous as possible to focus on the subject and ensure quality photos for the subsequent creation of the 3D model.

#1. Use a Stand or Camera Holder

Use a Stand or Camera Holder to Take Reference Photos for 3D Modeling

Use a stand or camera holder to avoid camera movement and ensure clear images. Make sure the stand doesn’t block any part of the object or its shadow. The stand should also be stable enough to hold your camera without slipping or tipping over if bumped accidentally by your subject. This will make it easier to capture consistent images that you can use as reference photos for 3D modeling.

#2. Capture Several Angles And Distances

Capture Several Angles And Distances

When taking photos of objects, try to capture as much detail as possible by taking multiple shots from different angles and elevations (up/down/sideways). This will allow you to recreate 3D models from different perspectives if needed during the modeling process later on down the road!  

When taking reference photos, the more angles and perspectives you have to work with, the better.  Shoot with a wide-angle lens to capture more of your subject in the frame and minimize distortion or perspective issues as much as possible, especially if your model is highly detailed or difficult to see clearly in close-up shots. A wide-angle lens also makes it easier to get all 4 sides of an item or other small object in the frame without having any edges cut off by the frame of your camera’s sensor.

#3. Pick the Right Camera and Maximum Resolution

Right Camera and Maximum Resolution for Reference Photos

Small black dots covering up part of the subject can be an issue when modeling. The smaller those dots are, the more issues you’ll run into, so it’s important to take photos with the maximum resolution possible. If you’re using your cell phone, this means zooming out and choosing the highest quality resolution setting; if you’re taking pictures on a DSLR camera, this means downloading them as uncompressed TIFF files and editing them in Photoshop or a similar program before importing into your 3D software.

A digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera is the best kind to use for reference photos because it gets you as close as possible to how you’ll be seeing your model. The viewfinder on these cameras shows you exactly what you are about to capture and lets you adjust your framing for different angles and perspectives. 

Reference photos for 3D modeling are the most basic tool for understanding the object you’re modeling. Without them, the model can only be built from the digital information baked into the textures—information that could be easily obscured or missing entirely. By taking some time to take high-resolution photos of your subject matter, you’ll not only help your models look more realistic, but you’ll also have some great images to use as references in future projects.

#4. Incorporate Light That Spreads Evenly

Go for Light That Spreads Evenly

Lighting is one of the most important things to get right when taking reference photos. If you can set it so that everything is evenly lit, do so—this will lend more clarity to your object.

While it’s certainly possible to get good reference photos with natural, daylight, you’ll get even better results if you work with artificial lighting. The best types of light for your use are ones that are soft (not harsh) and diffused (not directional). This means that your photos will have an even quality and won’t cause shadows or glare.

For the best results, you should use a continuous light source such as a lamp, rather than a flash. Continuous lights are available in a wide range of types and styles and at varying costs. In the end, it’s about finding the right fit for your needs and budget: some people use professional photographic lighting setups, while others find that regular light bulbs or even desk lamps work great.

Natural sunlight is best because it gives the best color reproduction. However, if you’re taking photos inside (which is preferable), choose a window that has bright but indirect light coming through—if there’s too much direct light hitting an object’s surface, highlights might be blown out or appear too dark to surrounding areas. If this is an issue with your window’s location or orientation relative to where your object sits, consider moving your object elsewhere.

#5. Polish the Result with Photo Editing Software

Polish the Result with Photo Editing Software

It may seem obvious but it’s easy to forget how postproduction and color can affect your photos. If parts of your subject were in shadow or were otherwise not exposed well, they might look blurry or discolored when modelers start working with them in modeling software. Use exposure and other tools within your photo editing program to bring out clearer detail where possible, improve image quality, and reduce noise. 

Explore types and features of 3D modeling service to enhance your visual marketing like never before.


Reference photos for 3D modeling are an essential part of the process and can make or break the final product. With the tips and techniques above, you should be well on your way to taking reference photos like a pro. 

With our study and practice, we are confident that we will be able to transform your reference photos into the most beautiful 3D models. Our 3D modeling services are the best in the industry. We have a team of highly skilled 3D modelers who are ready to help you with any CG imagery you need. Contact us today or book a free demo consultation!

Valerie Adams

Content Writer, Editor

Valerie loves writing about CGI in advertising, product design development, and swears by 3D printing technology. In her free time, she enjoys attending music festivals and art events around Europe.

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