Showing People in a Rendering

Make sure that adding people to your rendering is a net win.

You may have noticed that we rarely show people in our architectural renderings. That is by design. There is something about adding people that can break the illusion of reality. Unless you have a Hollywood budget, you have to balance the pros and cons. If we show 3D models of people, the lighting and shadows and perspective are spot-on, but the people can look like zombies. If we show 2D photographs, the people look very real, but the lighting and depth are never quite right. In any case, something in your brain registers that this image is just … “off”.

All that said, we can certainly understand the desire to show people at times. They give a real sense of scale, and they can communicate a lively, busy environment.

One approach we have used to communicate scale and life is to make the people into silhouettes. Then you can also see the design through them, and you don’t lose any realism because silhouettes don’t try to represent themselves as realistic. Another approach is to add some motion blur to any of the described solutions. That’s another way to take the viewer’s eyes off of the incongruity in the rendering.

We share this as an explanation for those of our clients who desire to have people added to their architectural renderings. Now you can understand our reasoning and make an informed choice. Any of these can represent an increase in cost, but having clarity about selections and expectations ahead of time makes a smoother process for everyone.

Here is a short description of the above images:
1 – 2D clipart people
2 – White silhouettes
3 – Black silhouettes
4 – Same as #1, but transparent
5 – Same as #4, but blurred
6 – 3D people
7 – Same as #6, but blurred

One more thing to add…  The people you see are part of our extensive library. There are more available, but we have to purchase them. This can get complicated. If you want the man to be wearing a blue shirt instead of red, or if you want a child to remove his coat, or the coffee cup to be taken from a woman’s hand… these are difficult tasks. We can do them, but we have also encountered requests where the addition of very specific people resulting in a cost that exceeded the original architectural rendering itself!


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