Merging 3D Modeling with Photography

Creative & Digital, Guides / February 2, 2021

By Rich Murphy

OBATA combines digital 3D modeling with photography to effectively demonstrate real aspects of a project before completion

Our retouchers have more than 20 years of experience combining 3D models with photography in order to illustrate facility design, product enhancements, and various other uses.

This can be a very effective technique for communicating real aspects of a project as they relate to people in the environment as opposed to 3D modeling alone.

Step-by-step Examples:

How to merge digital 3D modeling with photography

Prairie State Energy Campus (PSEC)


The Prairie State Energy Campus is a technologically advanced, mine-mouth electric generation facility, located in Washington County, Illinois, that utilizes domestic Illinois coal resources to power its 1600-megawatt power plant.


To help the public understand the proposed project, our digital artists constructed a campus 3D model for Peabody Energy, and in conjunction with Bechtel for model accuracy. 

The model went through various iterative stages and OBATA updated the model accordingly.  There are 6,567 objects built into this model translating to about 1.3 million object facets.

To achieve site accuracy, we first aligned the site map with an aerial satellite terrain view which served as an accurate visual ground for the imagery later adding major ground features as needed.

When the 3D model was complete, we rendered various digital views for communicating the scale and scope of the project to investors, government entities, and the public.

Aerial and ground-level views were augmented with photographic terrain from the area.

Facebook Data Center – Lulea, Sweden


Facebook’s data center was far from complete when Emerson – a major supplier of power and cooling technology for the site ­– decided to feature it in their annual report. OBATA proposed a digitally merging of 3D modeling and site photography to communicate not only the scale of the project as it existed but also the vision of the interior’s future state.

Site photograph illustrating the interior scale of one of the center’s two wings

OBATA utilized the existing site modeling and located and rendered the proposed finished interior.

Finished renders of varying color.

Need help conceiving and combining a 3D model with a photograph?  

Let’s discuss your next retouching project.