Digital sculpting has long been a tool of artists who render three-dimensional images of real-life objects. It provides the ability to mold, shape, and manipulate digital 3D models as you would with a physical lump of clay. Digital sculpting lends itself to meticulous detail and requires a good deal of skill to do correctly.

What is Photogrammetry

Photogrammetry, on the other hand, uses photographs to develop three-dimensional models of objects represented in the input photo. These systems can be very complex and require a substantial amount of time to set up and configure. Because of the necessary precision, photogrammetry work generally needs to be done in a studio. It’s not meant to be used as a portable technology, which limits its versatility somewhat.

Both tools have proven immensely useful to digital artists, and each has its strengths and weaknesses. However, some believe that photogrammetry works as an alternative for digital sculpting, and may one day replace it entirely. Is it really possible for the newer photogrammetry technology to make digital sculpting obsolete?

Advantages of Photogrammetry

Probably not anytime soon, but there are some areas where photogrammetry provides significant advantages that digital sculpting doesn’t. At the very least, it’s safe at this time to call it a specialization that complements 3D sculpting. One of the weaknesses of photogrammetry is that it’s limited by the quality of the input photo. For best results, you need professional-grade images to work from. Once you have that, digital sculpting can be used to refine and complete the resulting 3D model.

On the other hand, photogrammetry can be used in tandem with digital sculpting to perform character modeling. Multiple camera setups are used to photograph a subject from several different angles. Once that’s done, photogrammetry software is used to create the 3D model. Photogrammetry is also much more suited to environmental modeling that digital sculpting is on its own.

One of the strengths of photogrammetry software is that is can detect if a subject moves slightly. This is done with a technology called instantaneous data capture, which can distinguish slight changes in the image set that should be discarded. This is enormously beneficial as it won’t let a handful of bad images adversely affect an entire model.

Digital Sculpting vs. Photogrammetry

Digital sculpting doesn’t have the same ability to process those slight changes. A human body can move enough to make a difference even during the short delay it takes to complete a digital sculpting scan. That can throw the results off and create a double layer of scan data.

Once the photogrammetry model is completed, you can then use digital sculpting to do some clean-up and refine the 3D model. Texture unfolding, refolding, UV remapping and transfers, and other touch-ups are among the things you can expect to do with a finished model. Lighting and shading adjustments might be things you’d do afterward, as well.


Photogrammetry isn’t about to make digital sculpting obsolete just yet. Still, it does a lot of what 3D sculpting does and does it better. It wouldn’t be unexpected to see it progressing to the point it supplants digital sculpting entirely in the coming years.